Its setting in a lush agricultural valley surrounded by high mountains has earned Heber City the title "Switzerland of America." Many of its people work at farming, raising livestock, and dairying—as their families have done since pioneer days, though it's also become the site of some fantastically expensive vacation homes.
Heber City (pop. 10,100) makes a handy stop for travelers exploring the nearby Wasatch and Uinta Ranges or visiting the large Deer Creek and Strawberry Reservoirs. It also offers reasonably priced accommodations a short drive from Park City . Heber City merges almost seamlessly into the town of Midway, home to several upscale resorts.
Ride the turn-of-the-20th-century Heber Valley Historic Railroad (450 South 600 West, 435/654-5601, www.hebervalleyrr.org , year-round, $30 adults, $20 children 3-12, $25 seniors) pulled by steam locomotive #618 past Deer Creek Lake into scenic alpine Provo Canyon. A 90-minute dog-friendly trip goes to Soldier Hollow ($24 adults, $16 children, $19 seniors, $10 dogs).
Soldier Hollow (435/654-2002, www.soldierhollow.com , $18 adult full-day trail pass, $9 children 7-17, $15 seniors), site of the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic cross-country skiing and biathalon events, offers roughly 20 miles of trails (including some easy ones added to the Olympic-level course) for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biathlon, and mountain biking. There's also a tubing hill ($19 for 2 hours ages 7 and up, $11 ages 3-6). Rentals are available at the lodge. From Heber City, head west on 100 South to Midway. Take a left on Center Street (Hwy. 113) in Midway and head south for 3.5 miles to Soldier Hollow.
Just northwest of the town of Midway, on the grounds of the Homestead Resort, is a large volcanic-like cone called the Homestead Crater. This geological curiosity is actually composed of travertine deposited by the local hot springs; water once flowed out of the top, but it's now piped to a 65-foot-deep, 95°F pool deep in the Crater's belly. The Crater (800/327-7220, noon-7 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun., $16 weekend, $8 guests of Homestead Resort, reservations required) is accessible for swimming ($11), scuba diving ($22 and up), and snorkeling. Scuba classes and guided dives are also offered.
Utah's largest state park (435/654-1791, 435/654-0532 tee times, http://stateparks.utah.gov , $5 day use, 18 holes of golf $27-29) encompasses 22,000 acres of valleys and mountains on the east side of the Wasatch Range. Unpaved scenic drives lead north through Pine Creek Canyon to Guardsman Pass Road (turn right for Park City  or left over the pass for Brighton ), northwest through Snake Creek Canyon to Pole Line Pass and American Fork Canyon, and southwest over Decker Pass to Cascade Springs.
The 1.5-mile Pine Creek Nature Trail begins near site #21 in the Oak Hollow Campground.
The excellent Lake and Mountain Golf Courses (975 W. Golf Course Dr., 435/654-0532, 18 holes $22-29) are in the main part of the park. The newer Gold and Silver courses are at Soldier Hollow Golf Course (1370 W. Soldier Hollow La., 435/654-7442, 18 holes $27), which occupies a corner of the park. A clubhouse includes a pro shop and café.
Winter brings snow depths of 3-6 feet mid-December-mid-March. Separate cross-country ski and snowmobile trails begin near Soldier Hollow (435/654-2002, www.soldierhollow.com ), which also has a tubing park and two lifts. Homestead Cross-Country Ski Center (at the Homestead Resort, 700 N. Homestead Dr., Midway, 435/654-1102) provides equipment for both sports.
To reach the main entrance of Wasatch Mountain State Park, drive west three miles from Heber City to Midway, then follow signs north two miles.
This large reservoir (http://stateparks.utah.gov ) upstream of Heber City on the Provo River provides recreation for boaters and anglers. It's east of U.S. 40, six miles north of Heber. There are two recreation areas. Rock Cliff Recreation Area (435/782-3030, $7 day use) is at the upper end of the east arm of the reservoir and has restrooms, a nature center, boardwalks with interpretive displays, and pavilions for day use. Hailstone Recreation Area (435/649-9540 or 800/322-3770, $10 day use) has a large campground, restrooms and showers, day-use shaded pavilions, a marina with 80 boat slips, a general store, a laundry, and a small restaurant.
The seven-mile-long Deer Creek Reservoir (Midway, 435/654-0171 or 800/322-3770, http://stateparks.utah.gov , $10 day use) lies in a very pretty setting below Mount Timpanogos and other peaks of the Wasatch Range. A developed area near the lower end of the lake has a campground with showers, picnic area, paved boat ramp, dock, and fish-cleaning station; elevation is 5,400 feet. Island Beach Area, 4.5 miles to the northeast, has a gravel swimming beach and a marina (open in summer, with a store, snack bar, boat ramp, and rentals of fishing boats, ski boats, and personal watercraft); ice fishers can park here in winter. Rainbow trout, perch, largemouth bass, and walleye swim in the lake. Good winds for sailing blow most afternoons. You'll often see a lineup of catamarans at the sailboat beach near the campground and crowds of sailboarders at the Island Beach Area.
Deer Creek Island Resort (Island Beach Area, 435/654-2155, www.deercreekislandresort.com ) has boat rentals, a store, and a restaurant.
This 17,000-acre reservoir (435/654-0470), which is Utah's top trout fishery, lies on a high rolling plateau 23 miles southeast of Heber City. Creation of the original Strawberry Reservoir began in 1906 as a federal reclamation project to divert water from the Colorado Basin west to the Utah Valley. Soldier Creek Dam (constructed in 1973) greatly increased the reservoir's size. A section of lake called "the Narrows" separates Strawberry Arm on the west from the smaller Soldier Creek Arm on the east. The water at this 7,600-foot elevation is cold for water-skiing, but hardy souls in wetsuits often brave it. Fishing is good all year (through the ice in winter) for rainbow and cutthroat trout and some brook trout and kokanee salmon. The Forest Service maintains three marinas around the lake. Several winter parking areas along U.S. 40 provide access for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.
Whiskey Springs Picnic Area (801/342-5200, $4) is located near the mouth of Daniels Canyon, eight miles southeast of Heber City on U.S. 40 (elev. 6,400 feet). Signs along the short Whiskey Springs Nature Trail identify plants. Water is available in summer.
Currant Creek Recreation Complex (435/654-0470), on the southwest shore of Currant Creek Reservoir (elev. 8,000 feet), has a paved boat ramp and fishing access for people with disabilities. Anglers catch rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout; ice fishing is good in winter. Currant Creek Nature Trail begins from Loop D of the campground and climbs 400 feet in a 1.25-mile loop; signs describe the ecology. The best way to get here from Heber City is to drive southeast 42 miles on U.S. 40 (past Strawberry Reservoir), turn northwest on Forest Route 083, and travel 19.5 miles along Currant Creek.
Horse shows and rodeos take place throughout the summer in the Heber City area (www.gohebervalley.com ). A powwow in late June brings tribes for dances and craft sales. The Utah High School Rodeo Finals are also held in June. Wasatch County Fair Days features a parade, a rodeo, exhibits, a livestock show, entertainment, and a demolition derby in early August. Labor Day weekend brings Swiss Days (www.midwayswissdays.com ) to Midway and a huge gathering of border collies and their fans to Soldier Hollow for the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship (435/654-2002, www.soldierhollowclassic.com ).
Heber City motels are generally well-maintained and reasonably priced. A few miles west, in Midway, are several more expensive and luxurious resorts.
The Swiss Alps Inn (167 S. Main St., 435/654-0722, www.swissalpsinn.com , $65 and up) is a charming budget motel with an outdoor pool, a playground, and two suites with full kitchens.
The Holiday Inn Express (1268 S. Main St., 435/654-9990 or 800/315-2621, www.hiexpress.com , $76 and up) is actually a pretty good choice for those who don't appreciate the quirks of small-town budget motels.
Undoubtedly the truly unique place to stay in the Heber City area is the Homestead Resort (700 N. Homestead Dr., 435/654-1102 or 800/327-7220, www.homesteadresort.com , $119 and up). This hot-spring resort is three miles west of town, near Midway, and features mineral baths, swimming, and accommodations. The natural hot-spring water is believed to be good for the skin, and if the water alone doesn't do the trick, the resort's spa services can probably help. The spacious grounds and stately buildings of the Homestead may remind you of grandma's house, and the rooms themselves are country-style but comfortable.
Golfers can play at the resort's 18-hole course (18 holes $40-45) but should also note that excellent golf courses are right down the road at Wasatch Mountain State Park. Stables offer horseback riding, hayrides (and sleigh rides in winter), and bicycle rentals. Rooms should be reserved well in advance, especially for summer weekends. The on-site restaurant is Fanny's Grill (888/327-7220, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $9-18).
The Blue Boar Inn (1235 Warm Springs Rd., 435/654-1400 or 888/650-1400, www.theblueboarinn.com , $175 and up) is right near an entrance to Wasatch Mountain State Park and the park's popular golf course. Each of the inn's 12 meticulously decorated rooms is devoted to a different poet or author; there's also a very good restaurant (7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, $25-38) and a cozy pub on site.
The Zermatt Resort (784 W. Resort Dr., 435/657-0180 or 866/643-2015, www.zermattresort.com , $199 and up) is an imposing Swiss-style lodge with restaurants, swimming pools, a spa, and its own travertine warm springs plunge.
Sixteen miles southeast of Heber City, Daniels Summit Lodge (Hwy. 40, 435/548-2300, www.danielssummit.com , $129 and up) is located near the Strawberry Reservoir. This big country lodge offers plenty of activities, including horseback riding in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter. A restaurant is on site, so you don't have to drive into town for dinner.
Wasatch Mountain State Park (435/654-1791, http://stateparks.utah.gov , reservations at 800/322-3770 or www.reserveamerica.com , $5 day use, sites $13-25) has three campgrounds. The large Oak Hollow (tents) and Mahogany Campgrounds (RVs) are just north of the golf course (elev. 5,600 feet). Both have showers and hookups from late April or early May to late October. Little Deer Creek Campground (water June-mid-Sept.) is a smaller and more secluded area, set in an aspen forest. Groups often reserve all the sites; check with the park office first.
From Heber City, drive west three miles to Midway, then follow signs north for two miles to the main park entrance. Little Deer Creek Campground is reachable by driving a seven-mile unpaved road to Cascade Springs, then turning north and going four miles on another unpaved road.
Jordanelle State Park (http://stateparks.utah.gov ) offers walk-in camping at the Rock Cliff Recreation Area (435/782-3030, $16), at the upper end of the east arm of the reservoir. Facilities include restrooms and hot showers, a nature center, boardwalks with interpretive displays, and pavilions for day use. Hailstone Recreation Area (435/649-9540 or 800/322-3770, www.reserveamerica.com , $10 day use, $16-20) is a large campground with restrooms and showers, day-use shaded pavilions, a marina with 80 boat slips, a general store, a laundry, and a small restaurant. Facilities include wheelchair access with raised tent platforms. Jordanelle State Park is east of U.S. 40, six miles north of Heber.
River's Edge at Deer Park (7000 N. Old Hwy. 40, 435/654-4049, www.riversedgeatdeerpark.com , $38 RV, $80 yurt, $100-150 cabin, year-round), a private resort about six miles north of Heber City, offers a variety of camping and cabin options just below the Jordanelle Reservoir dam.
Deer Creek State Park (Midway, 435/654-0171 or 800/322-3770, www.reserveamerica.com , $10 day use, $16-25) has a campground just off U.S. 189, 10 miles southwest of Heber City and 17 miles northeast of Provo.
The Forest Service maintains four campgrounds at Strawberry Reservoir (435/548-2321, www.recreation.gov , late May-late Oct., $17-34).
Currant Creek Recreation Complex (435/654-0470 or 435/548-2321, www.recreation.gov , late May-late Oct., $16) has a campground. From Heber City, drive southeast 42 miles on U.S. 40 (past Strawberry Reservoir), turn northwest on Forest Route 083, and travel 19.5 miles along Currant Creek.
American-style cafés line Main Street, along with plenty of fast food to serve the skiing crowds. One particularly colorful place to stop for food and local color is the extra-convivial Sidetrack Cafe (98 S. Main St., 435/654-0563, www.sidetrackcafe.net , 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Tues., Thurs., and Sun., 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Wed. and Fri.-Sat., $4-10). Sandwiches are good here, and H&H bagels are flown in from New York.
Another fun, casual place with good food is Spin Cafe (220 N. Main St., 435/654-0251, http://spincafe.net , 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon., Tues., Thurs.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sun., $8-20); the barbeque is a specialty.
In a little strip mall in Midway find Tarahumara (380 E. Main St., 435/654-3465, www.tarahumara.biz , 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., $9-14), where the Mexican food is shockingly good; the salsa bar is a special treat. The dining room at the Blue Boar Inn (1235 Warm Springs Rd., 435/654-1400 or 888/650-1400, www.theblueboarinn.com , 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, $25-38), which puts out elegant takes on standard dishes, is also highly regarded.
Fanny's Grill (700 N. Homestead Dr., 888/327-7220, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $9-18), at the Homestead Resort, has casual dining.
To reach Heber City, take I-80 (from about 25 miles east of Salt Lake City) to exit 146 and head 17 miles south on Highway 40. No public transportation serves this area.