And try as I might to come up with something more accurate and artful than that, in the end I realized that line sums the place up perfectly.
What that pretty little sentence doesn’t touch on, however, is that the area surrounding Daniels Summit Lodge is like a tasty slice of snowmobile heaven.
If the lodge is at the heart of the Uinta National Forest, the Strawberry snowmobile trail system is its veins and arteries.
Sun-Shiny Mountain Bliss
When we arrived at Daniels Summit Lodge for our first day of riding (and my first day of mountain riding … I’m a flat-lander through and through), it was so warm I could have been sporting a T-shirt. The Lodge is 16 miles southeast of Heber City, Utah, and an easy 90-minute drive from Salt Lake City.
At 8,200 feet above sea level, the climate at the base of Daniels Summit was mild and inviting in early March. The whole Snow Goer team called the place home for our annual, five-day Rode Reports event.
The average annual temperature in Wasatch County, where Daniels Summit sits, is 60 degrees F, dipping into the 30s in the winter and reaching up around the 80s in the summer. It’s gorgeous. Like an electronics fanatic drooling over the newest flat-screen TV, we wasted little time chit chatting and hopped aboard the many 2006 sleds strewn out in front of us. Within 15 seconds, we were at the beginning of a 200-mile trail system with some of the most “picture-postcard” perfection I’ve ever laid eyes on.
It’s hard to avoid cliches when describing the area’s incredible landscapes and scenery, so I’ll just go ahead and use them all:
With snowcapped mountains as our backdrop, I felt as free as a bird as my machine and I soared through this heaven on earth. With snow in some areas as soft as newly fluffed pillows, I smiled from ear to ear as we carved our way up, down and around the mountains. I was on cloud nine as we stopped to smell the roses at the many overlooks along the trail.
There were 360 degrees of jaw-dropping views: the Salt Lake Valley on one side; the backside of the Wasatch Mountains on the other; and Strawberry Valley down below.
If you decide you’ve had enough of the 200 miles of trails, off-trail riding and scenery Daniels Summit and Strawberry Valley has to offer, you can just hop over Highway 40 and hook up with the national forest’s trail system, which has more than 1,000 miles of trail.
Depending on your particular fancy, you can take the trail up into Mirror Lake or to Mill Hollow. We did all of the above. And loved every minute of it.
As we drove toward the Salt Lake City Airport after spending five days at Daniels Summit I couldn’t stop thinking about the day it snowed lightly on our ride to Mirror Lake. I remember looking at the mountains and over the towering pine trees dressed in heavy snow and feeling that this is what it must feel like to be inside a snow globe. Perfect. Peaceful. And full of horsepower. Just the way I like it.
Thank You, Mr. Cowing
The area has a whole lot more to offer snowmobilers than pretty scenery and hundreds of miles of well-groomed trails; it’s got some serious off-trail action just waiting to be attacked.
There are hills to climb, whoops to hit, vertical angles to toy with and various lips and crests to test your courage. While many of my cohorts took to the deep powder to do a little sidehilling or boondocking, I was staring at a mountain.
Again, the bulk of my sledding has been done in the Midwest’s flatlands. So when one of the factory guys who shall remain nameless (Ski-Doo Marketing Manager Steve Cowing, cough cough) started in on how I “needed” to climb a hill. I was pretty much like, “Hell no. Ahhh, I mean, no thank you.”
“Come on, Colby, you’ll love it,” he said. “It will feel so good when you’re back at the lodge telling the story.”
Thank God for my inability to stand up to peer pressure because climbing up that hill, which felt like an 80-degree grade, making a rainbow loop near the top and screaming back down was the most exhilarating experience of my life (at least that’s printable).
I hit that sucker at least five more times before the week was over, and each time I went a little bit higher. I never made it to the very top, though. I’m leaving something for next time, I guess.
One thing that makes the Heber Valley so unique is the hot pots. What’s a hot pot? Hot pots are natural hot-water springs that form crater-like depressions usually 10 to 20 feet in diameter. They sit in mounds of tufa (calcium carbonate) that are typically 3 to 10 feet high.
In other words, hot pots are like big hot tubs in the ground. There are several dozen active hot pots within easy driving distance of Daniels summit. The largest and most famous is the Homestead Crater in Midway, which is more than 200 feet in diameter and 55 feet tall. The water inside the crater is about 65 feet deep, and a 110-foot-long tunnel provides access to the water for soaking, swimming and scuba diving.
After a long, hard day on the trails and climbing hills, there really is nothing better than a nice long soak in one of these.
Where To Stay
There are three resorts that are snowmobile outfitters with sleds, gear and immediate access to the more than 1,000 miles of trails:
Daniels Summit Lodge: More than 200 miles of groomed trails; a fleet of 95 rental snowmobiles for guided or self-guided tours; 48 luxury rooms and suites and a retreat day spa. For more information, visit www.danielssummit.com.
Strawberry Bay Lodge: Trails throughout the Uinta National Forest and more than 17,000 acres of open expanses that surround the reservoir. Snowmobile rentals are available. For more information, visit www.strawberrybay.com.
Homestead Resort: The only outfitter permitted to operate snowmobile tours through the mountains known as Utah’s Alps. The tours include popular destinations like Cascade Springs, Silver Lake alpine area or Overlook Meadow at the mountain’s crest. For more information, visit www.snowmobileparkcity.com. (located in MIdway).