Since Deer Valley Resort announced it would be acquiring Solitude Mountain Resort, I have always thought of Solitude as far away in a remote canyon. When thinking about the commute, people often think of the winter route that consists of driving down Parley’s Canyon and then accessing the resort from Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is about 43 miles away and takes just under one hour to reach from Deer Valley Resort.
Contrast this with getting there “as the crow flies,” about a 6 miles journey and you suddenly realize that there must be a better way to get to Solitude Mountain Resort. Not so long ago, State Route 224 went from asphalt to dirt road as soon as you reached Empire Pass and remained that way all the way to Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Since I never drive a sturdy 4×4, I’ve always preferred going to Solitude the long way, via Interstate 80 and the Salt Lake Valley, during an annual fall trip through Guardsman Pass to marvel at the bright foliage that treats motorists all the way to Solitude Mountain Resort.
In recent years SR 224 underwent some major improvements and is now easily passable with all passenger cars. On a beautiful June day we decided to adventure from Deer Valley to Solitude and find out for ourselves how close the resorts really are, via the scenic, mountain road.
Our journey began at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café where we had an early lunch on the patio overlooking the pond that has become the meeting place for the local Standup Paddleboarders. We didn’t go on the water, we just watched while enjoying a scrumptious lunch.
It’s a wonderful site for having a meal outside the hustle and bustle of Historic Main Street in Park City. The atmosphere is both quiet and relaxing. My wife had the Grilled Three Cheese and I had the Albacore Tuna Melt. When we were done munching our Chocolate Chip Cookie and sipping our coffee, we were on our way to Solitude Mountain Resort.
We went up Marsac Ave., AKA the Mine Road, and drove all the way to Empire Pass. We made a quick stop at about 9,000 to snap a few pictures, catch a glance of Mt. Timpanogos and get our fill of the vistas before continuing on to Guardsman Pass.
Guardsman’s lookout is at about 9,700 feet. We were astounded by the numbers of cars stationed up there this early in the season. We could barely find a parking spot. Sightseers, mountain bikers and hikers love to stop there and use this promontory as a trailhead of choice. From there, the vistas are impressive as they span all the way to the High Uintas, Deer Valley Resort, Heber City and plunge into Big Cottonwood Canyon.
The drive down canyon is now on a beautifully paved road, complete with markings and as smooth as can be. The views are awesome as the valley opens up and we soon come in sight of the Solitude Mountain Resort ski runs. Because of the canyon’s high elevation snow remains in many spots, even early summer.
Very soon, we reached the entrance to Solitude Mountain Resort where we conveniently parked our car. A larger parking area is also available a few hundred yards down the road. The village’s altitude is about 8,000 feet. It’s quite charming and reminiscent of the Alps, with its specific architecture and clock tower. Not counting our multiple stops, we drove the 13 miles between the two resorts in about half an hour; so much for the remoteness factor!
We stopped for an ice-cream at the Stone Haus Pizzeria and Creamery that had just opened up for the season (you’ll also find pizzas and sandwiches there). There’s also the Honeycomb Grill that is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. There are many good reasons to visit this new addition to the Deer Valley family of resorts!
From there, you have the option of driving down Big Cottonwood Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley, another scenic descent, or returning on the picturesque route over Guardsman’s Pass. This high-road is an alternative itinerary to consider when you drop or pick up someone at the airport, shop the Salt Lake stores or simply want to make your trip down to Salt Lake a lot more interesting!
We choose to return from where we came and enjoyed yet another series of very distinct viewpoints all the way back to Park City. We can’t wait to do it again!