Park City: A Day on the Wasatch Front

The bulk of our day was devoted to a 7-mile hike through the Wasatch National Forest to the Hidden Valley.  This involved a 40-minute drive from our place in Park City, down around the mountains and up the Big Cottonwood Canyon.  The trail runs up along a creek that supplied Salt Lake City’s water almost a hundred years ago (only people out west would call this a “creek” — out east, we would call it a rushing river).  It was a strenuous hike with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, which meant that we got to see many different kinds of landscape.  We started out in pine and scrub oak and a lot of brushy grasses and shrubs, which soon opened up to elegant aspen in the sun:

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So many tall, sturdy trees in the first half of the hike — it was surprisingly forested.  Then we began to see more wildflowers, including fireweed…

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… and arrowleaf balsam root and splitleaf paintbrush:

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That may be it for the wildflower pictures on this trip (though I make no promises).

These are the mountains behind us as we came up the trail:

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And this is the trail when we were almost at the top and mostly above the treeline:

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Behind us, we could see all the way down to Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake (it’s almost impossible to see in this image, but you can try):

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And then we came to the first of The Three Sisters:  Blanche, Florence, and Lillian (who, if it wasn’t obvious, were named at some point around the turn of the last century).  These are three mountain lakes that just seem to appear when you come over a lip in the mountain.  Lake Blanche is first, and the largest of the three.IMG_5431Sundial Peak is on the left, and Dromedary Peak is on the right.  This is a beautiful spot, as you can see — and while it’s a popular hike, once you’re at the lake, you hardly see anyone around.

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We walked by Lake Blanche and then looked for a spot to have lunch out of the wind (it was a little too chilly and overcast for swimming this time around).  Found a lovely waterfall with a view of Lake Florence (and, if you squint, you can see Lake Lillian in the background in the second picture below).

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We spent a good deal of time at Lake Florence –walking around, going down to the water to test out the temperature (cold, as you might guess), and taking in the views.

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The rocks above the lakes were also pretty spectacular:

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We had a break in the clouds as we were about to head down, which made the lakes look even more dramatic:

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We hiked down pretty quickly and made it back to our car just thirty minutes after the rain started to pour.  I made a quick detour to the creek to soak my feet — ahhh!

Prescott drove us through the scenic route back home, past several ski resorts and up over a gorgeous mountain pass.  Then we returned to our airbnb place to relax a little before we rode our airbnb hosts’ bikes fifteen minutes uphill into historic Park City.

Park City started its life as a mining and logging town, but it has become one of the larger and fancier ski resorts in the area.  So the historic main street is now a mix of upscale restaurants, bars, tacky gift shops, and serious art galleries.  It’s cute, but feels a little too touristy.

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The good news is that a wealthy clientele means some pretty fine dining.  We had an absolutely fantastic dinner at Riverhorse on Main — Prescott thinks its one of the best meals he’s had in his life.  Our drinks (a quince margarita and a Moscow mule) were top-notch, the amuse bouche (jicama on a little wonton) was perfectly crunchy, and the appetizer (an ahi tuna duo) was out of this world.

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Our entrees — halibut and trout — were also incredible.  And everyone should try watermelon panna cotta (if you can find it) for dessert at least once.

Had a lovely downhill bike ride home after dinner.  Park City is very bike friendly — lots of bike lanes and a rail trail, so it’s easy to get around safely.

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Returned to our airbnb place well before sunset, since we’re planning an early departure in the morning.  Prescott played briefly with the owner’s dog, Brantlling:

IMG_5476Dane, our airbnb host, has been fabulous; he has given us trail recommendations; been overly apologetic about the painting going on elsewhere in the house; and lent us his bikes for the evening.

Now we’re both feeling bushed and ready for some well-earned sleep!

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