19 Mind-Blowing Hikes In & Near Salt Lake City To Do Before You Die

19 Mind-Blowing Hikes In & Near Salt Lake City To Do Before You Die

The hiking scene in and around Salt Lake City is some of the best you will experience in the world.

With challenging ascents, beautiful mountain views, rocky terrain and some of the most serene and calming bodies of water around you; there is nothing a hiking enthusiast won’t love about the trails around here. 

The Sights

Salt Lake City is located in the beautiful state of Utah. Within Salt Lake City is the central county of Salt Lake County, one the four Rocky Mountain counties.

Salt Lake County occupies the Salt Lake Valley as well as parts of surrounding mountain ranges such as the Oquirrh Mountains to the west and the Wasatch Mountain Range to the east, which consists of the entire Jordan River watershed north of the Traverse Mountains.

These encircling mountains contain several narrow canyons including City Creek, Emigration, Parleys and Millcreek canyon which are on the border of the eastern city limits. 

The highest mountaintop peak visible from Salt Lake City is Twin Peaks, which is located to the southeast and  reaches an incredible 11,330 feet in height. The second highest belongs to the Oquirrh Mountain Range, which reaches a height of 10,620 feet. 

Of course, Salt Lake City is close to its namesake, the Great Salt Lake. 

The Wildlife

On your trails in and around Salt Lake City, you will find an array of fauna and flora to take note of. In Utah, botanists have recognized over 4,000 floral species in Utah’s six major life zones, these include alpine, sub-alpine, high mountain, mountain, upland, semidesert and desert.

Common trees and shrubs to look out for include species of pine, juniper, aspen, cottonwood, hawthorn, chokecherry and maple along with the famed Utah oak, Joshua tree and the Utah State tree, the blue spruce. Some flowers to observe along your winding treks in the mountain include sweet William and Indian paintbrush flowers. 

In terms of animals, there is a vast array of insects such as spiders, butterflies and moths. Near the lakes and streams you will be sure to find an array of frogs and toads as well as some crayfish and mollusks.

Mule deer are the most common mammal found in Utah, but other mammals you may come across include pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, lynx, grizzly and black bears and white- and black-tailed jackrabbits. Among the birds found you can spot plain titmouse, water ouzel, golden eagles and great white pelicans if you are lucky.

Depending on the time of day you may find great horned owls along your trail, and generally you will find the state bird, the seagull, on your treks.

There are several species of animals that are listed as threatened or endangered in Utah due to the ever-growing human population and city expansion.

Among these species were the bald eagle, Utah prairie dog, southwestern willow  flycatchers and whooping cranes. Many birds and fish have also been killed or imperiled by the increase inundation of freshwater marshes with salt water from the flooding of the Great Salt Lake.

Preparing For A Hike Around Salt Lake City

Packing the right equipment for a hike is crucial. You may come into contact with issues you might not foresee, but you have to be prepared for anything.

The time of year will have a strong effect on what you do or do not take with you, but it is better to be over prepared than suffer the consequences of being under-prepared. Some hiking necessities include:

  • Sunscreen – you want to protect your skin while out hiking, whether it is summer or winter. Even in the winter months, the UV rays from the sun can still burn you and cause damage, so no matter the time of year, you need to be well-equipped with sunscreen. Your sunscreen should be sweat proof, too, since you will probably be working hard on your hikes.
  • Bug Spray – since you will be out in nature, nature will probably want to take a bite out of you. Keeping bug spray handy could save you a lot of pain, even in the winter, so always make sure that you have it.
  • A Water Bottle – this one is obvious, but should still being pointed out for those of you who forget to stay hydrated. Water is the one thing that will keep you going above all else, so having it available is the most crucial thing you can do for your own wellbeing. Generally, you should aim to drink a liter of water every two hours of your hike, depending on the weather conditions of the day. 
  • A First Aid Kit And Emergency Blanket – you should always be safe, or one day you might be sorry. Having an emergency blanket and first aid kit could be the things that saves your own or someone else’s life one day.
  • A Cap Or Brimmed Hat – you need to protect yourself from the sun, and besides sunscreen, wearing a hat that will shield you from the run’s rays is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
  • Breathable Or Airy Hiking Clothes – it is important to dress appropriately for your hikes. For hot weather hikes, you should wear breathable clothes in the form of shorts or t-shirts/tank tops. If you are hiking in the cold, make sure to layer the clothes on, including woolen under layers, jackets, boots and a waterproof shell to protect yourself from the rain or snow you may experience while outdoors. 
  • A Strong And Durable Day Pack – the backpack you take with you will hold all your gear, food and other necessities. You need to make sure that it is durable and can survive any mishaps that may happen. Additional items that you should keep in your pack, especially as a beginner, include, taking along a map or GPS of the area, food that is sustaining but lightweight to carry, headlights, sunglasses, a penknife and additional clothing like a sweater and extra socks. 
  • Trekking Poles – if you are going to be hiking in a steep area, you may want to consider bringing trekking poles along, You definitely will not need these for every hike, but keeping them in your vehicle would be a good idea.

It is really important as a hiker, whether you are a pro or just starting out, to be prepared.

So apart from packing all the essentials above and making sure that you have broken in your footwear well before the hike, it is critical to tell someone else where you are going and your expected time period of being on the hike.You should ideally carry a phone as well. 

You also should do enough research on hikes and their routes, which is why we have put together this list of hikes in and around Salt Lake City before you die.

This list should hopefully help you to decide which hike you should do and also give you enough information to prepare for your hike properly to allow you to prioritize your safety whilst enjoying the spectacular views in and around Salt Lake City. 

Taking It Easy- Ideal Hikes For Beginners

Willow Lake

This family-friendly hike offers several mountain views, through wooded areas and a small lake to top it off where you can often spot some wildlife stopping off for a sip of water at the lake.

It is a loop of almost 3 miles, and along the way you will pass through shaded areas and open meadows alike that will give spectacular views of neighboring mountaintops and vast horizons. The first quarter mile of the trail is quite steep and because it lies within a protected watershed, dogs and swimming are not allowed in the area. 

Although a heavily trafficked route at the weekends, you can typically get the trail to yourself if you go early in the morning or during the week.

Additional to hiking, the trail is also used for running, walking and snowshoeing. It is accessible all year round but if you are going in the winter, it is important to note that there will be ice, mud and snow along the trail, so snowshoes are essential.

Difficulty Level – beginner level / easy

Length Of Trail – 2.4 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 633 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 40 minutes or 29 miles from the city

Located In – Mounthaven`

Rattlesnake Gulch

Just a short trip outside the city center of Salt Lake City, Rattlesnake Gulch is trail is a trail loop and if you are willing to take on the 816-foot ascent, you will be rewarded with views that you will not soon forget.

The trail is best done in the morning or early evening, when you can appreciate the sunrise or sunset glimmering over the surrounding mountains and city below. 

The trail winds round the side of the mountains and is clear of trees, so be sure to bring sun protection and is used for mountain biking as well.

The park is subject to wildlife closures due to wildlife, so be sure to check out their website prior to your visit to be sure. Additionally, there is an entry fee to consider, but that makes for a well-maintained park all year round. 

Difficulty Level – beginner level / easy

Length Of Trail – 3.3 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 633 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 0 minutes or 0 miles from the city

Located In – Salt Lake City near Memory Grove Park

Ensign Peak

Ensign Peak

Ensign Peak is the easiest hike on our list and is right in the heart of Salt Lake City. It’s a dog-friendly track (provided they are on a leash) and is famous for its stunning views of the city and the Wasatch Mountains in the distance, and on clear days you can see for miles across the tops of all the buildings.

Overall, it is a suitable hike for all levels regardless of age and experience of the hiker and is often used as a lunchtime trek

This out and back trail that winds behind the peak and ascends with a steep ascent or elevation gain of 374 feet and although this is quite tough, because the trail is so short, it will only give your legs a quick burn. The back side of the trail provides incredible views, especially at sunset, and you can even see the Great Salt Lake to the northwest.

Apart from hiking, this trail offers the opportunity to mountain bike and bird watch, but many people use it as a running track as well, and it is a good option for kids too!

Difficulty Level – beginner level / easy

Length Of Trail – 0.8 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 633 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 0 minutes or 0 miles from the city

Located In – Salt Lake City near Memory Grove Park

Donut Falls

Donut Falls is a unique and popular hike that is family friendly and is just a short drive from Salt Lake City. The hike starts at the Donut Falls Trailhead and to get here, you will need to go up Big Cottonwood to the Mill D Trailhead and turn right onto the fork road, and you pass the Jordan Pines Picnic Area.

This road will become dirt and will get you to the trailhead, which turns into a 3.1-mile hike to a steep boulder field that leads up to the waterfalls. 

Climbing all the way up to the falls can be wet and rocky, which can be dangerous for the inexperienced or kids. If you make it up to the waterfall, you will be greeted with a donut shaped hole through which the water pours out, which goes into a small pool in the cave.

Overall though, it is a short, easy hike and takes you through evergreen forests to the falls’ area which is in a pebble-lined cave or grotto. You won’t regret doing this one. 

Difficulty Level – beginner level / easy

Length Of Trail – 3.1 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 521 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 45 minutes or 25 miles from the city

Located In – Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Albion Meadows

Albion Meadows

The trail cuts through mountaintops and provides a scenic walk through alpine fields and valleys in the area. It features wildflowers depending on the season and is best to do between May and October if that is what you want to see.

All along the route, you will get incredible views of the mountains, and you will pass by the Cecret Lake featured below. 

Most of the trail is not shaded, so it is essential that you pack and wear appropriate sun protection items, especially if you are planning on doing  this hike during the daytime. However, the trail is well-liked and used by all skill level hikers and is also enjoyed by runners, mountain bikers and walkers. 

Difficulty Level – beginner level / easy

Length Of Trail – 3.6 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 744 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 50 minutes or 32 miles from the city

Located In – Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Cecret Lake Trail

Also in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the Cecret Lake Trail, pronounced like “secret” is a well-known secret, that Cecret Lake Trail has a lot of wildlife and beautiful terrain, rock formations and the out and back again trail ends at a scenic lake located in the mountains.

It makes for a perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. The lake is clear and still as glass, and certainly is one of the most beautiful places in and around the area. 

It has a gradual elevation gain and is achievable for any level of hiker, and is a good mix of flat and steep gradients.

Some wildlife you can see on this hike include moose if you’re lucky and depending on the season you can find an array of beautiful wildflowers dotted all over the landscape. This beautiful hike is best done between the months of May and September.

Difficulty Level – beginner level / easy

Length Of Trail – 1.7 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 459 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 50 minutes or 32 miles from the city

Located In – Albion Base

Meeting In The Middle

The Living Room Trail

In the heart of Salt Lake City, this short hike is one of the most popular and loved trails in all Salt Lake City, with the endpoint that has rocks that are arranged to look like a living room furniture ensemble that looks out all over the city and the Great Salt Lake.

It is located in the Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area and has hardly any shade cover, so be sure to pack in sun protection essentials. 

The hike is steep, and the trail is pretty narrow as it follows an old wash in some points and would be a good idea to take some form of navigation with you as the trail is not always that clear.

Nevertheless, the views are amazing the whole way up and even though it is rated as moderate because of its steepness, it is definitely doable for less experienced hikers who are in need of a challenge. What’s more, dogs are more than welcome on this trail as well. 

Difficulty Level – moderate

Length Of Trail – 2.3 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 980 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 0 minutes or 0 miles from the city

Located In – Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area

Lake Blanche Trail

The Lake Blanche Trail in the Twin Peaks Wilderness Area features a beautiful mountaintop lake, breathtaking views and abundant wildlife such as moose, deer and a huge variety of bird species.

It is demanding, though, and you should plan to make several stops along the way, as there are no flat sections in the trail and so should be done by more experienced hikers. The entire trail is dotted with forested pathways, mini waterfalls, alpine meadows and are surrounded by rocky mountain peaks. 

Attractions you can look forward to seeing are views of Sundial Peak, the Great Salt Lake Valley and then the lakes at the top- Lake Blanche, Florence and Lilian. It is a long stretch, so be sure to pack in a lot of water and enough food to sustain yourself.

It can be done at any time of the day and will be rewarded with the outstanding natural beauty of the surroundings. If you are doing this hike later in the day be sure to pack a flashlight and new batteries and if you are doing this hike in winter be sure to wear the correct shoes and use spikes and poles. 

Although popular, this trail lies within a protected watershed and so dogs and swimming are not permitted.

Difficulty Level -moderate

Length Of Trail – 6.9 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 2,706 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 30 minutes or 22 miles from the city

Located In – Twin Peaks Wilderness

Desolation Lake Trail

Another outstanding longer and moderate hike featuring a picturesque lake is the Desolation Lake Trail, which cuts through the Big Cottonwood Canyon 30 miles from the city. Although gradual, this hike has a steady incline of nearly 2,000 feet which spans over half the trek to the lake.

Along the way you will pass through thick forests, streams and meadows to get to Desolation Lake. 

The trail is used for hiking, running, mountain biking and snowshoeing and is at its best from May to October.

Additionally, since this is a shared trail, it is recommended that traffic flow of mountain bikers and hikers is in the opposite direction to not cause any obstruction for either party. As the trail is located in the Big Cottonwood Canyon, swimming and dogs are not allowed. 

Difficulty Level -moderate

Length Of Trail – 7.7 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 1,988 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 40 minutes or 27 miles from the city

Located In – Big Cottonwood Canyon

Waterfall Canyon Trail
Source: Alltrails

Waterfall Canyon Trail

Located in the beautiful Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the Waterfall Canyon Trail, is a steep one albeit relatively short but the waterfall and the valley are well worth the stiff muscles the next day. 

There are several trails that lead you to the waterfall and all of them are clearly marked and begin in a forest which works its way up to the canyon where you will find the waterfall.

The best time of year to see the waterfall is in the spring time but do exercise caution when exploring the waterfall as there have been many fatalities of  hikers who have fallen off the rocks nearby the waterfall.

Difficulty Level -moderate

Length Of Trail – 2.4 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 1,105 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 40 minutes or 35 miles from the city

Located In –  Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Source: The Outbound

Lake Mary, Martha And Catherine

This hike features beautiful wildflowers along the trail which leads you up to three shimmering lakes, Lake Mary, Martha and Catherine or the Brighton Lakes. It is a stunning hike and alternates between tree cover and open meadows. 

It is not too technical despite its 1,243 feet incline and can be done in about half a day. The best time of year to do the hike is between May and October. If you go in the winter, be sure to use spikes and snowshoes. 

Difficulty Level -moderate

Length Of Trail – 4.4 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 1,243 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 44 minutes or 32 miles from the city

Located In – Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Stewart Falls Trail

Stewart Falls Trail

Of the hikes in the moderate category, it is short and is lower in elevation comparatively. The Stewart Falls cascades down the face of a mountain and is especially vibrant during the spring months, but any time of the year will reward you with spectacular views and a pallet of colors. 

It is also only a short drive out of the city, so makes for the perfect Saturday morning activity. 

Difficulty Level -moderate

Length Of Trail -3.4 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 646 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 20 minutes or  20 miles from the city

Located In – Mount Timpanogos Wilderness

Up For The Challenge

Neff’s Canyon
Source: Rootsrated

Neff’s Canyon Trail

Located in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Neff’s Canyon is one of the most difficult and challenging hikes on this list. It features a river, winds through forests and meadows and has several stream crossings along its steep ascent with the reward of views of Neff’s Canyon and Salt Lake City below. 

Although popular with hikers, and you can take your dogs with, it is classed as a difficult hike because of its steepness and so should be undertaken only by experienced hikers.

Having said that, it is not a very technical hike in comparison to a few others on this list. If you are wanting to embark on this trail, be sure to have a map with you of sorts as the trails are not that well-marked. 

Difficulty Level – difficult

Length Of Trail – 7 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 3,559 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 20 minutes or  13 miles from the city

Located In – Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus

Comparable to the mountain Greek gods lived on, Mount Olympus boasts views over the Wasatch Valley and Salt Lake City after you have finished climbing over 4,000 up to its peak.

It is like stepping into  another world where one minute, you’re in the city and the next, you are in an alpine environment. It is beautiful, but it is not for the faint-hearted. Furthermore, it is a strenuous and steep climb and requires scrambling (walking up steep terrain using your hands to steady yourself).

It is important to note that this climb is made more difficult in the dry conditions of the summer months, but it is even more treacherous in the winter when it is slushy and snowy. It is also recommended having a map with you, as the trails are not well-marked close to the summit and there is poor cell reception.

Difficulty Level – difficult

Length Of Trail – 8 miles 

Total Elevation Gain -4,192 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 20 minutes or  14 miles from the city

Located In – Mount Olympus Wilderness

White Pine Lake

White Pine Lake Trail

One of the longest treks on this list is White Pine Lake trails in the Lone Peak Wilderness. On your way up the 2762 feet climb, you will find yourself looking at mountain peak views and the stunning lake. 

The trail can continue up to the summit known as White Baldy, which requires a bit of scrambling up the way but will not disappoint you in terms of views. It is also a less popular hike, so there is a chance you may have it to yourself, which is always a pleasure.

The trail is best used in the months between April and October. If you are venturing this ascent in the winter, be sure to wear snowshoes. 

Difficulty Level – difficult

Length Of Trail – 10.5 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 2,762 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 35 minutes or  26 miles from the city

Located In – Lone Peak Wilderness

Red Pine Lake

Red Pine Lake Trail

A shorter distanced-counterpart to White Pine Lake Trail, Red Pine Lake Trail is a hidden gem and is accompanied by spectacular mountain views and a glistening lake at the end of the summit.

The summit is a popular camping spot. From here, you can choose to continue on to the White Pine Lake Trail by taking the lower jeep trail. There are several river crossings with bridges and if you continue on you can reach White Baldy, Upper Red Pine Lake or Pfeifferhorn Peak. 

Difficulty Level – difficult

Length Of Trail – 7 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 2,073 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 60 minutes or  31 miles from the city

Located In – Lone Peak Wilderness

Grandeur Peak Trail

Grandeur Peak Trail

While this is a great route any time of the day or year, it is highly recommended going early to reach the summit just after sunrise.

It is a shaded hike and although the terrain varies from gentle slopes to steep and rocky, it is a delight to climb up to the summit which overlooks the city. Once you are up there, you will see why it is such a  popular hike all year round. 

Difficulty Level – difficult 

Length Of Trail – 6 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 2,627 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 15 minutes or  10 miles from the city

Located In – Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Broads Fork Twin Peaks Trail

Broads Fork Twin Peaks Trail

As the steepest and longest trail on the list, the Broad Forks Twin Peaks Trail is an arduous one as it is a combination of two separate trails which can be separated into two if you are not up to the full challenge. As it clears over 5,000 of up-hill climb, it is not suitable for beginners at all.

It reaches the Twin Peaks summit which is at 11,303 feet of altitude and then you have to go back down the way you came which could be quite hard on the legs. 

However, if you do this, you will be rewarded with views like none other. 

Difficulty Level – difficult 

Length Of Trail – 10.5 miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 5,285 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 30 minutes or  24 miles from the city

Located In – Twin Peaks Wilderness

Bell’s Canyon Trail

Although not the most arduous on the list in terms of distance and elevation, don’t be fooled by the challenge packed by this trail. Because it is short, the elevation comes at you at a much quicker pace than the others and you will find yourself having to do a lot of scrambling and climbing tough inclines and rocky terrains.

However, along the way are waterfalls and canyon views that will make you thank your Maker for being put on this beautiful planet

Difficulty Level – difficult

Length Of Trail -4.6miles 

Total Elevation Gain – 1,453 feet

Distance From Salt Lake City – 30 minutes or  21 miles from the city

Located In – Little Cottonwood Canyon

Final Thoughts On Hiking Trails Near Salt Lake City

In and around Salt Lake City, there are so many hiking trails for different levels of experience that you will be sure to find at least a couple on this list that suits your ability.

Hopefully, after reading this, you will feel more comfortable in making a choice on which hikes are for you! Happy hiking!

Emily Winters