There are few things more wonderful than biting into a fresh Utah peach or an ear of sweet corn in late summer. Utah growers offers an abundance of local flavor throughout the harvest season, and it's not necessary to travel beyond your own garden or local farmers market to find it. For travelers, however, Utah's harvest can serve as a road map for fun and adventure.
Here are four road trips that include some of Utah's best fresh produce along with other area attractions to enjoy.
Bear Lake raspberries
A perfectly sweet, firm raspberry can be an elusive thing. Raspberries are delicate, and finding that perfect ripe raspberry that is neither too tart nor too mushy is tricky. Perfect raspberries grow abundantly in the Bear Lake area on Utah's northern border. Every August, raspberry lovers flock to Garden City, Rich County, for the annual Raspberry Days festival. Though the festival has now past, but it’s not too late to enjoy the last sweet raspberries and some outdoor recreation during the remaining days of summer.
Find Bear Lake raspberries at farm stands in the area and purchase what you can eat or use within a day or two — raspberries do not last long or travel well. LaBeau's famous raspberry shakes are one of the best ways to enjoy this fresh fruit. Similar shakes can be found in several local eateries and are a tradition for many visitors to Bear Lake.
Bear Lake is popular for water sports throughout the summer, so if you are headed that direction, be sure to bring your water toys. Bear Lake is a fun place for boating, water skiing, kayaking, rafting, swimming and fishing. Don't miss the chance to tour Minnetonka Cave on the Idaho side of Bear Lake. There are few hotels in the area, but rental homes and condos are available, as well as campsites.
Brigham City peaches and 'Fruit Way'
There is a stretch of U.S. 89 from Brigham City to Willard that has become known as "Fruit Way" because of the many seasonal produce stands that line the road. Baskets full of peaches in several varieties stock their tables right now, along with pears, onions, squash, peppers and even ruby-red popcorn kernels. Throughout the fall, visitors to Fruit Way will find peaches, pears, apples, pumpkins and more. Brigham City's Peach Days are Sept. 5-8 and would be an ideal time to enjoy the fruits of the harvest.
Brigham City and Perry have a few really good local restaurants, including Maddox Ranch House and Idle Isle Cafe. Owners of Maddox are known for raising their own beef and bison and were serving locally sourced food long before the restaurant was trendy. Don't expect any snobbishness or small portions because Maddox specializes in home-style entrees such as chicken-fried steak. Soup or salad, bottomless hot rolls, raspberry honey butter, a potato and seasonal vegetables are included with every meal. Idle Isle Cafe has been in business on Brigham City's Main Street since 1921. This is the sort of classic cafe where you take your kids or grandkids to show them what it was like in the "good ol’ days."
A trip to Brigham City will provide an opportunity to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site, a few miles to the northwest. In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed here, connecting the United States from coast to coast. It is difficult to fully appreciate today what an amazing accomplishment this was and how it changed the Western United States forever. Re-enactments of the driving of the last spike are held on Saturdays and holidays through mid-October. The Junior Ranger program is a fun way for kids to learn about this historic event and earn a free souvenir badge.
Capitol Reef historic orchards
Capitol Reef National Park maintains and protects the remains of the town of Fruita, Wayne County, and its historic orchards. Visitors to the park are welcome to harvest their own cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, apples, almonds and walnuts in season. The harvest season runs from early June through mid-October each year. Visitors can consume ripe fruit for free inside unlocked orchards and purchase any fruit they would like to take home.
Capitol Reef's entrance fee is $5 per vehicle for seven days, making this trip one of the best bargain vacations in Utah. In addition to historic orchards, Capitol Reef has beautiful scenery, great hiking, unique geology, petroglyphs and dinosaur fossils. The town of Torrey is situated near the park's entrance and it offers a nice selection of well-known hotels and good local restaurants. Goblin Valley State Park is about an hour drive from Capitol Reef and should not be missed. The knobby sandstone "goblins" that stretch for miles in this park make it a wonderland for imaginative children and adults.
Green River watermelons
There is something special about the city Green River, in Emery County, that provides sweet watermelons. It probably has something to do with the combination of hot days, cool nights and plenty of river water. You could wait for these watermelons to appear at local grocery stores and farmers markets, or you could go to the source and find adventure in the process. Melons of all varieties can be found at Melon Days, Sept. 14-15, or stock up on your favorites at a roadside stand.
Green River is centrally located for some of Utah's best outdoor adventures. Book a whitewater rafting trip, ride world-class mountain biking and off-road vehicle trails, or hike through Arches and Canyonlands National Park. Two top-notch state parks are located less than an hour from Green River: Goblin Valley to the west and Dead Horse Point to the south.
Dinosaur fanatics will find a lot to love about Green River. The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is a few miles to the north, and several other cool dinosaur sites — such as the Mill Canyon Trail near Arches National Park — are scattered throughout the area.
Allison Laypath is an expert on family travel and author of the family travel blog tipsforfamilytrips.com. With her family, Allison especially enjoys road trips, national parks and local field trips. Email Allison at [email protected].