It’s a cold clear night in Southern Utah. Bundled up kids slide down nearby piles of snow while the grown-ups marvel at a sight seldom seen in today’s brightly lit world—the stars. So many stars. Their guide to the night sky is “Dark Sky” Dave Sorenson, a ranger from Cedar Breaks National Monument. Using a green laser and telescopes, Sorenson takes visitors on a tour of the constellations. Cedar Breaks is a designated “dark sky” monument, meaning as much attention is paid to ensuring the night sky is as protected as the land below it. The town of Brian Head follows suit, reducing light pollution for winter star parties with the rangers and amateur astronomy buffs during the ski season.
Here are six ways to enjoy Brian Head and beyond.
The star parties are just one of the charming off-slope additions to a ski weekend at Brian Head Ski Resort. The small, family-friendly resort and town is the highest in Utah and is situated in the heart of some of Utah (and the world’s) most famed and spectacular scenic wonders. In addition to Cedar Breaks National Monument, Brian Head is in proximity to both Bryce Canyon and Zion’s National Park, both of which are underappreciated (and less crowded) in winter. This means that in addition to the skiing your trip can include adventures in the parks. And that’s not all, Brian Head is full of fun off-slope adventures as well.
1. Take a Turn on the Tubing Hill
Brian Head’s tubing hill is one of the most popular family activities. Tubing is open every day at the Giant Steps Tubing Park
, and night tubing at Giant Steps is open Friday, Saturday and during holiday periods. The Navajo Tubing Park is only open on weekends and during holiday periods.
2. View Cedar Breaks via Snowmobile
, an outfitter in Brian Head town, offers guided snowmobile tours on several miles of excellent snowmobile track, through gladed meadows of aspen in Dixie National Forest to a lookout above Cedar Breaks. The affable young Southern Utah guides will even let you tear around some of the open meadows along the way to the rim.
3. Explore on Cross Country Skis or Snowshoes
Two other local outfitters, Brian Head Sports
, rent gear to explore the miles of trails surrounding Brian Head. You can also book guided snowshoe tours into Cedar Breaks National Monument, which is generally snowbound and perfect terrain for a snowshoe excursion into one of Southern Utah’s treasures.
4. Discover Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter
The drive from Brian Head to Bryce Canyon
is a beautifully scenic stretch of road that runs through the picturesque little town of Panguitch before dropping onto one Utah’s Scenic Highway 12, a designated “all-American” road. The scenery alongside the highway gives you a taste of what to expect in Bryce Canyon, famous for its slender, towering “hoodoos” created from centuries of artful erosion by wind and water. While many opt to just enjoy the canyon from the overlooks, bring along snowshoes or Yaktrax (small traction devices you put on your hiking boots) and venture (carefully) down into the hoodoos via Navajo Loop or the more ambitions Fairy Land Loop.
5. Hike the Icy Zion Narrows
The Narrows is Zion National Park’s
most popular hike. It’s basically a scramble up the Virgin River into the “narrows” towering canyon walls that in winter are covered in icy waterfalls. To do the Narrows in winter you’ll obviously need some special gear. Zion Adventure Company
and Zion Outfitter
rent special waders and dry suits along with river shoes and stout poles that will keep you warm, dry and upright as you explore the icy canyon.
6. Ski Brian Head
Of course, you did come here to ski and nowhere else in Utah can you regard its two most famous topographies juxtaposed with each other. From the top lift below Brian Head Peak you can gaze off into Utah’s famous red rock country as you contemplate the snowy hills below. The mountain is divided into two sections: the Navajo Peak area, completely devoted to beginner terrain, and the main mountain, which offers a wide range of terrain for skiers and boarders of all levels. Also, Brian Head is Utah’s highest resort at 9,800 feet above sea level and a repository for southerly storms that often don’t make it up to the Wasatch.
Finally, when all your adventures are over for the day, relax at the Last Chair Saloon
and be sure to try the BBQ. Brian Head’s owner is from Kansas City and serves up a mess of ribs and chicken every weekend at the Last Chair.
Sponosred by Brian Head Resort Words by Jeremy Pugh
Photos by Mike Saemisch and Andrew Peacock