Mill Creek Canyon holds one of the most popular running trails in the Wasatch, Pipeline, and it’s only a 22-minute drive from the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Part of what makes Pipeline so great is you have four options for running it. Whether you’re looking for an eight-mile out-and-back or a 5.5-mile grinder up Grandeur Peak, Pipeline has your fix.
The entrance to Mill Creek Canyon is only a 17-minute drive from the Expo Center, and the first trailhead (Rattlesnake Gulch) to access Pipeline is only 0.7 miles up the canyon. This trail is a popular one, especially in the evening hours after the nine to fivers escape, so if one trailhead is full, just head to the next one.
There’s a three-dollar access fee per vehicle that is charged on exiting the park—bring cash. Dogs and horses are allowed in the canyon, except the marked watershed areas. Dogs must be leashed on even-numbered days, and can be off-leash on trails only on odd-numbered days. Please help keep this a dog-friendly park by carrying out your dog’s waste.
The Pipeline trail is sublime singletrack that follows the old bed of a turn-of-the-century water pipe, hence the name. It winds through aspen groves, deep pine groves, and climbs quickly away from the road—delivering stunning views of the whole canyon. You have four trailhead options in Mill Creek to access the Pipeline Trail:
1) Rattlesnake Gulch: (aptly named – keep your eyes and ears open): Drive .7 miles from the fee station to the trailhead on the north side of the road. The trail heads uphill and is the start of the Pipeline Trail. This trailhead will give you the longest out-and-back option.
2) Church Fork: The trailhead is 2.3 miles from the fee station. From here, you can head up Pipeline for a more mellow, but satisfying experience or head up Grandeur Peak to test the steel of yours legs. From the trailhead to the top of Grandeur Peak it’s 2.75 miles one-way—but don’t let the short distance deceive you.
It climbs 2,340 feet in that short distance. The trail heads northward from the road with several springs that flow alongside and is mostly shaded until you start to make your final ascent. The summit offers views of Salt Lake Valley, Great Salt Lake, Parley's Canyon, Mill Creek Canyon, and Big Cottonwood Canyon.
3) Birch Hollow: Drive about 4.3 miles up the canyon just past Porter Fork, and it's on the north side of the road. This option offers a 3.8-mile out-and-back to the Elbow Fork trailhead and is an easy, rolling run—perfect for some post-OR therapy.
4) Elbow Fork: The eastern-most access point drops you in at the top of Pipeline Trail, where the elevation is highest. The trail is pretty flat from here until about Porter Fork, where it drops 500 feet in elevation.
After your run, check out O’Falafel Etc. in Sugar House for some delicious calories, just a few miles from Mill Creek Canyon. Be sure to read the specials menu taped on the register before you order. They have terrific kifteh and (obviously) falafel.