As summer winds down and the days cool, it is a perfect time to hike some of my favorite trails along the “Front Range” of the Wasatch. These are also great hikes for early spring before the high trails clear of snow.
These trails are located just minutes from downtown, and are low enough to remain snow-free into early winter. Because these hikes in Salt Lake City they are so convenient, I frequent them after work and even at night. They mostly face west, making ideal sunset hikes. Yup, these are the trails you’ll see me post sunset photos of on Instagram. I know them well, so I usually don’t use a headlamp at night, but you may want to stuff one in your pack. An added plus on these trails is that dogs are allowed.
I’ve written about several of these trails in the past, so look for links to those posts in the descriptions.
Mount Van Cott
I love this hike because of the views at the summit and how the terrain slopes just right to lie down for a brief nap (with scenery). It is one of the less used trails near the city, and therefore allows for some quiet and meditative moments. The trail winds uphill, steeply, from the Jewish Community Center just minutes from downtown. The final half-mile or so crosses a pretty meadow before rising to the summit.
Trailhead: Take 100 North east to the University Hospital. Look for the Jewish Community Center on the left and turn in. The substation is behind and a little to the right and has several parking spaces for hikers/bikers. If this lot is not available, park across the street in the hospital lot.
More beta: This trail is very open and exposed to the elements, which means it can be hot in the summer and could cool off quickly during other seasons. Pack plenty of water and layers in addition to your regular hiking basics.
Such a nice hike, I’ve done it over and over. Sunsets here are spectacular and unobstructed. There is an abandoned tower at the top (it is unmaintained and likely dangerous, so climb it at your own risk.) The hike meanders up a canyon and around the mountain providing variety and views the whole way. The summit is totally cleared so a cool breeze blows cools it most of the year, pack a puffy!
Trailhead: Located on the east side of the University of Utah. Park in the Natural History Museum lot.
Distance: The route we took was 5.38 miles, however there are more direct routes.
More beta: I’d call this a moderate hike because the distance is short. Sections of the hike are steep and sometimes a scramble. The elevation gain is a total of 2,361 over half the distance (according to our GPS) so that will likely wear you out.
The Living Room
This trail is a Salt Lake City classic. There are multiple route to get there, including the one I mention in my post about Mount Wire. Alternatively, you can hike a less strenuous route leading up a wash from the Bonneville Shoreline train toward Mount Wire, but then fork off to the left toward the Living Room. There is also a route from the Red Butte side. I’ve hiked all three and find the Mount Wire route the easies and the “direct up the ridge” route the most fun.
The hike is roughly 2.8 miles round-trip depending on which trail you choose. Here is a link to a map showing the easiest, most common, route: EveryTrail Map
Trailhead: Located on the east side of the University of Utah in the Natural History Museum lot.
More beta: Pack a dinner, and stay for sunset.
For a view from a different angle, I head to Twin Peaks in the Avenues. The trail is open an exposed to the sun making it perfect in the spring and fall. I hiked it in the summer and found it a bit uncomfortable. I’ve also hiked it at night by moonlight, perfection! The trailhead is deep in a neighborhood. Here are directions and a map posted by the Salt Lake Tribune –
Trailhead: From 11th Avenue turn north onto Terrace Hills Dr. Drive up to N. Bonneville Drive and turn right. N. Bonneville Drive runs into Richland Dr. where you make a left.
Red Butte Gardens Loop
THIS is the trail I’ve spent the most time on over the last few months than all others in a year. I love this trail, and probably should even tell you about it. It’s actually not much a secret. The trailhead is located near the entrance to the Red Butte concert venue on the U of U campus. From a dirt parking area, it follows a road for about .25 of a mile then winds uphill behind Red Butte Gardens in a loop. A fork off to the left of this trail is another route to the Living Room. This path is perfect for trail running or, once again, sunset and night hikes. I’ve hiked this trail at midnight. It’s my go-to for a quick nature escape.
Trailhead: From Foothill Dr. turn onto Wakara Way, left on Chipeta Way, right onto Stover Street, which will turn into Red Butte Canyon Road. Park in the paid lot in front of a gate. Alternatively, park in the Natural History Museum lot and start your loop from there.
Some of these trails are so popular that they remain hikeable throughout winter because folks just push through packing down the snow. I’ve hiked Mount Wire through the snow, and it wasn’t bad. You could also wear snowshoes.
I know this isn’t a full list of “Front Range” hikes in Salt Lake City. Do you have any favorites I should try? Comment below.
This post was originally published in November of 2022.
Sounds like some great hikes that I need to put on my list the next time I’m in SLC.
Do you still plan to return early next year?
I would like to! I have a phone interview with an ad agency on Monday for a freelance position in social media/content marketing.
Awesome, good luck!
Hi- I will be in SLC for the first time for a very quick trip the first week of December and am wondering whether these hikes or others on the “Front Range” are safely accessible for a day hike at that time? I would love to do a “no-ropes summit, less than 10mi” hike, within an hour’s drive of the city, if you have any suggestions? I do have aluminum treaded snowshoes and assume I would need them this time of year?
I’m not sure what December will be like, but we are getting a lot of snow at higher elevations right now. An easy summit is Grandeur Peak, but I’m not sure if you’ll need snow shoes or not. I may be doing it tomorrow.
The front range hikes are often accessible unless there has been a big dump. My friend’s tell me Red Butte is usually packed down by hikers through the winter. This is my first winter living here so I’m sorry I don’t have solid answers.
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WE are planning on being in Salt Lake City in mid March, 2017. Any trails open and that you would recommend in mid March? We are fit but not hard core hikers.
Thanks for writing in! This post has some overlap plus a few new ideas: https://www.skiutah.com/blog/authors/erika/7-spring-hikes-salt-lake-city-and
Between the two posts you should have some great options. Stick to the lower trails and you should be well out of the snow. If you’re staying in the city, The Living Room is a classic short hike. It’s a bit steep in places, but short, so just take it slow.