8 of Utah County’s best beaches

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Wayne Bartholomew Park in Springville gives a wave to the best of both worlds — fresh mountain air right on a beach. (Photo by Candi Higley/UV360)

The Beehive State is hundreds of miles from the ocean, but it’s still possible to have fun at the beach without making the 600-plus mile trip to the west coast. Utah County has a handful of sandy “beaches” next to local ponds, lakes and reservoirs, where you can have a great time sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, fishing and more — without spending 10 hours in the car.

American Fork Beach

Located adjacent to the American Fork Boat Harbor, this beach had more than 800 tons of soft sand added last summer to transform a no-man’s land nest of weeds into a sandy oasis. The beach is ideal for soaking up the sun, playing volleyball, picnicking or barbecuing. If you want to get into the water, there is a spot to swim and a company nearby that rents paddle boards, too.

Location: 100 West, American Fork, inside the American Fork Boat Harbor
Cost: Boat harbor fees are $2 for a walk-in or $5 a vehicle

Highland Glen Park

This tucked-away park behind Lone Peak High School feels like a hidden gem, even when it’s busy. It’s primarily a fishing pond — officially a “community fishery” — but there is a sandy beach next to a roped-off swimming area where kids love to splash around. There’s a sand volleyball court and a playground area, BBQ grills and restrooms. The Murdock Canal trail system is nearby, so a trip to the park could be the starting point for a bigger adventure, like a bike ride up nearby American Fork Canyon.

Location: 4800 W. Knight Avenue, Highland (behind Lone Peak High School)
Cost: FREE

Manila Creek Pond

Known as “The Beach” to those who live close to it, Manila Creek Pond has been popular with locals since it opened in 2011. The pond has a roped-off wading area next to the sandy beach that is safe for kids to swim in, although there are no lifeguards on duty so watch little ones closely. Fishing isn’t allowed in the swim area, but encouraged elsewhere. The DWR stocks the pond with rainbow trout and brown trout, but you might catch bluegill, too. No boats, tubes or flotation devices are allowed in the pond, and pets are not allowed. There is a restroom and fish cleaning station.

Location: 3300 N. 900 West, Pleasant Grove
Cost: FREE

Salem Pond/Knoll Park

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path swimming hole, try Salem’s Knoll Park. Also known as the Salem Pond, this fishing spot has a sand area with plenty of room to spread your beach towel — it’s typically much less crowded than other beach-y spots around the county. There’s a playground for kids, and the pond has a fishing pier with bench, tables and restrooms. Fishermen often catch bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass and rainbow trout.

Location: 150 W. 300 South, Salem
Cost: FREE

Spanish Oaks Reservoir

Spanish Oaks Reservoir is open from dawn to dusk, and folks that live nearby love to take advantage of that wide timeframe. In the morning you’ll find anglers fishing for rainbow trout, and beach-goers arrive as soon as the sun rises a bit higher in the sky. Sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing and more are popular pursuits. There a playground close to the reservoir, and even a campground nearby. No pets are allowed.

Location: 2931 Spanish Oaks Drive, Spanish Fork
Cost: FREE

Tibble Fork Reservoir

This American Fork Canyon recreation hot spot reopened last summer after a $7.3 dam rehabilitation project that included expanding the sandy beach on the reservoir’s north shore and adding more parking. Now, the 13-acre lake offers plenty of room for non-motorized water sports, such as kayaking or canoeing. But where it really shines is fishing for rainbow trout, brook trout or brown trout. You’ll have the best luck early morning, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, before the beach bums arrive.

Location: 8 miles up American Fork Canyon
Cost: Fees to enter American Fork Canyon are $6 for a one- to three-day pass, $12 for seven-day pass and $45 for an annual pass.

Vineyard Beach

Vineyard Beach is popular location for paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and birding. Swimming is difficult from this location, but you can certainly sit and enjoy the sunset and scenery if water sports aren’t your thing. The beach has picnic tables and a wheelchair ramp that leads from the street to the beach. There are no rentals on-site — head to the nearby Lindon Marina for those — and no restrooms. Bonus: there is a paved 1.75-mile running and bike trail that goes from the beach to the Lindon Marina.

Location: North Vineyard Road, Vineyard
Cost: FREE

Wayne Bartholomew Family Park

You could easily spend the whole day at Wayne Bartholomew Family Park, provided you can nab a parking spot. The 3-acre pond has a large sandy beach and plenty of grass with trees for shade and pavilions for large groups. A trail winds around the pond, and there are also fishing docks. Volleyball, horseshoes and ring toss equipment can be checked out for free from the concessions stand, which also sells snacks all summer long (closed Sundays). The park has changing rooms and restrooms, and no pets are allowed.

Location: 1090 S. 2900 East, Springville
Cost: $10 parking permit required from May 1 through Sept. 30

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Natalie Hollingshead is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly about home, family, food and travel for a handful of publications, and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Elyssa Andrus. A native of Alberta, Canada, Natalie lives in Orem with her husband and their three children.

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