Discovering Utah on our Summer Road Trip
The journey across America was in full swing. We’d learned a lot: which apps to use, for instance, and what to plan for, what to be spontaneous about. We’d gotten better about documenting. I’d also been collecting images of textures and organic patterns discovered along the way, for use in our SmithHönig design process back home.
I was also looking forward to fall – and with that, the idea of journeying home for the coming holiday season began to form. My normal fall traditions include day trips through the Blue Ridge mountains and picking up muscadines, late corn and local squash from farmers markets in the south.
Now, I was experiencing the first days of autumn in a brand new place – Utah. And to be honest, it was perfect timing. Utah is a vibrant fall color palette, come to life. Each stop found us surrounded by rich oranges, purples and yellows and the elevations often make for crisp breezes. The earth itself is decked out for fall in Utah.
Our first stop was Park City, where we were able to get an amazing mid-week and off-season rate at the Stein Eriksen Lodge. This luxury property is known for skiing, Alpine cuisine and a five-star spa.
We love finding unexpected off-season opportunities and highly recommend leaving some room in a relaxed itinerary for them!
Next stop, Sundance.
Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute is inexplicably tied to Park City. My Dutch friend, Martineke, once managed to attend the entire Sundance Film Festival by following her heart on a completely unplanned solo road trip.
We visited the Sundance Mountain Resort on a rainy, early fall day. The weather didn’t dampen our mood.
The resort is built on land purchased by Redford in 1969. His goal was to create a community, inspired by the Ute Indians and Scottish immigrants who had called the area home in the past.
Sundance bills itself as an arts community, a recreational community and a community of people who appreciate the beauty of nature and feel a responsibility to preserve it. It’s also the site of numerous music festivals, author series, sunset lift rides and kids camps.
Inside the resort, there’s a timber-walled cafe and a General Store where you can purchase mountain-inspired clothing, gifts and homegoods. Every surface is designed to create a unique sense of place.
Created in 1926, the highway wanders through gorgeous desert vistas, Aspen groves and stone outcroppings full of color and texture.
In addition to the obvious National Parks that have made Utah’s tourism famous, road trips here are full of surprises. One example is Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm located in Boulder – population 226!
Boulder is one of the most remote towns in the United States – but it features a gourmet restaurant that is Zagat rated and has been a James Beard semifinalist in multiple years.
Hell’s Backbone (named after the terrain) has its own organic farm and a fresh, farm to table menu. A few standouts? Black powder biscuits with sage butter, local smoked trout and zuke-a-mole (guac style zucchini). Oh – and the chocolate chili cream pot!
The best part? Everything on the menu is seasonal and of the place.
The other-worldly landscapes of stone arches, giant, precariously-balanced boulders and spiky towers feature colors, shapes and textures you won’t see anywhere else.
And in the midst of it all? The surprise of a perfect German bakery in the most unexpectedly remote place. We discovered Bakerei Forscher along the side of the road and indulged in marzipan-filled pastries on site. Then we stocked up on bread, rolls and pastries for the rest of the trip.
For a culture stop, we pulled into Ivins, Utah for a couple of nights and visited Kayenta, Utah, with its arts village, and the nearby Tuacahn Center for the Arts.
Kayenta is a community nestled into the red rocks and sage of the canyon walls, reminiscent of the ancient pueblos that define the area’s architecture. Homes are not allowed to be of a height or color that detracts from the natural terrain and even outdoor lights are required to be dim and aimed low. As a result, the sky is full of brilliant stars. Kayenta also features a small downtown arts hub with galleries, artists studios, and a stone labyrinth on the desert floor.
At Tuachann, an outdoor amphitheater is built into the reddesert rocks. The theater features Broadway shows and concerts, as well as Saturday markets and a Christmas in the Canyon celebration featuring lights shows, a live Nativity, train rides and more. Check out their website to find out what’s on, and when.
A colorful fall tour of Utah behind us, we headed toward home.
Did we have some unexpected stops along the way? Of course. But our road trip story is coming to an end. Join us as we continue sharing our thoughts on fall decorating, early holiday preparations and spending time in our own spaces.
There’s no place like home — and we’d love to help make yours a colorful expression of who you are!