Best Salt Lake City Trails for Spring Excursions

The aptly named Living Room Trail features a group of rocks arranged like furniture.
The aptly named Living Room Trail features a group of rocks arranged like furniture. Jeff Robinson/Creative Commons
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When ski bums finally lay their planks to rest for the summer, it helps to get excited about summer hiking and trail-running season. Fortunately, Salt Lake City has quite a few trails that are ready to go by April or May each year.

It feels good to stretch out your winter legs with a nice long cardio session, and the views that come included are hard to beat. Here, the best Salt Lake City trails for spring excursions that will have you expanding your lungs and taking in the best of a Utah spring. While we can’t wait for mid-summer to open up the vaulting heights of the Wasatch and Uintah ranges, these hikes will warm up our legs very nicely indeed.

Best Easy Peak: Grandeur

Topping out at 8,300 feet in elevation, Grandeur Peak is ambitious but doable for most hikers.
Topping out at 8,300 feet in elevation, Grandeur Peak is ambitious but doable for most hikers. Andrey Zharkikh/Creative Commons

Grandeur is a peak most hikers can handle just fine—and since it tops out at 8,300 feet in elevation, it definitely feels like you’ve accomplished something. The most pleasant route starts in Mill Creek Canyon, just a few minutes up the road at the Church Fork trailhead and picnic area.

A quick walk up the paved and dirt pathways through the picnic area will take you to the proper dirt trail. After a short distance, you’ll intersect with the Pipeline trail that runs up and down Millcreek Canyon. Keep pressing forward and upward along the stream. You’ll zig-zag through lovely tree groves and grassy slopes on your way to the summit. At the top, you’re treated to a fine 360-degree view encompassing everything from downtown Salt Lake to Mt. Olympus.

Best Tough Peak: Mt. Olympus

The summit of Mt. Olympus is stunning especially when the sun drops low.
The summit of Mt. Olympus is stunning especially when the sun drops low. Beth Lopez

It takes a stout set of quads to ascend (and descend) 9,026-foot Mt. Olympus . If you’re fit enough to make it on your first shot, bravo, though many people will need to work up to it. One of the steepest hikes in the Wasatch, the Olympus trail ascends 4,200 feet over the course of just three and a half miles. There’s also very little shade along the way; you’re ascending the warm, sunny west face of the mountain, which yields excellent views of the valley but can feel like a sauna on summer afternoons.

You’ll see plenty of people at the trailhead and on the first mile or so, but after that, the number of fellow hikers drops off substantially. After the mid-mountain stream crossing, you won’t see many other people. Just shy of the peak, you’ll top out at a saddle, where the dirt trail starts to peter out.

From here, you’ll need to use your best route-finding and scrambling skills to ascend the last couple hundred feet to the rocky summit. The climbing is never very difficult or exposed, but people who have a hard time with heights might want to just take in the views from the saddle and call it good.  

Best F** or an Easy Ramble: The Living Room**

Tabasco the hiking superdog makes himself comfortable in a Living Room armchair.
Tabasco the hiking superdog makes himself comfortable in a Living Room armchair. Beth Lopez

The Living Room hike takes you to a mellow but delightful hangout perched in the hills above the University of Utah. Its name comes from the idea a few years back of some intrepid souls (who cared deeply about proper mountain seating) arranged rocks to form chairs, couches, love eats, and ottomans. All the rock furniture faces outward toward the valley, so grab a seat to chat with fellow hikers, eat a primo picnic lunch, and maybe stick around for the sunset with a bottle of wine.

The trailhead is right by the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah—just drive about a block south of it on Colorow Road and watch for a clear trailhead starting up the hillside. This entire area is crisscrossed by unmarked trails, which makes finding the Living Room a little bit of a treasure hunt.

Walk uphill until you intersect the Bonneville Shoreline trail, but keep working your way up into the obvious gully in the hillside. Once you’re walking up the gully, veer right at the first two forks in the trail. At the third fork (when you’re almost at the very top), veer left. After a grand total of 1.2 miles, you’ll arrive at the Living Room. Grab a seat, kick up your feet, and make yourself at home.

Best Transition From Valley to Alpine: Neff’s Canyon

Neff's turns magic at sunset.
Neff's turns magic at sunset. Kelli Sommerdyke

Neff’s Canyon is relatively little known compared to most Salt Lake Valley trails, with fewer people and a stream makes it particularly dog-friendly, too. To find the trailhead, wind through the twisty streets of the Olympus Cove neighborhood and park in the clearly-marked parking lot at the top of White Way.

A trail and four-wheel drive service road work their way in parallel to the base of the canyon, then converge for the rest of the way up. The first mile of the trail is lined by low-elevation scrub brush and trees, but over the next couple of miles, you start to feel downright high-up. You’ll go through lovely evergreen and aspen groves until you finally top out at a meadow nestled between Big Cottonwood and Millcreek Canyons.

 

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