Tucked into a picturesque valley in the heart of Mount Timapanogos sits a small town with a big reputation. The name Sundance represents many things to many people, but to our crowd it is known as one of the great secluded adventure hubs of Utah. From hiking and mountain biking to screenings of independent movies during the iconic annual film festival, the canyon has served as an inspiration to many writers and directors over the years.
Known in the summer for its many nearby waterfalls and wildflowers, the ability to enjoy the area does not slow down in the winter. The resort's handful of lifts offer a less-traveled playground that is a nice break from the crowds of nearby Park City and the Cottonwoods. Stewart Falls sits right above town and below one of the prettiest mountain cirques in the state. A rich history beginning with native dwellers to western pioneers and extending to the front lines of modern sustainable living make this hamlet another one of the mountain West's hidden gems.
The Timpanogos people inhabited a large area extending far beyond the modern town's borders and were most likely members of the greater Ute tribe. There has been historical speculation that their language was more related to the western Shoshone, but proving that has become less likely as time goes on. The earliest foreigners arrived relatively early in the area while passing through nearby Spanish Fork Canyon. Father Escalante and his famous expedition of 1776 was an anomaly, and most westerners arrived as Mormon Pioneers in the mid 1800s. The nearby Battle Creek Massacre occurred in 1849 as a response to horse raids by the natives and was the first major conflict between the two peoples. Decades later the Stewart Family were awarded homestead land in the valley and, by 1911, had over 2,000 acres where they raised cattle and sheep. Hiking trails were cut in what is now Sundance as early as 1912, and members of nearby BYU started doing annual full moon hikes.
The modern story of Sundance circles around one man and his vision for a brighter and more sustainable future. The actor Robert Redford purchased the resort and surrounding private lands in 1968 and changed the name from Timp Haven to Sundance. Not named after his character in the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," as commonly thought, it was actually a reference to the Native American ritual celebrating the life giving star. The film festival of the same name was officially founded in Salt Lake City; while it holds most of its screenings in Park City, it still hosts a small handful at Sundance Resort each year. The town itself, the resort, and the institute were all built on sustainable ideals decades before sustainability became a household term. One fun example that also is great to witness is the local glassblowing shack that recycles the resorts glass on-site
With the resort's outdoor-minded vision, it was inevitable that Sundance would become a premier destination for nature recreation. There is probably no better place for waterfall chasing in northern Utah then from this valley town. You don't need to leave the hamlet to hike the beautiful Stewart Falls, and it gets prettier in each passing season. One of the most picturesque and largest waterfalls in the state is only a few miles drive up the breathtaking Alpine Loop and is called Scout Falls. The scenic Alpine road is your main conduit for fun, and Provo and American Fork Canyons straddle the ends greatly extending the possibility for nearby adventure. Bridal Veil Falls, Upper Falls and Horsetail Falls are not far either and give you many of the state's top waterfalls within a few miles. The idyllic and easy Cascade Springs offers people with less athletic ambitions a place to enjoy as well. After hiking any one of these trails, cool off in the Tibble Fork and Deer Creek reservoirs with their newly added sandy beach, each only 15 to 20 minutes away.
If you want to increase the adrenaline there are terrific mountain biking trails down the ski runs after the snow melts and you can skip the climb by taking the chairs up for $24 a day. With over 25 miles of single track and paved trails there is something for all skill levels including the beach cruiser enthusiasts. Add to it the 2,000 vertical drop of their mountain top Alpine Zip Tour and you have a town that has all ends of the adventure spectrum covered.
If you want to have a mentally stimulating journey than look no further than the world class Timpanogos Cave system located at the northern end of the Alpine Loop. The guided tours will teach you about the formation of the caverns and amaze you with its unusual natural features. If you want a physical challenge than test your meddle on the hike to the top of Timp. You literally do not have to leave the area to have an incredibly diverse vacation, and you will probably need a second trip to get it all in.
There are two full restaurants, a cafe, and a deli that feature local and organic food as well as several reception halls for weddings and meetings. Lodging includes cabins at the resort, rentable homes and condos, and the Aspen Grove hotel near the trailhead of Stewart Falls. Camping options abound with five nearby campgrounds such as Timpooneke which is located next to the Scout Falls Trailhead. The Alpine Loop is closed in the winter but creates one of the premier backcountry skiing canyons in Utah. Keep an eye out for the plentiful moose, deer, hummingbird, marmot and porcupine while hiking as well as the wide array of wildflowers species.