A big warm wet hole in the ground

Katie and the girls in the hot spring

Katie and the girls in the hot spring

MIDWAY, UTAH — “Staycation” is one of those things that sound pretty stupid, and usually pretty is. But when you live in Utah, there’s plenty of ways to spend a few days off, all within a short drive from your door.


For President’s Day weekend, we usually kick off camping season with a trip to southern Utah. Last year we hit Zion National Park.

This year, thanks to work schedules, we stuck closer to home. Katie did some research and used her Groupon wizardry to book us an overnight stay at the Homestead Resort.

Me and the girls

Me and the girls

The Homestead Resort is in Midway, a Swiss-like town near Heber City (about 45 minutes east of Salt Lake City). Swiss settlers stayed there because the mountain landscape, with Timpanogos in the background, reminded them of home.

Settlers soon found thermal hot pots, and the warm mineral springs became a destination. Soon, it was a resort vacation destination.

When we planned our trip, we had visions of visiting the Midway Ice Castles, and then maybe going snowshoeing. A few weeks of 40+ degree weather put an end to those ideas. The Ice Castles were puddles, and what snow was left was slush. So we made do with a day in Park City, where the girls could window shop and I could visit the local breweries. No Park City visit was complete without a visit to Java Cow Ice Cream, where we got to experience that rare form of parental joy when some kid knocks a glass thing off the shelf and breaks it, and it wasn’t your kid.

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A brief snowfall in Park City

Then we made it to the hotel in Midway in time to check in, change and swim in the indoor pool and hot tub until we retired for the night.

The next morning was the main event: A swim in the Homestead Crater.

Formed about 10,000 years ago, probably, the Homestead Crater is a 55-foot-high dome with a hole on top. Inside the crater is a bright-blue mineral spring. The water is about 60 feet deep and a constant 95 degrees year-round.

That hole and the spring were a key attraction to residents, apparently, as archeologists have recovered from the bottom of the spring arrowheads, guns, coins, and assorted junk.

You can book a 40-minute swim in the pool. Katie booked the family a spot in the morning, when the pool was not crowded (they let us stay longer than we were supposed to).

After checking in, we entered the crater through a door on the side (this is a tunnelway that was blasted for easier access than jumping through the hole in the roof.)

Crater and skylight

Crater and skylight

The tunnelway leading to the spring is tight. You have a few wire shelves to leave your clothes on, then go out onto a floating dock that’s lit by the natural skylight. Then you can hop in.

The water was bathtub-perfect temperature.

It’s pretty great for kids, with a shallow portion that my 5 and 6-year-old girls could easily stand up in. The deep water is also pretty kid-friendly. Everybody *has* to wear life jackets, so there was no fear of losing the little ones.

A neat kick to swimming in the spring was that this is one of the only warm-water scuba-diving destinations in America. We watched scuba divers suit up and submerge, disappearing into the deep below.

If you ever feel like swimming in a hole in the earth and want a winter getaway, well, you probably haven’t. But if you have, this is the way to do it.

Norah and the buoys.

Norah and the buoys.

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