By Troy Pattee
Sometimes I’ll drive by a place and say to myself, “I need to stop and check that out next time I’m in the area.” Daniels Summit Lodge is one of those places. Whenever I pass it I excitedly make a mental note to stop in sometime soon. Unfortunately for me those mental notes are stored in a mind that regularly forgets to pick up eggs at the store and to zip up my fly before I walk into church.
And then I’ll see Daniels Summit Lodge again as I’m driving to spend a miserably cold day of ice fishing at Strawberry Reservoir. There’s the majestic lodge tucked into the snow-covered trees, decorated with holiday lights, with a fleet of hand-warmer-equipped Polaris snowmobiles for rent. Someday.
I’ll see Daniels Summit Lodge again in the summer as I’m heading to a family adventure in Colorado. It’s just a few minutes outside of Heber City, much closer than Colorado. The snow has melted and the snowmobiles have been replaced by Polaris RZR side by sides available to rent. The lodge is surrounded by groves of trees and wildflowers, and is ground zero for what must be hundreds of miles of trails. Someday.
Well, ‘Someday’ finally came, and I can tell you that no longer will I distractedly zip by on my way to someplace else. From this day forward the Daniels Summit Lodge will be a destination.
My 14-year-old son had been working hard at his first two months of high school, and I had been working equally as hard at being the father of a 14-year-old son in his first two months of high school—if you’re a parent of a teen you know exactly what I’m talking about. I had been invited to a press event by the folks at Daniels Summit Lodge, so my son and I called in sick and headed up Daniels Canyon for some much-deserved vacation therapy.
As we motored up Daniels Canyon in our Mini Cooper Countryman, the iconic Daniels Summit Lodge sign soon came into view. I was hoping that this trip would be just what the doctored ordered. We pulled in and parked next to a beautiful Mini Cooper Roadster, proving once again that brilliant minds think alike.
We passed under the giant chainsaw-carved bear and were warmly welcomed at the reception desk. The hotel maintains the log cabin atmosphere throughout with décor such as wood carvings and taxidermy, amazing log work, plus areas of cozy seating next to a large fireplace and picture windows.
Owners Brent and Audrey Hill built the lodge with their family in the 1990s. The Hills and their charismatic daughter-in-law Deanne (the owner of the Mini Roadster, as it turns out) were there to welcome us and were eager to show us around the lodge and share its history. Brent knew that for the lodge to be a viable and lasting business entity it would need to be available year round and cater to a diverse crowd. With that in mind, he built it with plenty of conference space to attract local businesses during the week, and added a day spa, gift shop, restaurant, and full service catering to ensure that once the crowds arrived they would never want to leave. It was mission accomplished as far as my son and I were concerned. We immediately began planning our next family reunion.
After the tour we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the restaurant with the Hills and our small press group. Aubrey, who clearly knows a thing or two about raising teenagers, discretely handed my son a roll of quarters and mentioned that there happened be an arcade full of video games next to the restaurant if he was interested. He was.
With our bellies full and my son finally out of quarters, we eventually retired to our rooms to rest up for our trek on the Polaris RZRs the next day. Our room was large, clean, and included a walk-out patio overlooking a meadow and beautiful aspen grove. My son and I kicked off our shoes and spent the rest of the evening talking about everything but homework.
We awoke at a reasonable time the next morning and headed back to the restaurant for another delicious meal and fun stories from the Hills. Brent seemed to know every guest in the restaurant, attesting to the point that this is a place people return to again and again. In fact, if you can’t spend a night or three at the Daniels Summit Lodge, then at least make a stop at the Lodge Pole Grill.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with everything made from scratch. You can choose from soups, salads, and sandwiches to delectable specialty appetizers and favorite entrees like chicken fried steak or grilled salmon to name just a few. There’s no shortage of selection and the service is superb. On a funnier note, when our mugs of soda were brought to our table the night before, they were so large that my son mistook them for pitchers and asked the server for a glass to pour it into. This is a perfect example of the many seemingly small details that add up to an unforgettable experience at Daniels Summit Lodge.
Our Polaris RZR tour through the trails and mountains above the resort was everything we could have hoped. All of the equipment, from helmets to jackets and more, was available after we signed our waivers and received the safety instructions. The entire fleet of RZRs is replaced each year and each unit is outfitted to take advantage of the surrounding terrain. The Polaris snowmobile fleet is even larger, with over 100 machines carefully chosen to match Utah’s mountain snow conditions. Brent replaces a third of the snowmobiles each year, ensuring that no snow machines are more than two years old. When you rent a RZR or snowmobile at Daniels Summit Lodge you can rest assured that you’ll be riding the latest and greatest top of the line equipment.
Alas, our short time at Daniels Summit Lodge quickly came to an end. High school and life required us to return home before we could enjoy the horseback riding, swimming, hot tubbing and more. But Deanne assured me the snowmobiles would be out and ready for fun by Thanksgiving. I think I feel another sick day coming on.
Where It’s At
Daniels Summit Lodge is one-hour drive from Salt Lake City at the summit of Daniels Canyon between Heber City and Strawberry Reservoir. Polaris snowmobiles can be rented when there’s enough snow on the ground (almost certainly by Thanksgiving), and Polaris RZRs are available for rent as soon as the mud dries in the spring.
All lodging, meals, and equipment were provided by Daniels Summit Lodge. Opinions are my own.