Desolation Loop - Trail Running

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The Desolation Loop, in Millcreek Canyon, is a trail run that is a favorite for many locals, only 30 minutes from downtown.

Written by

Thomas Bracken


12.0 miles

12-13 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

16.1 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 hours

2-4 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


$3 Entry Fee



The Upper Big Water Trailhead in Mill Creek Canyon is a trail run that is a favorite to many locals. The trail is 30 minutes from downtown summer heat.

What Makes It Great

The trail begins at the Upper Big Water parking area at the very top of Millcreek Canyon. Take the Upper Big Water Trailhead (on the right as you pull into the parking lot) towards the first 3 easy miles to Dog Lake (think baby strollers); then the trail goes up a grade or two and grinds its way to Desolation Lake and the Park City Ridgeline. From there you’ll enjoy beautiful views and incredible wildflowers. You’ll pass Red Pine Lake and continue on the ridge and then start heading back down Millcreek. There will be a bunch of forks the rest of the way down. At all of the forks, you’ll want to go left. You’ll get some nice long stretches of straight singletrack on the run down towards the Little Water trailhead.

There are a couple of little streams you’ll also get to cross on your way down. As you get closer to the bottom, you’ll come to two more forks. Head left at both forks. As you approach the fork with the large bridge to your right, you’re almost to the bottom. You will end right where the trail began at the Upper Big Water parking area. The Desolation Loop is about 12-13 miles of trail with 2,400 feet of elevation gain. Dogs are welcome. There are restrooms at the west side of the parking lot. During weekends or summer time, get an early start (roughly 6-6:30 a.m.) as it gets pretty crowded and you may end up parking in the overflow parking lot that is much further down the canyon. Bring two bottles unless you know where the secret spring is. Watch for moose and bikes.

After your run, be sure to hit Hector’s for some delicious Mexican food. The fish burrito has quite a following in Salt Lake City. Just cross I-215 and head down 3300s. You’ll see Hector’s on your right.

Who is Going to Love It

Experienced tail runners will enjoy the Desolation Loop’s beautiful, well-maintained singletrack and gorgeous views.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The Desolation loop is easy to find. Take I-15 to the 3300 South exit, then head south on Wasatch Blvd. Take a left at the 3800 South intersection and head straight into the canyon. Just head up Mill Creek Canyon until you arrive at the Big Water Parking Area. Due to its convenient proximity to the city, the Canyon is a very popular destination during the warmer months. While there’s plenty of parking, it can get a bit crowded—especially on Saturdays. 

Remember to bring $3 cash per car—that’s the day fee for use of Mill Creek Canyon. 


Desolation Loop

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