If you know anything about my sister and me, you’ll know we are very different—from socialization, to hobbies, to wardrobe, to willingness to live outside of Pittsburgh. However, we are still best of friends. Living 1,400 miles apart, we like to keep in touch by visiting each other and meeting up somewhere at least once a year for a sister vacation. Our interest in different things does pose a challenge on finding a vacation destination that will appease both of us. In the past we have gone to Boston/White Mountains, Sedona/Grand Canyon, and Denver. I’m slowly running out of ideas, this year we had two options to pick from—Santa Barbara with a day trip to the Channel Islands or Salt Lake City. We ultimately landed on SLC. Salt Lake City is a moderately sized metropolitan area with eateries and shopping. In addition, it’s 45 minutes from the Wasatch Mountains. This is a summary of how I got my outdoors-adverse sister to go on a hiking vacation.
Fly into the Salt Lake City International Airport Friday evening. Coming from Houston, this direct flight is reasonably priced (<$400) and just over 3 hours. Unfortunately, your sister flying in from Pittsburgh may choose a non-direct flight on the way there. It may get delayed causing her to arrive to the hotel in the middle of the night. This will make her sleepy the next day, so keep this in mind when managing your expectations on tomorrow’s hike. A sleepy sister who doesn’t really like hiking could be a recipe for disaster.
Start off the first day by getting complimentary breakfast at the airport hotel. We all know continental breakfasts are very lack luster, but you can eat a bowl of oatmeal, half a waffle, and almost all the cantaloupe that they served and be good for the day.
Head to the grocery store to pick up items for lunch while on the trail. It’s important to remember that you agreed to be the hiking pack mule. Your sister will refuse to borrow, buy, or be gifted a hiking backpack of her own. Everything you bring on the trail needs to fit in your backpack, including her water.
The first day of hiking should be the longer hike. Try Lake Blanche—an approximately 7 mile out and back hike that steeply climbs up to offer stunning views and ends at a beautiful alpine lake. You will have looked up the trail on several different sources before proposing it to your sister. Each source attributes varying difficult ratings, choose the one that only lists it as moderate to show your sister. When you get to the trailhead and see a sign that suggests the route is actually shorter than your trail map, don’t correct her.
As you begin the nearly four mile uphill climb, you may be tracking your progress on the Hiking Project app. This app shows you how far you’ve gone and the steepness of the upcoming trail. Under no circumstances are you to share this information with your hiking companion. It will only discourage her; continue to say, “I think we’re almost there”.
Don’t forget to stop and take pretty pictures for the ‘gram.
One of the consolations to hiking all day is letting your sister pick the restaurants for the trip. Unfortunately, you might be a vegetarian which restricts your options. But if your sister is open to new foods and accommodating this won’t be a problem.
Try Zest—a vegan/vegetarian locally sourced eatery. It’s great for sharing small plates including a vegan cheese board, stuffed mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and a mac and cheese skillet.
After a tasty dinner and a good night sleep you’re ready for Day 2 of hiking. However, your sister will be a little grumpy from yesterday since you lied to her about the hike distance and difficulty. In no way will she be open to another steep 7 mile hike. You’ll have to save a shorter hike for the second day. You will certainly not get away with the same tricks two days in a row. This day, you can show her the app and the reviews and convince her the hike won’t be as bad.
Make a quick stop by the restaurant Pulp for pre-hike smoothies. I recommend the Grasshopper.
The Day 2 hike will be Bell’s Canyon Lower Waterfall Trail. This 5 mile round trip hike features 360 degree views of the canyon and ends at a scenic waterfall. Despite this only being a 5 mile hike, on the way back your sister will complain. You shrewdly make the comparison that how she is feeling at the end of the hike is how you felt every shoe and clothing shopping trip as a child. This is how you know 2 days of hiking in a row is the maximum you’ll ever be able to do with your sister. However, she will admit the she does enjoy getting a workout and getting nice pictures but maintains that she is annoyed that her shoes are dirty and that her hair got messed up.
This evening’s dinner selection is Eva. While getting ready for dinner, you’ll be reminded of how different you are again –your sister curls her hair, wears heels, and accessorizes her outfit while you throw on something casual, slip on van sneakers, forget make up, and let your hair air dry.
Dinner is tasty; shared plate selections include harissa carrots and spinach and potato gnocchi.
Today is still an outdoorsy day but not a hiking day, so you can get away with it. Since the day isn’t jam packed, you’ll have a relaxing morning getting a sit-down breakfast at Mollie and Ollie. They serve hearty breakfast bowls.
After breakfast, you’ll finally head to Antelope Island State Park to see the eponymous Great Salt Lake. Drive through the park, stopping at the scenic overlooks. Don’t forget to stop at the “beach” area. You may get frustrated that the walk from the car to the waterfront is deceivingly long and rocky. You may also be simultaneously grossed out and fascinated by the brine flies at the water’s edge. Make sure to wade into the calm water so you can claim that you’ve been in the saltiest body of water in the United States at 27% salinity. Try to get some action shots of skipping a rock and fail miserably-both because the rock skipping is mediocre and because your camera sensor is covered in dirt.
Following the lake adventures, you’ll head to the East side of the park in your quest of finding a buffalo. Unfortunately, the buffalo will not come as close to your car as you will like.
After an eventful morning, spend the late afternoon relaxing at the hotel pool. The Sheraton Salt Lake City is a reasonably priced and reasonably located hotel that has a cute little pool slightly better than most crappy hotel pools. Of course, you’ll hide in the shade while your sister basks in the sun. You’re different, remember.
Next, head up to the ski town of Park City. At this point in the trip, tensions are running high for whatever reason. It’s a DeVito thing. Your sister may get frustrated because of a sign that says there is a forest fire 60 miles North. Try to ignore the frustration. Check out Yuki Yama—a sushi restaurant that also serves vegetarian options. Your sister may get annoyed again when you don’t split the bill evenly this time because you didn’t do shared plates and the vegetarian sushi and water combo was much cheaper than the regular sushi and cocktail combo, but I digress.
This is the last day of the trip, which is arguably a good thing. You’ve agreed to get massages. I mean you’re excited about the massage too, but it has become a staple of the sister trips. Another consolation for requiring her to hike and be outdoorsy the whole time. I would recommend Basalt Day Spa. The staff are very friendly and it’s about as expensive as you’d expect a massage to be.
Spend the rest of the morning exploring the actual city before making your way to the airport. Luckily you both have direct flights back. Try a local walk-up lunch vendor Buds. Buds serves vegan and vegetarian sandwiches and salads. Sit outside at a picnic table and enjoy the last few hours of no humidity. Walk around the Capitol building and admire the architecture.
And there you have it, a sister vacation—complete with hiking, scenic views, good food, and relaxation. Something for everyone. Any suggestions for what to do next?