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Heading to the mountains for the fall colors and festivals

5 min read
Heading to the mountains for the fall colors and festivals

If your kids aren’t in school yet, or you are new empty-nesters, late summer and fall is a great time to get away, especially to mountain towns.

How about Park City, Utah, a short hop from the Salt Lake City International Airport? Or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the southern gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. And Vail, Colorado, less than two hours from Denver.

If you are thinking of a road trip, AAA is reporting that gas price increases have slowed, and more relief could be on the way heading into fall. And while today’s national gas average is more than a month ago, it’s much less than a year ago.

You’ll find affordable lodging – The Sebastian in Vail, for example, is less than half winter rates, with special Save More deals until mid-November. The Chateaux Deer Valley at Deer Valley Resort is an easy 45-minute ride from the Salt Lake City International Airport with breakfast included and your choice from rooms to four-bedroom units and on-demand shuttles to Park City’s historic Main Street.

The newly renovated and dog-friendly Virginian Lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has rooms starting at $169 and a deal where you get a fourth night free. It’s a great base to explore Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Park City Olympic Park, Utah.

Speaking of national parks, summer crowds will be gone so you’ll have a lot more elbow room. September and October are hands down some of the best times of the year to experience Yellowstone.

Breckenridge, Colorado, boasts some of North America’s earliest fall colors. Located at 9,600 feet above sea level, the area’s splendid groves of aspen trees begin their annual transformation to brilliant gold in early September.

Perhaps you want to try something new, like fly-fishing or mountain biking. Crested Butte and Winter Park, Colorado, are famous for their trails, but most snow resorts now have mountain bike trails – and lessons. Perhaps you want to zoom down an Olympic bobsled course. You can in Park City at the Utah Olympic Park where there are also ziplines and a ropes course.

How about hot springs? There are three major hot springs in Colorado: Glenwood Springs, with the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Great Pagosa Springs. Each of these was originally used by Native Americans for their rich mineral content and natural healing abilities. Also popular all year round is Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. (Book a massage!)

If you aren’t as worried about spending money on travel, you aren’t alone. Demand to travel is still holding steady with 89 percent having plans in the next six months, despite economic concerns among travelers, according to the latest American Travel Sentiment study of American Travelers from Longwoods International.

The percentage of travelers who say inflation is greatly impacting their travel decisions in the next six months has dropped to 23 percent, down from a peak of 32 percent in March. Concern about airfare prices is also declining, with only 23 percent of travelers reporting that the cost of flying is greatly impacting their decision to travel in the next six months.

If you head west, you will find plenty of hiking, whatever kinds of trails you prefer. Park City has more than 400 miles of trails! The Gore Creek Trail in Vail offers 15-plus miles of trails.

Melissa Soltesz from White Pine Touring in Jackson, Wyoming, took us on a guided hike on the 9K trail near Deer Valley that’s at 9,000 feet above sea level. The wildflowers were in full bloom – purple Lupines, Red Paint Brush, pink geraniums, blue Columbine among them. (The nonprofit Mountain Trails Foundation maintains and builds Park City’s trails and offers an interactive map for winter and summer, as well as a current trail report.)

Soltesz says there are so many trails it’s a good idea to download an app like Trailforks that offers mountain biking as well as hiking trails mapped in more than 100 countries. You also may want to download trail maps because in many places you may not have Wi-Fi or cell service.

Visit when there is a festival (the Park City Song Summit in September and the Park City Wine Festival in October; Elk Fest the last weekend in September in Estes Park, Colorado, at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival lasts from Sept. 6 to 17 while the popular Breckenridge Oktoberfest is Sept. 15 to 17. )

Then there is the dining scene — over 100 restaurants in Park City. We had dinner at Cena Ristorante at The Chateaux (excellent pasta!) Plus, lobster rolls for lunch at Freshie’s Lobster Co. (they also have a food truck) and dinner at Kaneo, a new Mediterranean restaurant and bar. How about starting with octopus, or a hummus plate and moving on to a baked whole fish or stuffed eggplant with lamb, veggies and quinoa and finishing with a “modern” baklava or a lemon olive oil cake?

You’ll find dozens of options in Vail and Aspen to suit all budgets, whether you want a burger or steak, sushi, pho or Chinese, pizza or pasta. Get takeout as we did in Vail and watch a movie in your room or vacation rental.

We chowed down on burgers at the newly reopened Billy’s Burgers, a Jackson classic now at The Virginian Lodge – (have a falafel sandwich instead of a burger!) – and joined the locals in line at 7 a.m. for the spectacular breakfast pastries at Persephone Bakery.

Just don’t forget extra layers and your rain jackets. You’ll need them during those inevitable afternoon thunderstorms.

(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow TakingTheKids on TwitterFacebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2023 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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