words by Melissa Fields
While multiple flights arrive and depart between San Francisco’s three airports and Salt Lake City International Airport daily, the advantages of driving to Utah’s Powder Paradise are many. Road tripping allows you to check out cool attractions along the way; there’s no baggage weight limits in your car—particularly nice considering the heavy clothing and gear required for a ski trip; and with the post-pandemic resurgence of airline travel, driving—even with an en route hotel stay—is more economical. Throw in the easily drivable proximity between resorts on multi-resort passes like the Epic and Ikon, and packing up the car for a little sun and snow in Utah becomes a no-brainer.
Following is a guide for a Bay Area-to-Park City road trip, complete with interesting pitstops, dining recommends and other Park City-area things to do. And, our top road trip essentials can be found here.
Hit the road
Rise early and set out on Interstate 80 eastbound for Park City, Utah—765 miles and about 12 hours from San Francisco. Your first stop is three-and-a-half hours in at Reno, located just over the state line in Nevada. There you can stretch your legs by browsing more than 200 cars—along with artifacts from every auto era—at the National Car Museum. Or pay a visit to the architecturally stunning Nevada Museum of Art. Back on the road, the only outposts you’ll pass with services beyond a gas station in the 400 miles between Reno and the Utah state line at Wendover are Winnemucca and Elko. If your clan isn’t up to pushing through to Park City in a day, plan on spending the night in one of these two towns. Once you get to Wendover, Utah, keep the faith as you’re just 150 miles from your destination.
In Park City, lodging options run the gamut from the comfortable and communal dorms at the Park City Hostel to luxurious, 5-star hotel rooms and suites with butler service and ski valets at the Montage Deer Valley, Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley and Waldorf Astoria Park City, to name just a few. For a place to rest your head that falls somewhere in the middle, you’ll find plenty of moderately priced hotel and condo options in Park City’s Kimball Junction and Snyderville areas; properties like the Newpark Resort and Hyatt Centric Park City, which are both located just off the Interstate, within and a few minutes drive of the resorts and on the Park City’s free, citywide bus route. Both ski resorts in Park City also offer plentiful ski-in/ski-out lodging options.
Ski & Ride
Park City, of course, boasts Park City Mountain, the largest resort in the U.S., and Deer Valley Resort, a service bar-setter and one of the country’s few remaining skier’s-only mountains. Avoid the inevitable morning congestion through Park City proper by beginning your Deer Valley days at its Mayflower Base, located just a few minutes from Park City off Highway 40/189. Get oriented to Deer Valley’s 103 runs and learn a little about the area’s fascinating silver mining history on a complimentary Mountain Host Tour.
When you’re ready to explore Park City Mountain’s huge 7,300 acres, 30-year Ski and Snowboard School veteran Dottie Beck recommends parking at this resort’s Town Base and then spending the day touring multiple mountains, lifts and runs as you make your way north to Canyons Village. There you can enjoy an aprés-ski libation before catching the bus back to your car.
Passes & Tickets
Park City Mountain is an Epic Pass resort, which is also accepted at Utah’s Snowbasin Resort (a 60-mile drive from Park City). The Ikon Pass will get you on the lifts at Deer Valley and Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts, Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton, and at Alta Ski Area and Snowbird, located in Little Cottonwood Canyon. (Drive times from Park City to the Cottonwood resorts is about 50 minutes.) For those who are not Epic or Ikon passholders, both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley offer single and multiday tickets for advance purchase online. Take note: Deer Valley limits daily lift ticket sales and typically sells out during the following periods: December 19-January 8, January 14-17, February 18-27 and March 12-27.
Begin your days in Park City with consideration for the hours you’ll spend outside by tucking into a plate of satisfying Shakshouka (Moroccan-style baked eggs) at Five5eeds or a flat white and Buddha Bowl of Goodness at Harvest. Additionally, Park City's only cold-pressed juicery, Guest Haus Juicery and Cafe, just opened and its doors and serves up juice, smoothies and other healthy bites perfect to fuel up for a day on the slopes. Notable lunch spots at Park City Mountain include the Mid-Mountain Lodge, Cloud Dine and Lookout Cabin. At Deer Valley you can’t go wrong regardless of where you choose to lunch, but we’re particularly fond of the lunch offerings at Empire Canyon Grill, RIME Seafood and Raw Bar and Royal Street Cafe. There are literally hundreds of options for dinner in and around Park City. A few off-the-beaten-path and locally beloved eateries that are worth seeking out include Twisted Fern, Windy Ridge Cafe and Hearth and Hill.
For many, the best moments of a ski getaway are those spent gathered with friends or family at the end of the day to enjoy good food, drink and conversation. Like its lodging and dining offerings, Park City’s aprés-ski options run the spectrum from swanky to appealingly low-brow. At the top end is the Fire Terrace at The St. Regis Deer Valley Vista Lounge. There your kiddos can roast marshmallows over the beautifully architectural firepits while you sip something cold or warm. When you go, be sure to stick around until dusk when a hotel wine steward comes out to the terrace to saber a bottle of champagne. Another high-end option can be found at Deer Valley’s newly expanded Goldener Hirsch Inn where you can sit outside in comfy lounge seating on the Veranda or inside at the chic Antler Lounge. Over at Park City Mountain, the Umbrella Bar—a beer bar, food stand and lively deck at the center of Canyons Village—offers a slightly more casual vibe. At Park City Mountain’s Town Base, you can’t miss the infectious scene at The Corner Store, where live music and PBR-and-a-shot specials are the rule every afternoon of the ski season. At Main Street’s Town Lift base, order up an Old Fashioned or California Widow at the Park City landmark High West Saloon. Or sit on the sunny Town Lift deck for a beer and fish tacos at The Bridge Café and Grill.
No trip to Park City is complete without spending an afternoon or evening browsing the boutiques and galleries, grabbing a coffee at the Java Cow or Atticus Coffee, Books & Teahouse or taking in a concert or show on Historic Main Street. Other things to do in Park City proper include visiting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum at the Utah Olympic Park, wandering the galleries at the Kimball Art Center or snowshoeing, snow biking or cross-country skiing the groomed trails at Park City’s Round Valley Preserve. Go a little farther afield to Woodward Park City (10 miles from Park City’s Main Street) a new action-sports center with snow tubing, skiing and riding and a huge indoor space with trampolines, ramps, restaurant and bar. Over in the nearby Heber Valley (17 miles from Park City), you can take what’s likely the world’s only paddleboard yoga class in 10,000-year-old hot springs at the Homestead Crater. Or leave the crowds behind for an unforgettable backcountry ski or split-board tour into the pristine High Uintas Wilderness (15 miles east of Park City) with Inspired Summit Adventures or Park City Powder Cats.
Soften your reentry into reality along the drive back to San Francisco with an adventuresome stop at the 12-Mile/Bishop Creek Hot Springs. The springs’ unmarked parking area is located 12-miles north of Wells, Nevada, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive west of Park City along Interstate 80. It’s a two-mile hike from the parking area to the springs. After your hike and soak, take it easy the rest of the way home—and better time your arrival back in the Bay Area—by reserving a room for the night in Elko (45 minutes from Wells) and making the final seven-hour drive home the next day.