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Outshine Travel Guide: Queer Nomads Exploring Salt Lake City During Pride

Sunshine and Michelle beaming bright here in Salt Lake City, just one week into our road tour! This vibrant metropolis nestled against the Wasatch Mountains surprised us in the best way possible. It's the perfect blend of urban energy, outdoor adventures, and a surprising touch of quirkiness (think, Utah Pride!).

We had plans to travel to SLC and visit the big five national parks in Utah for Sunshine’s 40th birthday, but the pandemic broke out about a month before our trip. We’re stoked to be recreating that dream trip from 2020 during this road tour. Our main goal for visiting SLC this go around was Utah Pride and to highlight some outdoor adventures. If you’d like to travel like us and recreate this travel itinerary, check out the Nomad Be Happy rental platform where you can rent Redski, a 2017 Vandoit out of SLC.

In order to be close to all the Pride events going on downtown the first weekend in June, we landed at the KOA in SLC. This campground is within city limits, close to the road and there was construction going on behind us so it wasn’t very peaceful. We normally don’t stay at KOA’s, but for the convenience of the location, we made an exception. We had been on the road for a few days and took full advantage of the showers and laundry facilities. 

We didn’t realize Salt Lake City had such a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene! Utah Pride was the first big city pride parade + festival that either one of us has attended. It was so inspiring and especially affirming for me (Sunshine) to be here as I’m new to transitioning and haven’t encountered a lot of other trans folks. It brought tears to our eyes to witness a beautiful rainbow of queer folks proudly walking the streets, thriving, and continuing to fight for equality.

Michelle and I volunteered at different locations on Saturday as a way to give back and meet folks since we aren’t from the area. Michelle handed out flyers and information at the Rally + March, I was on recycling and trash duty at the festival. On Sunday we enjoyed the pride parade where we cheered from the sidelines alongside thousands of other queer folks and allies. 

The Utah Pride Parade was a kaleidoscope of color and joy! It brought tears to our eyes to witness a beautiful rainbow of queer folks proudly walking the streets, thriving, and continuing to fight for equality. Feeling the energy and inclusivity of this amazing community during the Pride Parade was palpable and moved us beyond words. 

We worked up a big appetite from all the cheering and waving we did at the festival so we hit up Vertical Diner, an all vegan restaurant downtown. We ordered way too much food but everything we got was delicious! Highly recommend this place!

It was finally time to get into the mountains that we had been admiring from the city center so we headed out to Wasatch Mountain State Park. Tucked just east of the city, this campground offered stunning views and the perfect base for exploring. We hiked the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, a scenic loop that winds through foothills and meadows bursting with wildflowers. Pro tip: keep an eye out for signs of marmots basking on the rocks!

For the adrenaline junkies out there, Sunshine can’t recommend the WOW (Wasatch Over the Wasatch) trail enough! We brought our own mountain bikes and this was my inaugural ride on my new Yeti SB140! It was a long climb up from the Mahogany Campground, but I was rewarded with scenic views and a fun/fast downhill. We stayed at site 79 in the Mahogany loop campground, which was right next to Pine Creek. We enjoyed the sound of the roaring creek all night and day. 

After some much needed time in nature, we decided to head back to the city via the Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway. This scenic byway offers stunning views, a multitude of trailheads, a couple of ski resorts, rock climbing, and picnic areas near the river. We paused at Brighton Ski area to hike the Lake Mary Trail. We also enjoyed the Mount Olympus trail which is close to SLC.

For a dose of culture, we popped back into Salt Lake City proper to catch a concert at the Red Butte Garden’s Summer Concert Series. Surrounded by blooming roses and the scent of pine, it’s the perfect way to unwind at sunset and under the stars with great music. Xavier Rudd and Burning Spear performed while we were there. 

After the city buzz, we craved a return to nature. Antelope Island State Park, a short drive northwest of Salt Lake City, became our next destination. Camping right on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, we enjoyed breathtaking sunsets, stargazing like you wouldn’t believe and so much wildlife. 

The highlight, though, was encountering a herd of majestic bison roaming free across the island. Witnessing these gentle giants up close was a humbling experience. Pro tip: the no-see-ums are terrible here from April – June and apparently bug repellent doesn’t work on them. When the breeze died down, they swarmed us and ate us alive. We ended up spending most of our time inside the van and only lasted one night here before having to move on. 

We made our way north through Ogden, Utah to Anderson Cove Campground. It sits on Pineview Reservoir where we enjoyed our first paddle board experience on the cool lake. Pro tip: If Anderson Cove Campground is full, head up Hwy 39 through Huntsville where you’ll find plenty of campgrounds within Cache National Forest. And there’s free parking with beach access to launch your paddle craft North of Huntsville.

Salt Lake City has truly been a highlight of our vanlife journey. It’s a place that surprised us at every turn, offering a perfect blend of urban adventure, outdoor exploration, and a thriving LGBTQ+ community. So, if you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable travel experience, consider Salt Lake City your next adventure base. Just don’t forget your mountain bike, your hiking boots, and your sense of adventure!

Stay tuned for more Outshine Adventures as we keep exploring the wonders of the West! We might just share some secret hot spring locations next…

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