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Salt Lake's Trail-Riddled Rocky Mountains Keep Both Novice and Expert Hikers Happy

Published: 05/31/2007

Rising up from the Salt Lake valley, the vertical peaks of the Rocky Mountains are more than just a pretty backdrop. Salt Lake's close mountains include hundreds of miles of bisecting hiking paths. Twenty minutes from the city center, hikers can be deep in the Rocky Mountains on trails that run by streams, mountain lakes, Aspen groves, and evergreen forests.

Hikes in Salt Lake's mountains include flat, creek-side strolls and narrow, steep switchbacks concluding at the top of 11,000-foot peaks. Most, however, involve little equipment and no prior experience. Sturdy, comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a water bottle and putting one foot in front of the other are the key requirements. Locals recommend the following hikes:

City Creek: One of the most popular trails in town for a quick lunch hike, this easy trail is within a few blocks walking distance to downtown.  Popular with runners, hikers and early morning strollers, it affords a peaceful respite to the city, only steps away. The canyon's paved main road (with limited access to vehicles in the summer months) is family-friendly, especially for those with small children.

Shoreline Trail:  Featuring spectacular valley views, the Shoreline Trail is very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and trail-runners. It is easily accessed from the eastern edge of the City and is accessed near the University of Utah. It rambles behind historic Fort Douglas, the University of Utah, and Red Butte Garden along natural terraces left behind by an immense ice-age lake that shaped the edge of the Salt Lake valley thousands of years ago. Begin at the Sunnyside trailhead, located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon at the east entrance of This Is The Place State Park Follow the trail north to the Popperton Park trailhead and retrace the route back to Sunnyside. 
Catherine's Pass: This mile-long trail follows a pathway up and over the mountains of Little Cottonwood Canyon into adjacent Big Cottonwood Canyon. To get to the trailhead, follow Little Cottonwood Canyon Road past Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort and Alta Ski Area to the Sunnyside trailhead.

Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort's Barrier-Free Trail: Accessible to strollers and people with disabilities, Snowbird's Barrier-Free Nature Trail offers interpretive signs that discuss area wildlife and the area's geographical and historic features. The trail ends at a sundeck with a spectacular view of the Salt Lake valley. Access this trail from the Snowbird Center's plaza level patio.

Mount Olympus: At 9,026 feet, Mt. Olympus is far from the Rocky Mountain Wasatch Range's highest peak, but still presents quite a challenge to the casual hiker.  With its prominent placement on the edge of the Salt Lake valley, it is a popular site for avid hikers, but a more difficult journey often bagged by local hikers. Plenty of water, sunscreen, and lunch are essential for the day-long hike, characterized by a seemingly endless series of switchbacks ending in a steep scramble at the very top. The trailhead is located east of Salt Lake City on Wasatch Boulevard.  If you are traveling north on Interstate 215, take the 3900 South exit to Wasatch Boulevard, then turn south and drive for 2.3 miles.   

Millcreek Canyon Pipeline: This intermediate, single-track trail follows the contours of Millcreek Canyon's northern slope. Highlights include a panoramic view of the Salt Lake valley, from Point of the Mountain to the Great Salt Lake. To access, travel southbound on Interstate 215 to exit 3 (3900 South) and turn left onto 3900 South. Turn left at Wasatch Boulevard. Turn right (east) on Millcreek Canyon Road (3800 South). Elbow Fork, the beginning of the trail, is five miles up the canyon from the fee station.

Antelope Island: The craggy landscape on this rugged Great Salt Lake island, inhabited by a herd of buffalo, should not be overlooked. For an easy hike or bike ride, take the three-mile Lakeside Trail along the beach at the northwestern tip of the island. Access the island via a seven-mile causeway off of Interstate 15 exit 332 (located halfway between Salt Lake and Ogden). Antelope Island is especially picturesque in the spring (when it is blanketed with wildflowers) or fall.

Lift-assisted hiking: Both Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort (801-933-2222, and Solitude Mountain Resort (801-534-1400, offer tram or chairlift-assisted hiking and printed maps of trails within their boundaries. Simply ride the lift to the top of the mountain and stroll along meandering paths back to base villages.

The Salt Lake Tribune has a library of many additional day hikes online at

The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. Salt Lake is a unique fusion of metropolitan city and quaint mountain town; the towering Wasatch Mountains that embrace Salt Lake offer a dramatic backdrop to the vibrancy and activities of downtown. Having recently undergone a $58 million expansion, the Salt Palace Convention Center now boasts 679,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space, ideal for groups of all sizes and needs. For more information on all that Salt Lake has to offer, visit