Salt Lake City’s Best Hikes

Outdoor Recreation, Summer Activities, Things to Do — By cbalaz on July 25, 2011 at 9:02 am
One look at Salt Lake City and it’s easy to see why so many come here for outdoor recreation. With a valley floor elevation of roughly 4,200 feet, and peaks in the nearby Wasatch Mountains rising to 11,928 feet at Mt. Nebo, the area has almost 8,000 vertical feet of relief — more than 1.5 miles. This massive range contains a vast and complicated surface area of canyons, faces, and peaks, along with innumerable hiking trails to wander.

The Pipeline Trail Taken in Winter (Argyleist Image)

But because this range and its snow-catching heights provide the bulk of the area’s drinking water, dogs are prohibited from entering many of its major canyons, including Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. However, Millcreek Canyon, which sits very near the city, offers plentiful, all-season hiking for dogs and their owners. Its most popular trail system, Pipeline, features several access trails that allow for any length of hike and any level of difficulty. And though summers in Utah are usually quite hot and sunny, the worst of the heat can be escaped by hiking during the earliest or latest daylight hours.

The Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon follows the former site of a water conduit that leads very gradually down from the mountains toward the city below. To the naked eye, this seven-mile trail appears flat, tracing a nearly horizontal topographical line along the northern (south-facing) wall of the canyon. Four other trails lead up from the road to Pipeline in the bottom half of Millcreek Canyon (below the fairly obvious “Elbow Fork” where the main road bends rather sharply to the right). Because the canyon road climbs rather steeply, the upper access trails are quite a bit shorter than the lower canyon trails, which must travel farther to reach the Pipeline Trail. At Elbow Fork the road sits at a high enough elevation to nearly touch the Pipeline Trail.

Millcreek Canyon in Early Snow (Summitcheese Image)

The four main trails accessing Pipeline, from bottom to top, are Rattlesnake Gulch, Burch Hollow, Church Fork, and Elbow Fork, all on the northern side of the road. For those with the fitness and time, other trails lead upward toward the peaks above Millcreek Canyon. One such summit is that of Grandeur Peak (elevation 8,299’), reached via the upper stretches of the Church Fork Trail. Or if you prefer to stay at the elevation of the Pipeline Trail, can follow it to its far western terminus, where it overlooks Salt Lake City, below. Here you can catch the sun setting beyond the Oquirrh Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

View of Salt Lake City and the Oquirrh Mountains Behind Grandeur Peak (Summitcheese Image)

Because this entire network is located on a south-facing hillside, it is best explored in the early morning or late evening during summer. In addition to hikers, Pipeline attracts many runners and bikers who often make loops in conjunction with the road below. To balance the somewhat conflicting demands of mountain bikers and dog walkers, an ordinance has been created by which dogs may run off-leash on odd-numbered days; mountain bikers may ride on even-numbered days.

To access Millcreek Canyon, take 3800 South Street straight into the mountains. Vehicles are required to pay a $3 day use fee; bikers enter for free.

Tags: Activities, Canyons, Dog-Friendly, Hiking, Millcreek Canyon, Mountain Biking, Outdoor Recreation, Pipeline Trail, Summer Activities


  • Barney says:

    great post. Ne’er knew this, regards for letting me know.

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