The run (or bike) up Ensign Peak is perfect for folks who want a strenuous workout in the downtown area but don’t have a whole lot of time. The trail is pretty steep and can be pretty challenging, so be prepared to work up a sweat. If you’re heading back into work, you’ll need a change of clothes.
What Makes It Great
This is a great option that I prefer to do as an out and back before or after work. It is a fun mountain bike climb and descent, but it can be done as a run as well. As a bike ride it probably takes a little less than an hour. As a run, it's probably about an hour or so. Also, the trail comes close to the edge of a steep hill in places, so it can be a little sketchy on a bike. You should be a relatively experienced (intermediate) mountain biker before you descend this trail.
From Memory Grove, head up the road through the middle of the park to 11th Avenue and the ponds. At 11th, cross the road and take the trail that immediately peels off to the left (there are some big boulders next to the trail right next to the start). Follow this little trail up for 25 yards, then take a right at the intersection. Follow this for about a mile.
You will be above and parallel to the road up City Creek canyon for this part. Shortly after you cross a small spring that runs across the trail, you will make a small climb. At the top of this little climb a trail heads off into the woods to your left. Take this left and follow the trail.
You will switchback up through a small forest, then top out on a drier hillside above some giant houses. Keep following the trail above the giant houses. You will hit some scrub oak, at which point the trail switchbacks again. At the top of these switchbacks a small trail will peel off to your left, heading towards a minor overlook. But you want to head right, where you will encounter a mile or so of nice curvy singletrack that contours the hillside, in and out of scrub oak. Eventually you hit a dirt road. You can go left here and find your way down to the neighborhoods above the Capital. But they are not as fun as descending the trail you just came up, particularly if you are on a bike. Thus, I just turn around at the dirt road and enjoy the ride back to Memory Grove.
Who is Going to Love It
The run up Ensign Peak is great for the athlete with limited time for a workout. The downtown location makes this run extremely convenient, and the terrain will have most folks gasping for air in no time.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
You can park at the entrance of Memory Grove, but it can get kind of tight at times, and this can be a real hassle for the folks who live in the neighborhood. Another option, and probably the most neighborhood-friendly, is to park in the Avenues and run down first, then up the trail. While this may not be as convenient, parking at Memory Grove can get a bit tight at times and folks that live in the houses at the bottom appreciate a little bit of elbow room. Street parking in the avenues is free, and some even offers great views of the capital building and downtown Salt Lake City.