After the summer concerts are over and before the winter powder falls, it's the perfect time to get away—with the family, with your buddies, with your heartthrob.
Mountain biking at Brian Head
Brian Head, Utah
Beat the heat at 10,000 feet
Brian Head is a head scratcher for northern Utahns. A ski resort in Southern Utah doesn't sound right and located above Parowan and Cedar City, you just might blow by it on I-15 enroute to sunny St. George. Don't.
In the wintertime, it's a hip little ski resort and in the summer and fall it's a hidden gem at 10,000 feet, which makes it an oasis of cooler temperatures when Southern Utah is in the scorch season.
A vast network of trails running through alpine meadows and its proximity to all the wonders of southern Utah make it a great base for exploring national monuments and parks or a destination unto itself, so close but still far from the madding crowds.
Biking and Hiking Amid Fall's Splendor
Brian Head's signature aspen stands behin turning into a vibrant display of flaxen and silver leaves in mid-September. Nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument has an annual festival dedicated to the display on September 26th and 27th featuring ranger-led hikes and more.
Brian Head (a town and a resort) is connected to a vast web of unsung hiking trails that crisscross the resort proper and lead into nearby Dixie National Forest. For the biker in your group, un-crowded paved roads and a collection of dedicated mountain-biking trails make it into a natural wonderland in which to spin wheels. Also, before Labor Day, the resort offers lift-served mountain biking for those who love low-effort, high-adrenaline downhill thrills. nps.gov
Spectacular fall colors on the hills
Not October, 'Rocktober'
In the high mountains, the cooling temperatures of October come early and Brian Head serves up its annual Rocktoberfest in September, coinciding with the fall colors hitting their high-altitude peak. The two-day event (September 19-20th) features local beers, a cavalcade of rocking music, zip lines, a tubing hill (yes, sans-snow), a free-fall tower, bungee trampolines and more.
And here's a special treat: Brian Head's owner, John Gissinger, is a Kansas City man who knows his barbecue. During the ski season, he serves up weekly feasts of ribs and chicken and he'll be manning the smoker at the Last Chair Saloon during Rocktoberfest.
Georg's Ski Shop is an institution
Georg and Stefanie Hartlmaier settled in Brian Head in 1964 fresh from the German Alps. Georg was a mountain man in the truly old world sense and he was among the small group who built Brian Head, by contributing his machinist skills to the construction of southern Utah's first chairlift.
The couple founded Georg's Ski Shop at the resort base. It's a Brian Head institution and much more than a mere ski shop. Georg passed away in 2008 but you'll find Stefanie behind the counter along with her sons, Georg and Robby and daughter, Tatiana.
The yodel-worthy, peaked structure has rooms for rent and all manner of Bavarian bric-a-brac, Brian Head souvenirs as well as bike rentals and, come fall, deals on last year's ski gear as well as two generations of advice on exploring Brian Head in any season.
612 S. Highway 143, Brian Head, 435-677-2013, www.georgsskishop.com
Southern Utah has thus far resisted the onslaught of kale and quinoa coming from either coast. Dinner will be meat and lots of it, with a side of meat at Lenny's Steakhouse, baked potato not optional. But steak well done is a rare thing and Lenny's does a wonderful rib eye and a lovely filet. Do not, however, expect anything but an awkward experience with the wine list or corkage; Southern Utah servers still get the jitters when it comes to serving alcohol. Be patient and hold their hand through the process.
Where to Stay (and Play)
Brian Head in the off-season is blessedly quiet. Its full-service hotel, the Grand Lodge, however, is the hub of activity. Locals (the town has a mere 110 year-round residents) gather convivially at the Lift Bar and Patio to enjoy the stunning views from the eponymous patio.
The Grand Lodge also boasts a full-service spa and pool area complete with the plinky music, soft robes and essential oils that are de rigueur these days for a little self-love.
314 Hunter Ridge Drive, Brian Head, 435-677-9000, grandlodgebrianhead.com