It's hard to think of this quiet little mountain-top town, where it's possible to count more deer in the meadows than people in the streets, as anything but a ski area.

Certainly, it doesn't fit the image of a vacationer's hub.It is, after all, a ski area. The hills were groomed for skiers and the lodges built for skiers.

And when the snow melts and the flowers blossom and wildlife reclaim their residency, the skiers have gone home.

What happened was that a few fishermen found there were fish in the nearby streams and lakes and began visiting. Then hikers and bikers discovered the mountains and photographers the scenery. Then came the Dutch, French and English.

Now people come to Brian Head to stay during the summer and fall, and in their leisure drive five minutes to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Or, take an hour and go to Bryce Canyon National Park to see the wind- and water-carved canyons of red-rock hoodoos.

Then, maybe, drive the 90 minutes to Zion National Park to hike Angel's Landing or wade a ways up the Virgin River through the Zion Narrows.

On longer days they drive the three hours to Lake Powell or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas, only to rush back to the mountain retreat in time for the evening sunset and the sting of the fall night air.

More recently they've been leaving for an afternoon of discovery in the latest recognized natural wonder, the Grand Staircase National Monument.

"Because Brian Head was being marketed all those years as just a ski resort, the summers were pretty quiet," said Bobby Foster, director of marketing and sales for the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

"Since we've started to market the area for summer use, we're getting more and more people discovering we're more than a ski area, a lot more. Visitors are using Brian Head as their hub - staying here and then traveling out to see other areas. There's a lot of interest in the national parks right now, especially with the foreign visitors, and especially with the Dutch, followed closely by the French and English."

It helped, too, that the new owners of the Cedar Breaks Lodge, Sedona Resort Management, found it had the only full-service hotel of its size along the I-15 corridor between Provo and the Nevada border.

The lodge offers 200 rooms, ranging from studios to suites with three bedrooms and full kitchens, along with such amenities as an indoor swimming pool and spa, steam room, sauna, in-house restaurant and lounge. Summer and fall room rates range from $85 to $140 per night.

Foster said the lodge also started programs to help guests become acquainted with Brian Head. This past summer it offered guided Jeep tours in open-air vehicles to such rugged, out-of-the-way places as the Twisted Forest of bristle-cone pines and Sidney Peak Overlook, an ascent of some 4,000 feet. Hotel staff also recommend biking and hiking trails, and popular fishing spots.

The main activity for summer and fall is mountain biking, and for good reason. A number of biking magazines have tagged Brian Head as "Utah's other Utopia," the first being Moab.

Besides being perfectly located for downhill ski runs, the Brian Head area is made for biking. Because it's located on the edge of the Markagunt Plateau, all trails lead downhill, which for a recreational mountain biker is sweets to the sweet tooth.

The 1998 trail guide published by Bicycle Utah lists 19 marked, mapped and easily accessed biking trails. The trails lead to such places as Cedar City and Parowan, Duck Creek Village, Panguitch Lake and around Cedar Breaks and the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area. There are several local businesses in Brian Head that not only rent equipment but also offer shuttle service back (uphill) to the resort.

Brian Head Resort also operates one ski lift that will take bikers either to a trailhead for a ride out of the area or to a spider-web of trails criss-crossing ski runs. The trails themselves can be as easy or difficult as the individual rider chooses, generally alternating between a one-lane dirt road and single-track trails through trees and meadows.

Daily bike rentals range from $23 to $29. The cost of a shuttle back to the main lodge is $10. Usually, if bikers or hikers are looking for directions, there are people available to direct or even guide them.

The lodge also offers a number of special fall packages, such as its Romance Getway for two for $299. It includes two nights lodging, a massage from the spa for each person and breakfast.

Clark Krause, marketing director for Brian Head Resort, pointed out that there are also hundreds of miles of backcountry roads linked to the resort for bikers to ride.

Because the hills are now changing to their fall colors, this is a very popular time for bikers, hikers and photographers.

Fishing remains another popular activity. There are a number of smaller streams popular with fly fishermen as well as a number of larger ponds nearby, including Panguitch Lake, Navajo Lake and Yankee Meadow Reservoir.