Best Of Utah 2014: Outdoors & Recreation | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City

Best of Utah

Best Of Utah 2014: Outdoors & Recreation



Best Local Sports Franchise
Real Salt Lake
Perhaps Jazz fans could learn a thing or two from the insanely passionate soccer hooligans who make up Real Salt Lake’s fanbase. In RSL’s match against L.A. Galaxy on the second leg of the 2013 Western Conference finals, while it was the players who put the balls in the net, it was the fans who lifted the home team’s spirits, showing them that they did, indeed, “believe.” The passion of a stadium belting out the team’s anthem, “Believe,” willing the Cobalt & Claret to ever-greater heights, was something to behold.
2. Utah Jazz
3. Salt Lake Bees

Best Swimming
The Salt Lake City Sports Complex
Formerly known as the Steiner Aquatic Center, this still-laid-back fitness mecca has definitely grown into its more impressive title. For a low fee, lap-swimmers, pool-splashers, sunbathers and people-watchers can enjoy two pools—indoor and outdoor, plus a hot tub—in a beautiful setting on the University of Utah campus. And with indoor strength-training facilities, 100 cardio machines, two ice rinks, and fitness classes, an afternoon at the pool can become an entire day of full-body fun.
645 S. Guardsman Way, Salt Lake City, 385-468-1925,
2. Fairmont Aquatic Center
3. Cottonwood Heights Aquatic Center

Best Yoga Classes
Centered City Yoga
It seems that the definition of yoga changes depending on whom you ask. It’s stretching. It’s exercise. It’s a religion. It’s definitely not a religion. It’s challenging. It’s relaxing. Well, at Centered City Yoga, it can be all of those things. Newbies, wannabe-meditators, athletes of other disciplines, moms & babies and those looking for a more spiritual connection will all find classes that seem to have been designed specifically for them. The studio hosts classes 12-plus hours a day, seven days a week, so no matter your schedule, you can find the perfect balance—whether that balance is Core & Restore, which pairs intense ab work with relaxing stretches, or Sweat & Soul, which pairs sweaty movement with introspective stillness.
926 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-521-9642,
2. Salt Lake Power Yoga
3. Bikram Yoga SLC

Best Peach Party
Brigham City Peach Days

There are many ways to enjoy Brigham City Peach Days—including eating yourself to death. Here’s how: Start in the food court with a bowl of peach cobbler. Top that off with a few peach-salsa tacos. Grab a peach milkshake—or two. When you’re fully sated and ready to trek home, take Highway 89 instead of Interstate 15 and stop off at one or several fruit stands for a few pounds of peaches. Eat some of those peaches on the way home. Once home, eat many, many more for dinner. Wake up in the morning, slice three peaches, drown them in half & half, consume. Repeat, repeat and repeat until the peaches are gone. Peaches this good come around only once a year.
Sept. 3-6, 2014, downtown Brigham City,

Best Snowboarding
The playful, renegade spirit of snowboarding practically demands new ways to be tested on a regular basis. The multiple terrain parks at Brighton make that kind of discovery easy, with features changing throughout the season to provide a new experience every time. Beginners can get accustomed to the rails and boxes in the Pee-Wee park, then graduate to the jumps and jibs at Candyland, My-Oh-My or Upper and Lower Majestic. And the impressive half-pipe is cut almost daily to provide a smooth ride and soaring jumps.
8302 S. Brighton Loop Road, Brighton, 801-532-4731,
2. Snowbird
3. Solitude

Best Urban Renewal Project
Granary Row

From June to November 2013, an area just west of downtown was transformed into a vibrant walkable zone. Granary Row hosted concerts, art installations, a Uinta Brewing beer garden and food vendors, and was home to retail startups in repurposed shipping containers. The idea was to allow local entrepreneurs to affordably launch their businesses, and it worked. Granary Row’s Diabolical Records and Just Fold have moved on to brick & mortar locations. We can’t wait to see what the pop-up market has in store for 2014.
336 S. 700 West, Salt Lake City,

Best Way to View the Valley
Birdman Academy

Imagine if you could soar high above the Wasatch Mountains like an eagle or a shirtless Vladimir Putin. Birdman Academy offers classes and tandem flights for local adrenaline junkies who are interested in hang gliding or paragliding. Launching from Point of the Mountain or Randolph, Birdman Academy is the only outfit in Utah that offers gear for both paragliding and hang gliding, so you can decide which is the best way to fly: sitting or Superman-style.


Holiday River Expeditions

Best River-Running Guides
Holiday River Expeditions
Dee and Sue Holladay started Holiday River Expeditions in 1966. A generation of river runners later, the company now leads expeditions on a wide inventory of Western rivers, with the company’s operations spanning from Southern Utah to northern Idaho. Holiday offers trips through canyons on the Green River, the Colorado River and the San Juan River, and, of course, takes customers down the Grand Canyon. Prices range from $165 per person for a day on the Colorado to $2,000 a pop for several days on the 100-mile Middle Fork of the Salmon. Flying the family out to Disneyland for a week would strain the finances just as much, but anyone who’s ever been on a river trip will testify that there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
544 E. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-266-2087,
2. Adrift Adventures
3. Red River Adventures

Best Soccer Scene
Dimple Dell Youth Soccer

In the spring and autumn, children of all ages gather on a wide stretch of grass in Sandy next to the Dimple Dell Fitness & Recreation Center to kick a round ball up and down a pitch. Part of the joy of this most amateur of leagues is the passion of the volunteer coaches who give their time to try to instill a little bit of order and structure into the soccer dreams of youngsters ages 5 to 12. The parents who roam the sidelines, cheering on their little ones, get to witness their offspring learning what it means to be part of a team, with the full glory of the Wasatch Mountains providing a superlative backdrop.


Deer Valley Resort

Best Biking
Deer Valley Resort
Though Deer Valley has declined to embrace snowboarding, it has given a big warm bear hug to the fat-tire set. Three lifts at Deer Valley connect to 70 miles of twisted paths on its property, some of which link up with Park City’s roughly 400 miles of trails. If you get tired of riding, pay a visit to one of the resort’s restaurants, bars or boutiques, or just plop down somewhere and people-watch. You never know what famous face you’ll see. A full-day adult summer lift pass runs $40 while a single ride pass is $29—probably the least expensive way to experience the posh place called Deer Valley.
2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City, 435-649-1000,
2. Moab
3. Millcreek Canyon

Best Golf Course
A golf course is only partly about the design of the holes; it’s also a complete geography that makes for sublime moments between swings. Bonneville Golf Course’s east-bench location makes it one of the most appealing walks of any kind in the state, with stunning views of the valley. And the course itself is a challenging 6,872-yard par-72 with rolling greens nestled between lush trees. It’s hard to resist a glorious municipal course this convenient to downtown Salt Lake City.
954 Connor St., Salt Lake City, 801-583-9513,
2. Old Mill
3. Thanksgiving Point

Best Outdoor Concerts
Red Butte Garden
It doesn’t matter who’s performing at Red Butte; just being there on the grass—shoes off, blanket spread out, a 30-rack of Busch and some takeout from Cafe Rio by your side—is worth the ticket price alone. Of course, some people prefer the wine & cheese route, but that’s what’s so great about this outdoor stage—there’s something for every audience. In summer 2013, Red Butte booked a record 28 shows that spanned everything from Vampire Weekend to rock legend Kenny Loggins and country maverick Dwight Yoakam. This year, expect another 28 reasons to kick off your shoes.
300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, 801-585-0556,
2. Usana Amphitheatre
3. Twilight Concert Series

Best Hike to Bring the Kiddies On
Silver Lake

Sometimes it can be quite a hassle to wrangle all the kids and whisk them away for a little sojourn into the Great Outdoors. But Salt Lakers who aren’t taking advantage of the short drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the picturesque Silver Lake are missing out on a beautiful hike for the whole family, complete with picnic tables and benches. With a wooden boardwalk surrounding the lake, this short 30-minute hike is just tiring enough to work the wiggles out of your kids and put them to sleep for the ride down the canyon.
14.2 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon

Best Race Against the Undead
Eureka’s Zombie Chase

What better setting for a 5K chase by zombies than the historic Eureka ghost town? Not that you will have much time during the run to soak up the history. This nighttime race pits you against zombies who are nipping at your heels, giving you that extra motivation to make good time, and adds obstacles like a graveyard and cargo nets. But you’ll have the chance to even the odds—you can arm yourself with a paintball gun to mow down the undead and clear a path to the finish line.
Sept. 13, 2014, 888-606-8880,



Best Skiing
Many skiers are certainly fond of Alta in part because it remains a rarity among Utah resorts as a ski-only mountain, with no snowboarders permitted. But in its 75th-anniversary year, Alta also pulls in powder-hounds thanks to its higher-altitude location and an average 560 inches of seasonal snowfall over its 2,200 skiable acres. And while it’s always appealing to veteran skiers, the 65 percent of runs set aside for beginner and intermediate skiers make it the perfect place to fall in love with the thrill of downhill for the first time.
210 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Alta, 801-359-1078,
2. Snowbird
3. Brighton

Best Recreation Destination/ Best Summer Getaway
This Southern Utah gem scored with our readers as the place to go in the summer and as the top destination for recreation, period. And no wonder: Moab has much to offer the four-wheeling, hotel-staying, motorboat-towing folks as well as the BLM-land-camping, river-running, mountain-biking, rock-climbing and hiking minimalists. The area’s abundant sunshine, untold acreage of red rock and access to multiple national parks, plus the Colorado River, which bends along the outskirts of town, makes Moab a crossroads of adventure for international tourists planning to spend weeks with the arches, and Wasatch Front residents looking for a change of scenery. As Fox 13 reporter Ben Winslow says, “It’s so close, yet far enough to force me to unplug from the Matrix for a weekend.” And at the end of each day, the journalist, foreign tourist, Jeep tour guide and dory rower can discuss their differences over a beer and debate the best ways to soothe that blistering Moab sunburn.
2. Park City
3. Lake Powell


Back Country Mules

Best Mule Ride
Back Country Mules

Riding on a mule under the achingly bright blue sky of Moab’s red-rock country, trekking across a landscape as majestic as it is harsh, is the only way to truly absorb the beautiful terrain. That’s according to John Hauer, who owns and runs Back Country Mules with his wife. “In a car, you’re boxed in; hiking, you have to watch your step,” Hauer says. But when you’re on a mule, as Hauer points to where classic westerns like Rio Grande were filmed, you start relaxing into the surrounding vistas, feeling the peace and beauty of the rivers and creeks that you and your mule ford.
435-259-8015, Moab,

Best Feet of Fury
Tiger Crane Martial Arts

About every strip mall in Utah has a tae-kwon-do studio inserted next to a smoothie shop, which might make it hard to decide where you want to go when you want to learn the science of kickology (in Korean, tae-kwon-do means “the foot-fist way”). A good starting place is Tiger Crane Martial Arts, where Master Oliver Vernon breaks down the physics and body mechanics of devastatingly effective kicks in a way that anyone can grasp. Whether you’re looking to learn a martial art to make you deadly or just fit, this laboratory of kicks holds the key.
1288 N. Highway 89, Farmington, 801-661-6220,

Best Running
Liberty Park
Statisticians need not study the place Liberty Park occupies in the hearts of Salt Lake City’s runners. If the sun is shining and the temperature is anywhere above freezing, brightly clothed runners of every fitness level populate the park. The roughly 1.5-mile loop is just long enough that it can be circled several times before it feels monotonous, and by that time, it’s time to stop anyway. Want to run on smooth, flat pavement? Check. Want grass? Check. How about wood chips? Check. With three surfaces, the best water fountain (it taps into an artesian well and flows all year) and enough characters and scenery to keep any runner’s mind occupied, Liberty Park is the place for amateurs and pros alike to log miles.
600 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City
2. Bonneville Shoreline Trail
3. Jordan River Parkway

Best Frolf in the Mountains
Solitude Mountain Resort Disc Golf

It’s time to take your lazy-summer-day Frisbee-tossing to a higher level—or maybe we should say a higher altitude. Solitude Mountain Resort boasts an 18-hole disc-golf course with uphill and downhill shots winding throughout the course, with holes ranging from 300 to 500 feet long. Make sure you’ve got your hiking shoes and spare discs in case your disc skips into the wilderness. If golf is a good walk spoiled, then a day of disc golf at Solitude is a good hike made even better.
12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude, 801-534-1400,


Avenues Yoga

Best No-Pressure Poses
Avenues Yoga

Yoga is supposed to be relaxing and mind-clearing, but as with starting any new hobby, embarking on the practice can feel like a mission to infiltrate the CIA. You have to study, purchase new clothes and baffling accoutrements, and study the habits of the people who already know what they’re doing. At Avenues Yoga, though, you can leave the special-ops gear at home; simply show up in comfy clothes to the cozy restored bungalow and you’ll be all set. Yoga mats, blankets, blocks and straps are all provided, and the atmosphere is welcoming and laid-back. Ease into the scene and the stretches with a weekend basics class in the sunlit front room alongside attendees of all ages, genders, sizes and flexibility; then graduate to more intense but no-less-enjoyable classes like Yogalates.
68 K St., Salt Lake City, 801-872-9642,

Best Winter Getaway
Park City
When Park City’s mining fortunes died, the mountain hamlet reinvented itself as a ski destination. And in recent decades, Park City has again remade itself, transitioning from a town entirely reliant on the fortunes of skiing to one that, even without a single flurry of snow, provides an abundance of recreation, dining, clean air and shopping. And, if it needs any more endorsement, former Utah Jazz head coach Frank Layden digs PC: “Park City’s a great place to walk around, the air is good—even in the winter, I find it so invigorating. We enjoy going up there and shopping and eating. It’s just so different than anywhere else.” Park City’s lap of luxurious restaurants, spas, hotels, bars and galleries—not to mention the two-week celebrity circus/cinema bliss that is the Sundance Film Festival—will keep it on the map for those seeking a winter getaway for decades, and perhaps even centuries, to come.
2. St. George
3. Moab

Best Desert Diving
Bonneville Seabase

When the winter’s inversion and extremities-destroying temperatures have you in dire need of a tropical vacation and your lack of funds leaves you down in the dumps, just head west and dip your toes in the tropical waters outside Grantsville. A geothermal pool keeps the waters at the Bonneville Seabase at a nice tropical temperature, which gives you the opportunity to scuba dive or snorkel with tropical fishies ranging from puffers, clownfish and angelfish to large nurse sharks—even Steve Ray, the friendly stingray. Within the Seabase’s multiple bays, you can feed tropical fish lettuce from your hands, explore a sunken sea vessel and imagine yourself in sunnier, more exotic climes. Now, if only there were a cruise ship to Grantsville.
1600 N. State Road 138, Grantsville, 435-884-3874,

Best Camping for a Cause
Utah Tar Sands Resistance

The organizers of the Utah Tar Sands Resistance are all about holding rallies, but they also realize how important it is for people to know what they’re shouting about. The group has come up with the genius tactic of taking people to camp near PR Springs in central Utah to show them exactly what is at stake if multinational energy companies are allowed to develop the majestic area—near Utah’s beautiful Book Cliffs—to get at the tar-sands oil beneath the surface. The group takes activists, outdoors enthusiasts and families to enjoy hikes, stargazing and even yoga, building a wider appreciation for the land they’re fighting for.

Best Outdoor Events
You can almost leave your wallet at home when you head to Snowbird for one of the resort’s premier summer events. Friday nights, you can catch free family-friendly movies on the Plaza Deck, and starting in June, Snowbird hosts the free Cool Air Concert Series, which features big-name acts playing almost weekly in Snowbird’s unparalleled setting. And after the concerts wrap up in August, the free-to-enter two-month Oktoberfest begins. There’s no better place than in these majestic mountains to strap on your lederhosen, snack on sauerkraut and sausage and jam to German bands.
9600 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Snowbird, 801-933-2222,
2. Red Butte Garden
3. Gallivan Center


Western Rivers Flyfisher

Best Fly-Fishing Guides
Western Rivers Flyfisher
Want to find those secret fishing holes on the Provo River? How about a couple of nights on the Green River, reeling in trout and drinking a local beer called Cutthroat long after the crowds go home? If this is your kind of thing, then a guided trip with Western Rivers Flyfisher is the ticket to fly-fishing bliss. Western’s two-day trips on the Green include food, tent and camp setup—pretty much everything but the catching-fish part. More modest full-day excursions on the Provo and Weber rivers are also available, and Western’s shop is worth checking out as well, even if you don’t fish. WRF carries Patagonia clothing and outerwear, plus all manner of fishing gear that can reduce the most spoiled angler to a drooling state.
1071 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-521-6424,
2. Park City Trout Tales
3. Colby Crossland

Best Snowshoeing With Wild Critters
Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter

The Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter offers nature lovers 1,200 acres of mostly flat lands that are ideal for snowshoeing. It’s also an ideal spot to enjoy the mountain air of Summit County alongside some of Utah’s wild critters. The center is home to moose, coyotes and foxes, and during wintertime, the preserve hosts moonlight snowshoeing treks where you can take a snowy step on the wild side and look for owls and other nocturnal creatures. Afterward, stop by the center to warm up and take in educational talks on Utah’s wilderness and the furry and feathered friends that call it home.
1258 Center Drive, Park City, 435-649-1767,

Best Ski/Snowboard Instructors
There is nothing highbrow about Brighton: You come here to ski and snowboard, period. Keeping it simple is why Brighton is beloved by many locals. And while Brighton’s lodging options might not rate five stars for glitz and glamour, its ski instructors get full marks. The resort’s 170 instructors receive in-house training, attend regular clinics and are encouraged to earn national certifications. This attention to detail has churned out generations of great skiers and snowboarders who bring their own children back to Brighton to learn to ski—often with the same instructors who were teaching when they were kids. “We just want people to have as much fun as we’re having,” says Kathy Miner, Brighton’s program director.
8302 S. Brighton Loop Road, Brighton, 801-532-4731,
2. Snowbird
3. Deer Valley

Best Trains & Planes
UTA Airport Trax Line

There are a few steps that you must take on the road to true independence and adulthood. First: renting a truck or hiring movers instead of bribing friends with pizza and beer to move your heavy shit into that new apartment. Second: finding your own way to and from the airport. But thanks to the new Trax line to the airport, being an adult doesn’t have to mean forking over cash for a taxi or long-term parking. Just $2.50 and 20 minutes takes you from downtown to Terminal 1 at the Salt Lake International Airport. We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had beef with UTA in the past, but this Trax line goes a long way toward healing the breach.


SLC Crossfit

Best Fitness Classes
SLC Crossfit
People don’t just want to be in shape anymore; they want to be ripped, toned and healthy, like a young Jack LaLanne. The people at SLC Crossfit are all over this. With two 10,000-square-foot locations, easy-to-jump-into one-hour classes and even a kid zone for your Crossfit baby, SLC Crossfit offers fitness freaks the best opportunity to get their pump strong. Rowing, running, gymnastics, rope climbing, Olympic lifting, yoga—it’s all there for the taking, you pathetic, puny excuse for a human!
619 S. 600 West, Salt Lake City, 801-597-8503; 3955 Wasatch Blvd., Salt Lake city, 801-251-0714,
2. Fitness on 7th
3. 9th & 9th Pilates

Best Running Like the Wind
Vigor Big Cottonwood Canyon Half Marathon

For both amateur and seasoned runners, the sport eventually becomes less about the freedom and invincibility that you felt as a kid running around the school field and more about the euphoria of beating personal records and increasing your lactate threshold. Vigor Utah’s races are serious, but they take place in the Salt Lake Valley’s beautiful wilderness areas, so they’re absent of the stress of a traditional city race—no jostling for starting position or dodging manholes. The Big Cottonwood Half Marathon (or 10K or 5K), in particular, is a reinvigorating run—an entirely downhill course that takes runners through the early-morning stillness and beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon, past giant rocks and running water. You’ll probably set a personal record, but more importantly, the race will help you reconnect with why you started running in the first place.
May 10, 2014, 801-556-1547,

Best Bowling
Bonwood Bowl
A classic bowling alley has a certain soul. It’s more than the feel of a ball or the taste of a corn dog washed down by a cold brew, or even the visceral joy of a thunderous strike. Bonwood knocks down all of the aforementioned pins and then some. The 42 lanes and classy Trophy Room Lounge make it a laid-back place for groups just stopping by to pick up a few frames, plus it’s a bustling gathering spot for league play and special events. Bonwood also offers adaptive bowling for folks with intellectual disabilities and hosts events like Bowl for the Cure to raise funds for breast-cancer research. The vintage alley honors the tradition of a bowling alley as the social hub of a community.
2500 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-487-7522,
2.Ritz Classic Lanes
3.Jupiter Bowl

Best Hiking
Millcreek Canyon
Hiking, mountain-biking, road-biking, dogs, kids, barbecues, birthday parties, running … it all happens in Millcreek Canyon, a veritable temple dedicated to the enrichment of everyday Wasatch Front living. Getting off the pavement, though, is why multitudes of locals congregate there. If you’re not in the mood to huff and puff to the top of a mountain, the pipeline trail cuts parallel to the canyon road and remains mostly level for miles. Ready for a sweaty trek? Millcreek is home to 11 trailheads, including wild paths that lead to the tops of Grandeur Peak, Church Fork Peak, Thayne Peak and Mount Aire. Hikers are always welcome, though canines are supposed to be leashed on even-numbered days, when mountain-bikers are also allowed. Millcreek does cost—a $3 fee for worship that most, from the barbecue enthusiast to the ultra runner, would agree is well worth it.
3800 E. Millcreek Canyon Road (3800 South), Salt Lake City, 801-466-6411
2. Big Cottonwood Canyon
3. Little Cottonwood Canyon

Best Down-South Derby
Happy Valley Derby Darlins

Launched in 2011 by a small group of Utah County skaters, the Happy Valley Derby Darlins organization blossomed over time into a four-team league with more than 50 players and legions of fans hungry for the hard-hitting sport. And in December 2013, the Darlins became a full member of the international Women’s Flat-Track Roller Derby Association, so 2014 will see them taking on some of the best teams in the region.

Best Adult Recreational Club
Beehive Sport & Social Club

Beehive Sport & Social Club is the only organization in Salt Lake City that regularly brings together the exceptional combination of beer, balls and shenanigans. With more than 2,000 members, David Marquardt has grown this club around the simple idea that all work and no play makes for no friends—which is why Beehive offers its patrons more than enough excuses to get off the couch and do something, with year-round leagues for dodgeball, volleyball, kickball, flag football, cornhole and skee ball.

Best 25-Year Harvest
Wasatch Community Gardens

Gardens have had a resurgence recently, and whether that’s caused by fear of economic collapse and big agriculture or by the fad of all-natural lifestyles, Wasatch Community Gardens has been ahead of the game since 1989. And living in a campus dorm or a downtown condo doesn’t make it impossible to have a bit of earth to call your own. Thanks to Wasatch Community Gardens, all you need is a few hours a week for soil-prep, weeding and watering your portion of one of the organization’s 12 community gardens. At the end of the summer, you’ll have delicious, organic produce that you watched grow from seed to salad. And Wasatch hosts workshops and classes year-round, helping green thumbs flourish and grow no matter the season.
824 S. 400 West, Suite 127, Salt Lake City, 801-359-2658,

Best Skating
Classic Fun Center
Fellas, remember back in the day when the roller rink DJ would slow it down with a sexy track like LSG’s “My Body” and you’d hastily finish your last Sour Punch Straw to awkwardly skate backwards wit yo gurl? Well, playa, you can relive those precious rollerskatin’ moments six days a week at Classic Fun Center. This family-friendly fun zone does skating proper, with two wood-floor ovals, a fully stocked snack bar and the best roller-rink DJs holdin’ down the jams. Thursday’s $1 skate night is more than appealing, and you can connect with your fellow skating sisters and brethren after 10 p.m. on Saturdays for the adult-only Flashback Night.
Multiple locations,
2. Hollywood Connection
3. Liberty Park

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