Outdoors

Ditch the Pavement and Head Into the Wild on Salt Lake’s Biking and Hiking Trails

Endless vistas, brilliant wildflowers and alpine lakes — find it all and more hiking and biking around Salt Lake City, Utah. A gateway to spectacular natural scenery (often within city limits), Salt Lake is the perfect basecamp for exploring the wonders of the Wasatch Front.

HIKING

Whether you’re into short walks to spectacular views or longer wilderness treks, Salt Lake City delivers with these three close-to-town trails.

Ensign Peak Trail

salt lake city hiking
Reach new hikes in SLC. (Photo: Alamy)

Adjacent to downtown, this little peak is Salt Lake City’s best easy hike, and summiting takes less than an hour. The trail is an ideal ramble for young families or anyone not used to Salt Lake’s 4,200-foot elevation.

Venture into the upscale neighborhood behind Utah’s State Capitol, and climb the dirt trail 350 feet to face downtown vistas. A tall summit monument and plaque denote the place pioneer settlers first climbed to survey the valley.

Though it’s just one mile, round trip, this hike is best saved for evenings as it’s hot and exposed midday. Come for sunset and pack a snack to enjoy on the summit as the setting sun’s brilliant colors dance behind the Great Salt Lake.

Living Room Trail

Named for its grand set of stone-stacked furniture overlooking the valley, this quick jaunt is a local favorite. The four-mile round-trip trek begins five miles east of downtown above Red Butte Garden and follows a steep, winding path through the foothills to a wide-open ridge.

Appreciate the panorama from surprisingly comfortable rock ottomans and chairs — all with a way better view than the one from your living room at home. Since this is one of the city’s top sunset picnic destinations, it’s wise to bring a blanket along, as well as a headlamp for the walk back in the dark.

Brighton Lakes Trail

salt lake city hiking
Crystal clear lake water awaits. (Photo: Getty Images)

See three lady lakes — Mary, Catherine and Martha — on this 6.7-mile round-trip trek above Brighton Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Unfortunately, you can’t jump in, as the lakes are part of Salt Lake’s water supply, but you’ll appreciate the cool mountain air on scorching summer days. You may even see moose that call the lakeshore home.

Although it’s 30 miles from Salt Lake City, it’s worth the journey to see this iconic Wasatch Front ski canyon dressed for summer with vibrant wildflowers in shades of lilac, cerulean and rose. Peak wildflower season is late July, but September’s autumn leaves are equally dazzling.

BIKING

Off-road newbies and mountain biking pros will find challenging climbs and thrilling descents on these three iconic Salt Lake rides.

Pipeline Trail

Named for old sections of pipe strewn alongside the trail, this advanced-beginner and intermediate mountain bike loop is favored by locals for after-work riding. Set in Millcreek Canyon, the Pipeline is a 15-minute, 12-mile drive southeast of downtown. Climb the paved canyon road to start, entering the trail from an upper location and biking one-way — mostly downhill.

Expect a few steep drop-offs and tight switchbacks with smooth, flowy singletrack over 14 miles. Catch canyon lookouts on exposed sections, and bail out at points along the route should the biking get too tough. Rideable from spring to autumn, the Pipeline peaks in fall thanks to brilliant changing leaves.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail

Running along the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville, this trail stretches over 100 miles and is Salt Lake City’s most accessible mountain biking trail. Begin an 11-mile ride at the Hogle Zoo trailhead in Emigration Canyon, traveling north along flowing singletrack paths to the Utah State Capitol.

Expect an intermediate to advanced ride with valley views, tough climbing, technical features and a lightning-fast finish in City Creek Canyon. Come in July for vibrant wildflowers that last just a week or two before fading away.

Wasatch Crest Trail

The granddaddy of Wasatch mountain biking, the Crest is arguably the best singletrack ride in Salt Lake City. You’ll need a strong fitness level to take on this challenging lap, but the sparkling basins, towering peaks, colorful wildflowers and dense forests make the work worthwhile.

Choose your own Crest adventure and explore the Park City side, or hire a shuttle to drive you and your bikes to Big Cottonwood Canyon’s Guardman Pass start. Cruise 13 miles of red-dirt singletrack, aspen groves and technical ridgelines all the way to Millcreek Canyon.

End at Big Water Trail and ride the paved road down canyon, or pop onto the Pipeline Trail for a twofer. Remember: Cyclists can only access upper Millcreek Canyon trails on even-numbered days.

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This article appears as a part of a paid partnership with Visit Salt Lake.