Sooner than you realize, snow will be flying and you’ll be wondering where the summer went. So grab what limited time is left to go on a wild adventure, enjoy the mountains in the fall or create the perfect grilled hamburger. What should you do before winter reclaims Utah? With so much to choose from, you’d better start now to fit everything in.
Take a Hike, or Two
First on the list: find out what’s it like to stand on top of the highest mountain in Utah. King’s Peak towers over Ashley National Forest at an elevation of 13,528 feet. As long as the weather holds out, autumn is one of the best times to hike the peak and avoid summer travelers and hikers. While this hike isn’t a grueling, hand-to-rock climb, experts recommend taking at least three to four days to complete the journey.
“Something about going to the highest peak in Utah is a big draw,” says Louis Haynes, public affairs officer for Ashley National Forest. “It should be a minimum three-day hike and [hikers] should pack everything they need to get by. They should take their time and enjoy the view.”
If hiking isn’t your style, nearby Flaming Gorge Reservoir offers unsurpassed beauty during October and November. Enjoying a final fishing trip at this reservoir—known for its trophy trout and gorgeous red rocks that tower over the lake—could be a great way to end the season. The family can also explore the amazing petroglyphs and artifacts left from the ancient Fremont Indians.
Maybe beer and bratwurst is more your thing. For 38 years, Oktoberfest at Snowbird Ski Resort has attracted thousands of visitors to this celebration of German food, music and beer. The festival, which runs every weekend through October 10, is perfect for enjoying spicy bratwurst, tangy sauerkraut or mouth-watering German desserts—along with many varieties of beer, both foreign and domestic.
Getting out of the valley and into the spectacular Little Cottonwood Canyon during the fall is just one of the benefits of attending Oktoberfest. Partying at the top of Hidden Peak is another. For only $12, festival goers can purchase a tram ticket and join the fun on one of the highest peaks in the Wasatch Mountains.
“There will be a party at 11,000 feet with a 360 degree view of the Wasatch Mountains and great views of the Salt Lake Valley,” said Jared Ishkanian, Snowbird director of public relations. “There will be alpenhorns up there, playing twice a day. It’s really a majestic setting.”
Expect to see lots of lederhosen, accordions and hand-crafted German artwork at Oktoberfest Halle, where bands and yodelers entertain the crowds at what has become one of the largest festivals in the state. At Der Markplatz, vendors sell their unique gift items, so shopping early for the holidays could be a bonus. Admission to Oktoberfest is free and gates open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
“The colors really start to come out in full bloom that time of year,” Ishkanian says. “Plus, there are activities for the entire family.”
Good Times with Neighbors and Friends
After hiking, apple strudel and ale, invite the neighbors over for a final barbecue before the snow covers the patio. Whether it’s an intimate gathering with friends in the backyard or a large gathering with dozens of people, make the event special with the freshest foods and a relaxed atmosphere.
Ryan Crafts, director of catering at Culinary Crafts, says his favorite food to grill is a good-old American hamburger–but not the frozen, pre-shaped kind found at grocery stores. He says the best burgers are made from freshly ground chuck roast purchased at a butcher shop.
“The hamburger has kind of gotten a bad rap,” Crafts says. “But I’m of the opinion that when it’s done right, a hamburger can be as gourmet as a filet at a five-star restaurant.”
He also suggests adding fresh vegetables or fruit to the grill, or throwing pre-boiled corn-on-the-cob on the coals for a great side dish with amazing flavor. Interesting accompaniments like sweet potato and green chili salad create new taste sensations that spice up ordinary dishes.
For big events, Crafts says hiring a professional catering service is the way to go. With tons of equipment like Dutch ovens, smokers and barbecue grills, caterers can prepare enough food for even the biggest celebration.
“You’re not going to enjoy the party if you’re too busy worrying about the details,” Crafts says. “Step back and let the experts take over.”
If you insist on doing it yourself, Crafts recommends doing as much ahead of time as possible. But don’t have everything done beforehand since part of the fun of a barbecue is experiencing the sight and smells of food cooking on the grill. Relax and enjoy the last few weekends of good weather, close friends and great outdoor cooking.
As fall draws to a close, take the family on a Halloween adventure cruise down the Provo River. The Clas Ropes Course offers a unique boat excursion along the tree-lined, spooky river starting at 6:30 p.m. every day except Sunday. More than 100 hand-carved Jack-o’-lanterns line the river banks while participants enjoy an adventure that includes Halloween stories and songs, a creepy atmosphere and even a pirate attack.
“There’s a lot of interaction with the pirates as they try to steal the women and children,” says Clas Ropes Course owner Benjamin Allen. Boats are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, with excursions leaving every 30 minutes until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. Allen recommends reservations for large groups.
This is the 11th year for the Halloween cruise, which has grown in popularity every year. It’s even surpassed the serene, but chilly, Christmas cruise. The 25-minute ride down the Provo River is a thrilling way to spend time with the family in a distinctive setting. Even people who might be leery about river runs will enjoy this experience.
“The captain of the boat actually pulls the boat up and down the river like boats in Italy,” Allen says. “The river here is deep and wide and you can hardly even tell that there’s a current. No one is going to get wet.”
No matter your brand of fun, there is an entire state full of things to do during the autumn season. Make the most of these last few weeks before Old Man Winter returns, whether it’s hunting big game or kicking back on the porch with a margarita.
Find More Info Before it Snows…
Ashley National Forest: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/ashley
Culinary Crafts: www.culinarycrafts.com
Clas Ropes Course: www.clasropes.com
Utah Fall Activities: http://www.exploreutah.com/explore/fun-fc.htm