Salt Lake's Top Hidden Parks
Salt Lake has a few truly killer parks—Sugarhouse Park with its exceptional mountain views, Liberty Park with its paths, playgrounds, and aviary, and Pioneer Park, host to a famed farmer’s market. But beyond those well-known green spaces, the city has countless more. Many of which don’t see a fraction of the traffic they deserve—which is part of what makes them special. Here we’ve compiled a few beautiful spots that might be more of a drive or a trek from the city center—or maybe they’re right under your nose. Each of these five parks has its own time to shine—maybe it’s a quiet getaway, or maybe it’s the perfect spot to bring your pooch. Pick a day to check one out. You won’t be disappointed.
1. So Near Yet So Far: Rotary Park up City Creek Canyon
Given its exceptionally close proximity to downtown Salt Lake, you’d expect to see far more traffic in City Creek Canyon than you do. The canyon is a quiet little mecca extending northward from the capitol building, and five miles up canyon lies little-known Rotary Park. A gatehouse sits near the bottom of City Creek Canyon, and it allows pedestrians through daily or cyclists on odd numbered days. Cars are allowed on even calendar days, if they pay a $3 cash toll at the booth—and they can’t stay up after 6:30 p.m. These rules mean you need to plan ahead and be willing to work for it. But if you ascend 4.7 miles beyond the gatehouse, you’ll find the pretty little Rotary Park, which was built in the early 1920s and offers several picnic areas. You’re likely to just have the canyon birds and the sound of the stream for company, which is quite worthwhile indeed.
2. Best Sanctuary: International Peace Gardens
Nearly every Salt Lake resident knows of the Jordan River. Fewer know of the Jordan River Park at about 10th South along the river. And fewer still know of the International Peace Gardens within this park. These gardens are a lovely space filled with flowers, trees, bushes, statues, and artful installations, each of which are dedicated to a different part of the world. The spot makes for a pleasant stroll that doubles as a geography primer and, more importantly, a time to contemplate our kinship with other countries and continents.
3. Sweetest University-Area Hideaway: Faultline Gardens Park
The limited parking in the University of Utah neighborhood tends to keep visitors to on-campus events only. But park in the stadium lot or take TRAX up to the University Station and stroll a couple blocks westward to Faultline Park at 400 South and 11th East. The park grounds roll over the hill dropping from the University to downtown, which makes for amazing sunset views in the evening. Watch the sun drop as the downtown buildings light up and shine. You can snag a park bench or swing and idle away a little time before or after dinner at one of the nearby 13th East eateries.
4. Hidden in Plain Sight: Parley’s Historic Nature Park
While adjacent Tanner Park is popular with the dog-owner set, most people drive right by on I-80 as they enter Parley’s Canyon, never considering that the gully to the south is home to a lovely stream and network of trails at Parley’s Historic Nature Park. There are a few designated off-leash dog areas within the park, with other areas that are on-leash-only or are dog-free. This helps balance the needs of the various people and four-leggeds who visit—and keeps certain areas quieter for those who want to take in the natural areas and nooks within the park.
5. Best Down South: Draper City Park
If you’re venturing beyond the bounds of Salt Lake, Draper hugs the bench of the Wasatch and boasts some incredible mountain views and a family-friendly vibe. The city’s namesake park is a highlight of the south end of Salt Lake Valley—it has an excellent playground for kiddos as well as pleasant walking trails and picnic tables for adults. Draper happens to go bananas over holiday lights at this park, so it’s one of the special parks worth checking out in wintertime. You’ll find starry lights hung on every tree, especially one giant central tree that stands out from the crowd.