Grandeur Peak is one of my favorite hikes in the Salt Lake City area. It snakes up through the hills of Millcreek Canyon on its way toward the summit, offering sweeping views along the way. From the road, the 2,600-foot climb over 3.1 miles is even and steady, only moderately strenuous for those used to the altitude.
The trail to Grandeur Peak begins in Millcreek Canyon at the Church Fork trailhead. Parking is either on the main road or in a few spaces at the trailhead located up an access road past several campsites. If you are able to park at the trailhead, you'll save about 300-feet of elevation gain. However, spots there fill fast, so I parked on the main road and walked the 1/4 -mile or so to the trailhead.
From the Church Fork trailhead, the path is wide and clear. After about 200 yards it intersects with the Pipeline trail. Make sure to stay on the trail, which follows the stream heading north. I had to pull out my map and check the route here. After this intersection, it winds up a few switchbacks and the views begin.
My first look at the view included some decidedly moody looking clouds drifting though the canyon. I wouldn't trade it for a clear day; the effect was breathtaking and surreal. Alongside the trail, wildflowers taunted the gloom with their sunny disposition and vivid colors. I've noticed that wildflowers look their best on a day like that, where they aren't washed out by bright sun.
The frequent shift from sun to clouds had me adding or removing layers each mile. Meanwhile, Indy led on, encouraging me to walk faster and forget the mild burn in my legs.
In a couple of spots the trail turns rocky, but is still well maintained. A half-mile before the summit you'll reach a saddle at Millcreek Ridge with views of Salt Lake City and Parleys Canyon. From here, there is a slightly steeper push toward the summit with more rewarding views.
On the day I visited, I hiked right up into a cloud layer that surrounded Indy and I with a milky-white view. A benefit of hiking on marginal weather days is a thinning of the crowds. We had the summit to ourselves for a while. Suddenly I felt sleet pelting my head and had to laugh at the freakishness of Utah weather, while Indy chased the little pellets of ice.
As suddenly as the sleet began, the clouds lifted like a stage curtain, revealing the views below . The cloud layer still hung low and scuddy overhead for a bit, adding mystery to the valley view behind me. Wow! I never get used to the landscape in my own backyard, it's simply epic. I actually laughed out loud and even felt a bit teary with gratitude. Something had awakened inside of me.
We hiked back the same we came, only with more sun and Indy wanted to play fetch most of the way down. I tossed various sticks over and over... Various because he'd lose one then find another.
If You Go
- This hike is located in Salt Lake City's Millcreek Canyon. The trailhead is 3.2 miles past the fee station on the north side of the road. As I mentioned before, parking fills fast so expect to park on the road unless you arrive early.
- No special gear is needed for this hike; just carry your Ten Essentials. I left my hiking poles at home because the trail is very well maintained and no stream crossings are required.
- Pack a snack to enjoy at the summit and don't forget your camera. This is one hike where I wished I'd carried my DSLR vs. my iPhone. The views are worthy.
- This trail is dog friendly. They are allowed off leash on odd days.To read more of Erika's posts, visit her blog, The Active Explorer.