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In many ways, Salt Lake City feels a lot like Denver did 15 years ago. There are breweries springing up in every neighborhood, intricate murals painted in alleyways, food halls dotting the urban areas, and myriad creative local businesses pretty much everywhere. Also similar: The city’s most striking feature is its rippled skyline. But with the Wasatch Mountains just a half-hour east of downtown and the Great Salt Lake spiderwebbing out to the west, adventure is a lot closer at hand.
A huge portion of the population—which, like Denver’s, has risen steadily over the years (and currently sits at around 1.2 million)—prioritizes the city’s proximity to the outdoors. So any visit to Salt Lake brings with it a utopia of multi-sport options. Though, following Utah’s unprecedented winter snowfall (some ski areas have received a staggering 850 inches thus far), we recommend hitting the slopes during a spring trip.
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Below, our hit list of must-do activities on a quick, spring trip to the Wasatch.
Salt Lake City is a solid eight-hour drive from Denver—worthwhile for a spring visit, especially if you want to haul your all-season gear like skis, bikes, and SUPs.
However, a quick flight (quick as in, it feels like you’re in the air for about 20 minutes between takeoff and landing) is also an alluring option. You can nab a roundtrip fare on Southwest or Frontier for under $200. Also, if you stay in the new evo Hotel, high-end skis, snowboard, and mountain bike rentals are at your immediate disposal.
Where to Stay
Occupying 100,000 square feet spread across a collection of 100-year-old brick warehouses in Salt Lake City’s hip Granary District, the evo Hotel is an industrial-chic showpiece. Completed last winter, artwork abounds in every corner of the hotel, ranging from rustic steel doors harvested from the original warehouses to an ornamented topo map hanging from the trusses, a gigantic wooden bike cassette on the store wall, and a dedicated museum space with rotating exhibits from local artists.
Evo, the massive gear and activewear e-tailer (with a flagship location in Denver), also occupies a two-story retail space inside the hotel. It contains a ton of favorite outdoor brands and a full-fledged rental and service shop with the latest-and-greatest bikes and boards, including the exclusive Season ski and snowboard lineup.
The hotel is also home to Salt Lake City’s only indoor bouldering gym, Bouldering Project. The 26,000-square-foot gym offers classes and clinics and is frequented by climbers of every level, including a steady stream of pros, as USA Climbing, once headquartered in Boulder, is now located down the block. The gym, which hotel guests get free access to, also features an array of state-of-the-art weights and workout machines as well as yoga and fitness rooms with daily classes (also free of charge to hotel guests).
The first thing that captures one’s attention upon checking into the hotel, however, is the 5,000-square-foot indoor skate park behind the front desk. Skaters of all ages rip up and down the ramps all day, and—you guessed it—hotel guests get free access during their stay.
There are 50 units throughout the hotel, ranging from spacious rooms with Wasatch views, Rafter and Boulder rooms with exposed, vaulted ceilings and concrete floors, as well as bunk rooms designed for both families and friend groups. The only lacking amenity? In-room coffee. But a java bar downstairs (that also serves smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, and baked goods) scratches the itch. Cocktails and local beers can be found in the upstairs bar, next to the indoor cornhole field and work lounge.
Skiing and Snowboarding
With enough snow this winter and spring to fill a six-story high rise, several ski areas near Salt Lake are extending their seasons into May, including Brighton (May 29) Solitude (May 21), and Snowbird (May 31), which are all on the Ikon base pass.
Epic pass holders will have to scurry up to Park City, where the season was extended through May 1.
Hiking and Mountain Biking
Situated on the nearest peninsula of the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island State Park is home to dozens of mountain bike trails, all with sweeping views of the water and shores. Dry and rideable for a large part of the year, it’s a welcome oasis for locals (and visitors) eager to escape the pummeling winter and get their dirt fix. The Figure 8 Loop takes you past rock formations and 17 miles of scrubby terrain (with about 1,300 feet of climbing) that feels other-worldly. There is zero shade, so aim to ride it on a not-so-hot day.
With the Wasatch Mountains looming over the city, you don’t have to go far to gain elevation. There are heaps of trailheads just outside of the Greater Avenues and the University of Utah campus. We like the 6.6-mile rollercoaster between Dry Creek and City Creek for its easy access and bird’s-eye views over Salt Lake City. For easiest logistics, though, check out the Foothills Trail system, which serves 16 miles of new and rehabbed hiking (and biking) singletrack minutes from downtown.
There are several reservoirs for paddling near the city (Causey and Tibble Fork are popular options), but the Great Salt Lake Marina is just a 20-minute drive from town. There, you can bask on the sandy beach and rent paddleboards (typically starting in May—weather-dependent). Beware the wind: While the Great Salt Lake is shallow, white caps kick up quickly in a breeze.
Where to Eat and Drink
Opened in December 2019, Hallpass is Utah’s first food hall. Located in the Gateway downtown, the 11,000-square-foot space is stylish and buzzy, particularly Beer Zombies Taproom, a stellar place to try local brews (which pack a higher ABV if you order a can instead of draft). The eats are also inspired: equal parts healthy and comfort fare at SkinnyFats, lobster rolls at Colossal Lobster, fresh and colorful Asian dishes at Graffiti Bao, and hot chicken at Blaze of Thunder.
A new addition to the Granary District, Woodbine Food Hall is quickly gaining steam as a go-to culinary haunt for everything from a cup of morning joe to a two-handed lunch sandwich to a fresh bowl of ramen to vegan wings. The adjoining bar is open late with a cozy fireplace lounge complete with fuzzy blankets, a long list of creative cocktails, and a weekly rotation of live music and events.
Pago on Main is in the heart of downtown and a winning choice for sustainable (and not crazy expensive) fine dining for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Its relatively small menu is unique; we like the braised short rib with carrot mascarpone and the corn-and-mushroom lasagna, which is adorned with fresh shishito peppers.
If You Do One Thing
Get a cookie at RubySnap in the Granary District. Actually, get at half a dozen. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, this place is allegedly responsible for the “cookie culture” that has developed across Salt Lake City. With about 20 mainstay varieties like peanut butter chocolate truffle, blueberry lemon chia seed, chocolate caramel, and carrot cake curry, each cookie bears a woman’s name (according to staff, named after loved ones of founder Tami Steggell). When regulars come in and order, they’ll say something along the lines of, “I’ll have two Zoeys, a Louise, a Trudy, and a Frida.” The best part about the place is that you can sample as many cookies as you want—cut directly from the source and fresh out of the oven.