It’s daybreak in Park City and I’m wobbling about on a paddleboard, desperately trying to hold a graceful yoga pose inside a magnificent, ancient crater.
My headfirst dive into the water, which comes swiftly and repeatedly throughout the class, thankfully feels like easing into a warm bath, courtesy of the hot springs below. It’s certainly the most spectacular exercise class I’ve ever taken. It definitely beats hot yoga hands down.
“This is the only place on Earth that you can do yoga on a paddleboard inside a hot springs cave,” explains Park City Yoga Adventures teacher Blake Summers, as I dry off following my dunking in the waters – once optimistically thought to hold the fountain of youth.
“10,000 years in the making, this is probably the oldest yoga studio in the world. It’s such a magical place. If I arrive here in a bad mood, I always leave happier,” he adds, his voice echoing around the natural cavern, as light streams in through the crater’s opening above bouncing off the beautiful blue water.
It’s these ‘only in Park City’ experiences that are putting the upscale resort town on the map outside of its traditional snow season.
Park City started life as a legendary Wild West silver mining town, frequented by rough and tumble folk heroes such as Butch Cassidy. But it wasn’t until in the 1980s that it finally struck gold with the introduction of luxury ski resorts, soon realising that its true riches lay above ground and came in virgin powder form. It was also around this time that Robert Redford launched the Sundance Film Festival nearby.
Legend has it that in the early days, the actor would stand out on Main Street to personally sell tickets to passers-by.
Long gone are the days of burly outlaws and eager Hollywood hopefuls hustling on Main Street, the central byway running through the heart of Park City.
Although it’s kept much of its pioneer charm, including the odd Western saloon bar, nowadays the photogenic street heaves with independent boutiques and fine dining restaurants, showcasing how high-end tourism has transformed Park City into an increasingly attractive year-round holiday destination.
I’ve arrived in Park City to walk the same streets as Cassidy and Redford, following a direct flight from Heathrow and a 40-minute shuttle from Salt Lake City.
In recent years, Park City has made sustainability a core focus, so it’s now perfectly feasible to holiday here minus a car. Visitors whizz about on zero-carbon public transport, which includes complimentary buses. Most of the resorts also offer a free shuttle service, that’s as easy to use as Uber but without the fare.
A snowball’s throw from Main Street, is the dusty ranch at Red Pine Adventures, offering horseback tours of Park City’s peaks. Owner Roger Osguthorpe helps me swing into the saddle, before we head out for a trail ride.
“The last couple of years have been the busiest in our 25-year history,” Roger marvels as we trek the awe-inspiring landscape of his family-owned ranch, through sun-dappled woodland filled with deer, up the soaring, wild mountainside curves.
“It’s partly that people want to get outside and connect with nature after the pandemic. But I think the TV series Yellowstone with Kevin Costner, much of which was filmed around here, also helped. Who wouldn’t want to live the cowboy dream in this setting?” he asks, gazing mediately out over the mountains
The TV series Yellowstone with Kevin Costner, much of which was filmed around here, has helped
Dismounting my trusty steed to find that I now have the gait of John Wayne, I make my way up the hill to the Stein Eriksen Lodge, to sooth my saddle-sore muscles.
This most luxe of luxury resorts was voted by Forbes to be the only five-star hotel and spa in Utah. Having checked into the alpine-style spa, filled with handsome mahogany wood and zen music, it takes just a short-but-sweet hour for the therapist to miraculously stroke, stretch and gently pummel away my aches and pains.
The rest of the afternoon is spent blissfully before a crackling log fire, overlooking picturesque woodland in the spa’s relaxation lounge.
As night falls, I head back to Main Street, with its cornucopia of world-class restaurants. Australian-owned Harvest is the place to fuel up on healthy, farm-to-table light bites, washed down with the best coffee in town.
At the historic Riverhorse on Main, you’ll find one of North America’s most noted dining hotspots, serving up elevated, seasonal cuisine in an industrial-chic setting, with live music tinkling in the background.
And head to Chimayo for New Mexican cuisine by renowned chef Bill White, for lip-smacking ribs and locally sourced elk broil.
Bedding down for the night, I keep things cosy with a stay at the Silver Baron Lodge, a family-friendly resort within the Deer Valley area, nestled into the base of six towering mountains.
During the ski season, the lodge offers easy access to the legendary slopes, some of which were used during the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
But off-season, when you get all the luxe for less bucks, the resort has started to offer year-round outdoor activities for its visitors, including the increasingly popular downhill mountain bike trails.
Park City Diary Planner
Park Silly Sunday Market
Park Silly Sunday Market takes place on various Sundays from June to September – and includes a farmers’ market, arts, crafts, clothing, street food, live music and more.
Savor The Summit
On 24 June, Savor The Summit sees the restaurants of Main Street place long tables up and down the length of the road and patrons can drink and dine al fresco.
Park City Arts Festival
From 4-6 August, the Park City Arts Festival adds independent art stalls and shops to the many art galleries in Park City.
Deer Valley Summer Concerts
The outdoor concerts at Deer Valley often feature the Utah Symphony Orchestra.
Sundance Film Festival
The most famous of Park City’s events, when the independent film industry takes over the town. It’s held every January.
Guests at Deer Valley can also book in for a private guided hike with Melissa Glover, hiking and mountain host, who’s been exploring the local trails for the past 15 years and knows them like the back of her hand.
At sunrise, I lace up my walking boots to join Glover for a five-mile ramble over the neighbouring hills, coated in oak scrubs ablaze in a riot of yellows and rusted orange, the smell of sage hanging heavily in the air.
We barely see another hiker on the trail all morning, showcasing just how peaceful the shoulder season in Park City can be. And of course, if walking is a bit too slow paced for you, there are plenty of mountain biking tours to enjoy, too.
Reaching the peak of the range, we stand to inhale the fresh mountain air and views across lakes and hills dotted with rustic wooden cabins, the sky a glorious shade of dazzling azure.
Come winter, this colour-rich landscape will be hidden under a thick blanket of snow and the ski-set will know little of its true beauty. I bottle up the ravishing scene and take it back down the mountain with me, like a secret only whispered to a lucky few.