I’ve lived in Utah for most of my life and am surprised by how many places I still have yet to discover. And some are only an hour away. A few weeks ago I headed to Daniels Summit for a fall trip in the Uinta National Forest—just beyond Heber. Our basecamp for exploring the region was Daniels Summit Lodge, a former boarding house that was revitalized by the Hill family as a mountain haven for outdoorspeople.
The rustic lodge first opened in 1998 and is nestled against the towering trees of the forest. Best known as a snowmobiler’s paradise, thanks to its easy access to the snowmobile trails of the Uinta National Forest that leave from the Lodge, the Lodge is open year-round and beautiful as the fall colors turn (i.e. now). So even if you aren’t the snowmobiler sort, there’s plenty to do from horseback riding to hiking to paddling to riding around RZRs.
Hiking, Horseback Riding, and RZRs…Oh My!
The Uinta National Forest is the Lodge’s backyard and nearby trails like Whiskey Springs and Daniels Pass are easy to access. For those with little kids, pack a picnic and head to Whiskey Springs to walk on the interpretive nature trail and enjoy a picnic. If you want a bit more of a challenge, try the Daniels Pass 3.5-mile loop. It ascends 300 feet on the way back and is a snowmobile trail come winter.
While I didn’t go horseback riding myself, I saw that Daniels Summit Lodge offers 2-hour guided trail rides daily in summer and fall through the Uinta National Forest adjacent to the property. The fall colors are stunning, and as long as it’s not too snowy, it’s a perfect time to explore the forest.
On warmer fall days, head to Strawberry Reservoir—just over five minutes from Daniels Summit Lodge—for fishing or paddling. Known as one the state’s best trout fisheries, it’s famous for trophy-sized rainbows and cuttthroats. You won’t find too many folks on motorized boats this time of year on the lake so bring a wetsuit or warm clothing and kayak or paddleboard along the quiet shores.
For our outdoor adventure, we tried new-to-me RZRs, an ATV that’s more like a rugged golf cart that can take you all over on established backcountry trails. There’s plenty of roads to explore behind Daniels Summit Lodge, and our twoish-hour loop took us up to the mountain summit at 10,000 feet for panoramic views of Heber Valley and Strawberry Reservoir before looping through a colorful forest of changing leaves and finishing back at the lodge.
While ATVs aren’t normally my activity of choice, it’s great for families with youngin’s or older folks to do together and reach further away destinations than hiking alone could take you. Some roads are bumpy and rugged, but the lower, more often used trails offered a super smooth ride. rent 2- or 4-person RZRs at Daniels Summit Lodge until snowmobile season begins.
Daniels Summit Lodge Pole Grill and General Store
We ate our meals at the Lodge Pole Grill, conveniently located on-site at Daniels Summit Lodge. While breakfast was my favorite (get the pancakes) they’re best known for their Western menu served at lunch and dinner.
I’m not a meat eater so I didn’t partake, but the Summit Burger and BBQ Baby Back Ribs were much beloved by our group. My favorite was the cheese pot appetizer with spinach and fresh bread. So addictive. The Lodge Pole Grill is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, hours vary seasonally.
The General Store had plenty of goodies, like homemade fudge, candy, knickknacks, and gifts like Western Collectibles, carved bears, Native American jewelry, and kids’ toys.
The lodge rooms themselves are spacious and modern with uber comfortable bedding, but my favorite features were the indoor fireplaces for cold nights and the outdoor decks that look out onto the Uinta National Forest. I loved relaxing in the rocking chairs at the start of the day, and it’s the perfect vacation reading nook for bookworms.
There’s also a pool, free coffee, tea, and cookies in the lobby, and complimentary WiFi throughout Daniels Summit Lodge.
When you need a break from Salt Lake City, Daniels Summit is a nice staycation location with plenty of outdoor access–and it’s only an hour away.