When I had a layover in Salt Lake City a year ago, I remembered seeing the Rockies Mountains snowcaps in the distance and the sunset reflecting off the mountainside. It was beautiful. So when I saw a cheap flight deal from SFO to SLC in December, I booked it for a weekend getaway. We didn’t go skiing in Park City, but we explored the city and ventured out to do some winter hikes.
The flight to SLC from SFO was only an hour and half and when we got there the temperature hovered right around freezing point. We grabbed some food and drinks at The Bayou and ordered crispy ravioli, crawfish, and jambalaya mixed with gumbo. Who would’ve guessed SLC would have such good Cajun food?
On Saturday, we started the day with brunch at The Park Café. We all ordered something different, from chicken & waffle to omelet to potato hash, and they came in large portions and were under $10! The food itself was pretty standard breakfast, but for the price it was great.
After brunch, we drove a to Big Cottonwood Canyon to do a short hike to Donut Falls. We drove through windy roads and snowy mountains to reach the parking lot for the trailhead. It was only 30 minutes out from SLC, but the scenery and mountains were so beautiful and we felt pretty distant from a major city.
The hike itself was only about 3 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation gain. The snow was also pretty packed so it wasn’t too difficult hiking with just regular hiking boots. We trekked through the woods, crossed a few streams, and finally reached a larger frozen river that led to the Donut Fall. The entire river was frozen so we walked across it to get closer to the falls. Most of the waterfall was covered in ice, so there wasn’t much water flow and it was hard seeing the donut shape of the fall. It was a little disappointing, but the views along the entire hike was beautiful, especially when everything was covered in snow. After the hike we got chicken & waffle at Pig and the Jelly Jar and it was delicious!
By the time we got back to SLC, it was already late afternoon, evening time. We checked out the Mormon Temple and some of the nearby streets. We accidentally stumbled into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where a bunch of Mormons were singing in a choir from the second floor balcony. It was so interesting and they were actually pretty good! The city of Salt Lake was very small and after a brief stroll we felt pretty familiarized with the city.
Later that night, we bar hopped around downtown and everything was so chill. SLC bars were very casual and not rowdy like bars in other cities. Our favorite bar was Beerhive because they had so many beers on tap. We also checked out Bar X and Beer Bar.
On Sunday, we drove an hour north to Antelope Island which sits right next to the Great Salt Lake. We drove along the main road and stopped at viewpoints for photo ops. The lake was partially iced over so it was really pretty with the lake and the Rockies in the background. We wanted to hike to Frary Peak, but the road to the trailhead was too icy that the car couldn’t make it. We also saw Fielding Garr’s Ranch – nothing special except we saw Ford filming a car commercial there. Along the way though, we saw some bisons and antelopes!
Some fun facts about the Salt Lake. It used to cover the entire valley including where SLC is right now until part of it was drained through the Red Rock Pass in Idaho. The lake is endoheric, meaning the only outlet is evaporation, so as the water evaporates the mineral content increases, thus increasing the lake’s salinity. In one section with the highest salinity, only the brine shrimp survives. Swimming in the lake is super buoyant and the lake is on average 13 meters deep!
After Antelope Island, we hiked up to Ensign Peak. It was only 1 mile round trip from behind the State Capitol. The view from up top was beautiful, with the Rockies on one side and the entire downtown on the other. You could really see how SLC sits in the valley with mountains surrounding the city. And after Ensign Peak we had dinner at the famous Red Iguana. I’d say it’s good Mexican food but not out of this world.
This concludes another weekend trip I was able to knock out before 2017 came to a close. Although we didn’t go to Utah for the skiing like most people do, it was still fun seeing the city and taking short hikes to see the outdoors. The landscapes were beautiful and unlike what you would find in SF or on the east coast. In 2018, I want to take more weekend trips like this to explore cities close to SF.