An amazing, green mountain view from the lift

Mountain Tops, Forest Trails and Waterfalls

*Guest post by Susan Strayer, from Mountain Mom and Tots

As a resident at Sundance Mountain Resort, I’m lucky to see the seasons play out in full force on this mountain. Many people know about Sundance Mountain Resort’s gorgeous winter views of snow-capped Mt. Timpanogos, but fewer people realize that summer’s beauty is just as jaw-dropping. It’s like summer on steroids.

Aspen and pine trees reach heavenward as dragonflies and birds flit and buzz around the tree tops. Wildflowers bloom in all colors of the rainbow – crimson, pastel yellow, deep violet and lily white. Mountain air fills your lungs as you listen to the rushing river at Ray’s Base. And if that weren’t enough, a kaleidoscope of yellow tail butterflies has made Ray’s Lawn its summer home. Watching the lovely creatures flit around as you take in the scenery feels magical.

As an outdoor family blogger, I’m constantly looking for ways to share that summer magic with my kids. On July 4, my husband and I planned a family lift ride and hike to Stewart Falls. Spending time in this nation’s most beautiful places is the perfect way to celebrate Independence Day.

With my two-year-old tethered to me (she’s a squirmer), we loaded onto Ray’s lift for the scenic ride to the back mountain. From our seats twenty feet up, we saw familiar ski runs adorned in verdant growth. The sweet smells of summer surrounded us as we filled our lungs with fresh mountain air. Instantly I relaxed.

After soaking in the scenery, we unloaded at the back mountain summit for lunch at Bearclaw cabin.  Bearclaw is a unique dining experience, with 360 degree views that take in Utah valley to the south and Heber valley to the north. From our perch on top of the world, we saw Deer Creek reservoir in one direction and Bridal Veil falls, a scenic waterfall in Provo Canyon, in the other.

This summer outpost offers tasty nachos, burritos, and simple salads for lunch all summer long. My kids loved plain chips and cheese, while my husband and I enjoyed the complete nacho platter with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo and jalapeños for him. So good! But be warned, if you’re planning a meal at, the nachos feed a crowd.

When lunch finished, we headed off for the final adventure of the day – a three mile hike to Stewart Falls. This 200-foot-tall cascade is visible from Ray’s lift, but you can’t appreciate the sheer power and beauty of it until you stand at its feet.

To get there, we took the lift to Ray’s summit and followed the Mandan Short Loop trail until it connected to the Stewart Falls trail. This hard-packed dirt path meanders through alpine meadows, towering pine forests and over rushing water, although the water was stronger than normal this year, thanks to record snow fall last winter.

I’m not going to lie, at times it was difficult convincing my two-year-old and five-year-old to keep moving down the trail. Every turn offered something new to examine or explore – wildflowers to smell, boulders to climb, giant leaves to touch (avoid the stinging nettle)! While I love nature self discovery, I also knew we were perilously close to nap time. Sure enough, after a mile and a half, both of my girls collapsed into weary tears and refused to take another step.

My husband and I did the only thing we could. We sat on the shady side of the trail, had a snack and played “I spy.” After an unplanned twenty minute break they were ready to move – the five-year-old on her own two feet and the toddler drowsing in our arms. Perhaps four straight hours of celebrating summer was more than they could handle.

At the end we reached Stewart Falls. The cool spray of water revitalized our crew as we played, climbed and rested on nearby rocks. Once again I took in the beautiful surroundings – a towering cascade, sheer cliff faces, plants in every shade of green. The mountain scenery filled me up like joy balloon. We’d made it! And it was beautiful!

A scenic lift ride. Lunch on a mountain top. Forest trails and waterfalls.

Susan Strayer lives full time with her husband and three young kids near Sundance, Utah. When she’s not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, she helps families explore outdoors through her website