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No matter where you are in the state of Utah, you can find amazing outdoor vistas and hidden gems. If you’re itching to get out and see something new this year, here are three places well worth the drive and, in a couple cases, a bit of a hike.


Aspen Grove

Image: Andrew Preble,

Although Pando may appear as nothing more than a vast grove of quaking aspen trees, all of the trees are actually part of the same organism, and it is the most massive living organism on earth. Not only that, but it is also ancient—estimated at 80,000 years-old.

Pando is an amazing place to visit because the feel of the place changes with each season, although fall is definitely a unique time to see the clone, when the leaves turn to gold and copper.

You’ll find Pando in the Fish Lake Basin, in central Utah. If you want an up-close and personal experience, then check out the Doctor Creek campsite, which is located right smack in the middle of Pando.

Lake Blanche

Mountain Landscape of Lake Blanche


Of the three gems highlighted here, Lake Blanche is the closest to the Wasatch Front, in the Twin Peaks Wilderness Area. The draw of Lake Blanche is the pristine vistas of the glacier-carved landscape, mingled with the scrub oak and aspen-studded trail.

Getting to Lake Blanche requires a decent hike, which ends up around 6 miles round-trip. Most people tend to start out in the early morning, so that they aren’t hiking during the warmest part of the day.

While your there, and if you’ve got the energy, then you can also explore a few of the sister lakes, including Lake Florence and Lake Lillian.

For some good info on how to get there and what to expect, check out the page for Lake Blanche.

Island Lake & the Mirror Lake Highway

Man jumping off of a cliff into Island Lake

Here’s a shot of my buddy, Craig, doing a gainer off of the tallest section of cliff. Yeah, he’s got some cahones for doing a stunt like that.

Island Lake is a personal favorite of mine, and I almost hesitate to include it on this list—in a selfish attempt to keep it to myself.

Nestled deep in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Island Lake is one of over 600 lakes that you can explore along the Mirror Lake Highway. The trail up to Island Lake is around 7 miles round-trip, but is a fairly easy trail with some vertical gain.

There are two main reasons that I love Island Lake. First, just behind the lake is a large grassy meadow, which makes for a great campsite, no matter how large or small your group is. Tiny runoff mini-streams course through the meadow, so with a filter you have easy access to as much crisp freshwater as you want.

And then there’s the cliffs. About 20-25 feet high, the cliffs stand just above a deep section of the lake, and are ideal for jumping. You’ll freeze your britches off, but the thrill of the jump is well worth it.

Even if you’re not up for hiking, the Mirror Lake Highway is still worth visiting, since many of the lakes are right there on the highway, with great access and nice campgrounds.

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