In a country as large as the United States, it is actually possible for entire regions to be magnificent, and yet unknown to almost everyone. I know, because I’ve been to Heber Valley in Utah.
I’ve said before that our travel day limit of 250 miles forces us to stop places we’d normally skip. We needed to get from Moab to Grand Teton, and our 250 miles fell right around Jordanelle State Park in Heber Valley, right outside Heber City. While the situation with the state park ended up being slightly irksome, the area itself was stunning. I’m so glad we stumbled upon it.
We stayed at Jordanelle State Park from May 19-25, 2018.
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What We Did in Utah’s Heber Valley
Our stay in Heber Valley was shorter than normal: only six days. Because most of that fell within our work week, our exploration time was limited. Nonetheless, we made the most of our time with some fun activities.
Heber Valley Historic Railroad
I’m into the romance of trains. We took our first scenic ride in the Somerset, KY, area last summer. Heber Valley Historic Railroad was our next whistle stop.
We took the shorter Deer Creek Express because it fit our work schedule: 3-4:30 p.m. The cost was $20/each for Eric and myself, and Caspian was free (ages 3-12 is $15). The trip was 45 minutes each way, past the lovely Deer Creek Reservoir.
I didn’t know when I bought our tickets online, but we went during some kind of themed event called Wild West Days. Part way up the track, we stopped at a depot and two masked cowboys hopped on, pretending to hold up the train. They were actors and it was the start of a whole story line, but Caspian freaked. Like, crying so hard he couldn’t breathe.
I had to take him into the snack car, so the train robbers’ dialogue could actually be heard above my tiny human’s shrieks of fear. Turns out, Caspian doesn’t like masks. Once the robbers took down the bandanas, he was all good. We ended up clapping and dancing to music, and happily watching the world go by.
450 S. 6th W. – Website
Uinta National Forest Off-roading
One afternoon, we took our Jeep out with two other fulltime RV families we had met in the area, who also had Jeeps. We went into Uinta National Forest, about 20 miles southwest of Heber City. The drive was tame compared to what we did in Moab–we didn’t even air down our tires–but we did meet a new challenge.
Since we were so high in altitude, we ran into a snow drift on the trail. If Eric and I had been wheeling alone, we would’ve gone around. But since we had backup and Eric had never tried to drive through a snow drift before, he decided to give it a shot. And, well, we got stuck.
We tried using rocks for leveraging and shoveling snow away from the tires. In the end, our friend Brian Kimball ended up pulling us out with the recovery gear we always carry.
Where we went: from 40, south of Heber City, we went to Strawberry Reservoir Visitor Center on 131. We took Forest Roads 134, 135, 503, and 046 back to 40. We had all of this on the Forest Service map we got from the ranger station.
Wigglish Toy Store
Caspian is graduating from baby toys to toddler toys, so we made a stop at a local toy store called Wigglish. It was a lot bigger than we expected–actually a warehouse–but we managed to rein in our impulses to spoil our little guy.
In the end, we got #BabyNomad a Melissa & Doug construction site rug to replace the foam shape map in his play space. He’s super into trucks/things that go right now. Only issue has been the cats trying to scratch it up, so I keep it folded whenever Caspian isn’t on it.
2210 US-40 – Website
➡ Keep reading: Making Room for a One Year Old in an RV
New RV Friends
The day we arrived at Jordanelle State Park, I received messages from three different RV couples/families who were also in the area (two of them at our same campground!). It was such a pleasure to share a meal with Brian, Emily and their three kids, then to go off-roading with Brian and his boys the next day. Their family is brand new to fulltime RVing and you can follow their adventures at @kimball5wanderlust on Instagram.
We went Jeeping with fellow Texans Christine and Jimmy, who were staying at Jordanelle State Park. And Kay and Clyde were kind enough to let Caspian and me into their home, when we spontaneously stopped by their RV site one morning.
Where We Ate in Heber City
We went to Doña Cleme three times in six days. It’s in a shopping center and you probably wouldn’t notice it driving by, but we became obsessed with the molcajete. If you’re not familiar, this dish is a combination of meats, vegetables, and sauce, served in a steaming molcajete (stone bowl). Every single time we went, we ordered the molcajete to share, with a side of guacamole. We made at least three tacos each with the contents of the molcajete, and had rice and beans on the side.
There’s a large outdoor patio with umbrellas over the tables, plus a high chair available. The owner was really kind and it was our privilege to patronize this local business. Eric spent much of his childhood in Mexico, and says he would eat at Doña Cleme even if it was in the middle of Mexico City. It’s that authentic and delicious.
Note: there’s actually no address entered in Google Maps (we’ve been meaning to fix that). But the the address is on Yelp and we’ve listed it below.
458 N. Main St. – Yelp
We went to Granny’s Drive-In for lunch with the Kimballs. I enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich, and the onion rings were good, too.
But wait until you see the milkshake menu. Holy cow, I’ve never seen so many flavors. I ordered butterscotch, which is my dad’s favorite flavor from childhood (you can’t find it much anymore). It was freaking amazing–and huge.
Yes, I ate it all by myself because Eric is still on keto. 😁
Indoor and outdoor seating with high chairs available.
511 S. Main St. – Website
Heber Valley Artisan Cheese
We almost didn’t make it to Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, but I’m so glad we did. The public portion of the interior space is relatively small, with shelving for specialty goods like jams and chocolates. Along the side, there’s a wall-length case of cheeses. Every kind you can imagine, and some you wish you had come up with yourself (lemon lavender cheddar, anyone?).
We were able to sample about a half dozen types of cheese and Eric took home the maple cheddar.
Then he went crazy and ordered some ice cream, which he hadn’t had since he started keto at the beginning of August. Not to be undone, I got a container of the best, most creamy fudge I’ve ever had.
This business also serves grilled cheese sandwiches made with its gourmet cheeses, but they’re only available until a certain time. I want to say 4 p.m., but you’ll want to check the time. After tasting this cheese, I’m sad we missed the grilled version! 😭
920 River Road, Midway, UT – Website
Dottie’s Kolache Co.
While Eric knocked out some work one morning, Caspian and I went on a date to Dottie’s Kolache Co. Kolaches are huge in Central Texas due to the German/Czech influence there. Dottie’s was a taste of home with standout kolaches and satisfying coffee.
The cream cheese was my favorite, but the raspberry was good, too. The case was full of sweet and savory options, so multiple visits are warranted for those in the area longer than six days. 😉
1851, 95 S. Main St. – Website
Our RV Campground: Jordanelle State Park
I need to be objective here. Jordanelle State Park left a bad taste in my mouth, but the reality is there are a lot of positives. With accurate expectations, I doubt I would feel this way.
This is what happened. We paid for our six nights in advance: $188. Electric and water only. In our experience, state parks don’t charge a day use fee for a passenger vehicle that accompanies your RV. Jordanelle State Park does. So at the gate, we unexpectedly had to dish out another $60 in day use fees, bringing our total to a whopping $41.33/night.
For electric and water only, in an out-of-the-way area like Heber Valley, that seems excessive. If I had known it was going to be that much, I don’t think I would’ve chosen to stay there.
I went to the office to double-check the policy. They told me, “We have to draw the line somewhere,” and that was that. If we had been towing when we came through the gate, we wouldn’t have had to pay day use.
I went back on Reserve America to read the fine print, and there was nothing I could do. Technically, it does say a fee will be charged for “additional vehicles.” At booking, I assumed that meant any vehicles on top of your RV and passenger vehicle, since they can’t expect us to unhook our Class A every time we want to leave, during the six days of camping we already paid for.
Okay, I should stop.
Here’s the good stuff. The lake is beautiful. While we could only see the lake in the distance from the drivers side of our RV, I did lots of walking around the park, closer to the water. If we had a lakeside spot, I think I could’ve paid $41/night.
Also: there’s a playground and it’s right next to the laundry facility. While $2/load for laundry seemed high for the old/smaller machines, it was convenient to have them. Fortunately, I could take the wet laundry home to dry in our machine, since we had 50 amp.
The fire pits are huge, with a large grate you can pull over top for grilling. There’s also a dump station two RVs can use at the same time.
Not as positive: the showers are all in separate rooms with locks, accompanied by a small changing area. The bathroom, with mirrors, sinks, garbage cans, etc., is close–but requires going outside to get to it.
The showers have painfully high pressure and get really hot. My skin was red. Because the water pressure is so high, the floor of the changing area gets soaked and everything in there gets damp, and the water even streams under the door to the outside. Not a huge deal, but worth noting (especially if you have kids).
515 UT-319 – Website
But Did I Mention Heber Valley Is Gorgeous?
I don’t want to end on a downer! Yes, the state park thing irked me during our stay, but I don’t regret our discovery of Heber Valley. There are a few towns in the area and much more to experience than what I’ve shared here.
Have you been to the Heber Valley area? What did we miss?