19 Jaw-Dropping Hikes In & Near Salt Lake City to Do Before You Die
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With rocky mountains, sparkling waterfalls, and stunning forests, Salt Lake City is an outdoor lover’s mecca. Surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains, there are tons of world-class hiking trails with incredible views in less than an hour’s drive from the city center. Needless to say, hiking in Salt Lake City is one of the most popular local activities, and it’s a fantastic way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery nearby (and get great exercise, too!). We created this guide to some of the best hikes in Salt Lake City so you can plan your next epic outdoor adventure!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
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Photo Credit: Edgar Zuniga III (Flickr CC)

Easy Hiking in Salt Lake City

Ensign Peak

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 0 miles
  • Trail Length: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 374 feet

Although it’s a short trail, Ensign Peak is one of the quintessential Salt Lake City hikes, famous for its stunning views of the city and the Wasatch Mountains in the distance. You’ll gain a whopping 374 feet in less than half a mile of trail, which is fairly steep but doable as it’s so short. On clear days, you can see out for miles across the tops of buildings, all the way out to faint silhouettes of mountains off in the distance. If you’re looking for a short leg burner with fabulous rewards, the Ensign Peak trail is a great option for hiking in Salt Lake City.

Photo Credit: AllAroundTheWest (Flickr CC)

Cecret Lake Trail

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 32 miles/50 minutes
  • Trail Length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 459 feet

It’s no secret that Cecret Lake is one of the prettiest easy hikes in Salt Lake City! Pronounced like “secret,” Cecret Lake is a small, teal lake located in the mountains surrounding the city. A short, 1.7-mile out-and-back trail will take you up to this lake, which is the perfect spot for an afternoon siesta or a picnic.

While there is significant elevation gain, it’s gradual and definitely doable for any hiker willing to take on the challenge. Surrounded by evergreen trees and often still as glass, this lake boasts one of the prettiest views in the area, and it’s a perfect hike for any experience level.

Willow Lake

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 29 miles/40 minutes
  • Trail Length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 633 feet

For a spectacular family-friendly trail that offers several mountain views, Willow Heights is a great option. At nearly 3 miles, this easy to moderate trail offers a peaceful walk through very pretty wooded areas and a small lake at the top where you can often spot local wildlife stopping for a sip of water. Along the way, you’ll pass through shaded areas and open alpine meadows that boast striking views of nearby mountaintops.

If you go in the morning or during the week, you can often get the trail to yourself, which is great for enjoying the beauty of the landscape and the solitude of nature.

Photo Credit: James Swanson III (Flickr CC)

Donut Falls

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 25 miles/45 minutes
  • Trail Length: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 521 feet

Donut Falls is one of the more unique easy hikes in Salt Lake City, as it takes hikers to a magical little grotto with a waterfall that flows through a circular “donut” hole in the rocks! A short, easy hike through the valley and evergreen forests will bring you to the falls area, which features a small, pebble-lined grotto where the water flows through. Kids love this hike because of the variety of scenery and the interesting waterfall, and it’s a very family-friendly spot for hiking in Salt Lake City.

Rattlesnake Gulch

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 13 miles/20 minutes
  • Trail Length: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 816 feet

If you’re willing to tackle the 816-foot ascent, the Rattlesnake Gulch trail is one of the most rewarding hikes in Salt Lake City. With absolutely breathtaking views of the mountains and the city below, the trail is best done early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun is low and the sky is painted all kinds of warm colors. The trail mostly wraps around the side of the mountain and is clear of trees, offering great views almost the entire way. And while the 816-foot ascent may seem daunting, it’s fairly gradual and is doable for anyone willing to work for it!

Photo Credit: Tom Kelly (Flickr CC)

Albion Meadows

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 32 miles/50 minutes
  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 744 feet

The Albion Meadows trail is a scenic walk through the alpine fields and valleys that cut through the mountaintops. As one of the easier trails in the area, this is the perfect hike for beginners or families with kids. All along the way, you’ll get fantastic views of nearby mountains and you’ll even pass by a small, scenic lake. In the spring and summer, wildflowers line the trails and fill the fields with pops of color, which adds to the magical aura of this hike. Note that the wide trails of this hike are not shaded, so a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen are a must if you’re planning to hike during the day.

Photo Credit: David Winnie (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes in Salt Lake City

Lake Blanche

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 22 miles/30 minutes
  • Trail Length: 6.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,706 feet

Lake Blanche is easily one of the most beloved hikes in Salt Lake City, and for more experienced hikers, this moderate trail offers a fun challenge with amazing views at the top. The trail has it all – forested pathways, alpine meadows, tiny waterfalls, and a scenic mirror lake surrounded by rocky peaks. For a 7-mile hike, that’s a LOT to see!

You can often catch local wildlife, like deer, moose, and birds, along the trail’s edges, especially if you go early in the morning when they’re most active. For photographers, Lake Blanche is a popular photo spot in the area, and you can catch really great light during the early and late hours of the day when the towering Twin Peaks reflect with golden rays into the water. All in all, it’s a magical trail that you have to experience to understand.

Waterfall Canyon

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 35 miles/40 minutes
  • Trail Length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,105 feet

If you combined a towering rock canyon with sparkling waterfalls, Waterfall Canyon is what you’d get. With tons of rocky terrain and some great views of the valley, there’s a reason why Waterfall Canyon is such a beloved place to go hiking in Salt Lake City. The trail begins in a forest, then works its way up to an open canyon where you’ll find the waterfall and plenty of fun scrambling spots. Note that during dry times of year, the waterfall may not be very powerful – the best time to go to see the falls is during the spring or after heavy periods of rain.

Photo Credit: MystifiedCat (Flickr CC)

Stewart Falls Trail

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 20 miles/20 minutes
  • Trail Length: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 646 feet

For another short waterfall trail that offers beautiful views, Stewart Falls is an excellent choice. This waterfall cascades down a rocky mountain face and is absolutely gorgeous, especially in the spring or after rainfall. On the way up to the falls, you’ll get to see gorgeous views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains, which are especially gorgeous as the trees change colors in the fall. An all-around gorgeous and fun hike, Stewart Falls should definitely be on your list.

The Living Room Trail

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 0 miles
  • Trail Length: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 980 feet

One of the most beloved hiking trails in Salt Lake City is the Living Room Trail, which is a short, moderate hike to an excellent viewpoint extending all the way out over the city to the lake. Located in the Red Butte Canyon Research Area, the trail has virtually no tree cover or shade, which means you’ll get excellent views (and a LOT of sun) throughout the entire hike. While this hike is quite steep, it’s definitely doable for moderately experienced hikers who want a challenge. Plus, the views from the top are well worth the effort!

Photo Credit: Baron von Snek (Flickr CC)

Lake Mary, Martha and Catherine

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 32 miles/44 minutes
  • Trail Length: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,243 feet

The trail to Lakes Mary, Martha, and Catherine – also known as Brighton Lakes – is one of the most magnificent and stunning hikes in Salt Lake City. As the name suggests, the trail boasts three shimmering alpine lakes, plus bird’s eye views of them as you continue to make your way up the mountain. Throughout the trail, there’s alternating shade and open meadows, meaning you’ll get plenty of variety as you make the 1,243-foot ascent. For a moderate, half-day hike that’s not too challenging or technical, the Brighton Lakes trail is one of the best there is.

Desolation Lake

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 27 miles/40 minutes (Big Cottonwood Canyon)
  • Trail Length: 7.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,988 feet

Another fabulous (and slightly longer) hike to an alpine lake is the Desolation Lake trail, which runs through Big Cottonwood Canyon. Although this trail has an elevation gain of nearly 2,000 feet, it’s a very steady and gradual incline over the 3.8 miles out to the lake. Along the way, you’ll pass through forested areas, next to mountain streams, and through open fields to get to the spectacular, teal Desolation Lake. There are also ample opportunities for seeing moose and other local wildlife if you go early in the morning!

Photo Credit: Shaan Hurley (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Salt Lake City

Mount Olympus

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 14 miles/20 minutes
  • Trail Length: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,192 feet

Mount Olympus is one of the quintessential Salt Lake City hikes for experienced hikers, and summits one of the city’s closest mountains. Not for the faint of heart, the trail gains over 4,000 feet of elevation over the course of ~4 miles. However, while the trail is quite strenuous and requires a bit of scrambling, it’s also a fantastic first summit for locals or less experienced hikers to get some more advanced hiking under their belts.

The views from the trail and at the summit are absolutely mind-blowing, and on clear days you can see for miles across the city and across to the other peaks of the Wasatch Mountains. For those who want a fun, full-day challenge that will get your heart pumping, the Mount Olympus is a must for hiking in Salt Lake City.

Neffs Canyon

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 13 miles/20 minutes
  • Trail Length: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,559 feet

Stream crossings and steep ascents mark the Neffs Canyon Trail, which is another challenging hike that’s super close to Salt Lake City. This 7-mile trail winds through forests, streams, and alpine meadows to a stellar view of Neffs Canyon and the city down below. Popular with dogs and experienced hikers, this trail is difficult because it’s steep, but there isn’t much scrambling or technical challenge to it. For a leg burner that has lovely views, Neffs Canyon is a local favorite.

Photo Credit: summitcheese (Flickr CC)

Grandeur Peak

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 10 miles/15 minutes
  • Trail Length: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,627 feet

Another favorite summit hike in the city is Grandeur Peak, which towers above the buildings nearby. True to its name, the trail offers magnificent views all over the area. As another summit hike, you’ll get all the perks of hiking in Salt Lake City – steep but fun and challenging trails, alternating shade and sun, and absolutely spectacular views all around. While the trail is difficult because of its elevation gain, it’s actually a fairly gradual incline, making it one of the “easier” difficult hikes on our list. Many locals do this trail often because they love it so much, and with its dreamy mountain views, who wouldn’t?

Bell’s Canyon Trail

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 21 miles/30 minutes (Little Cottonwood Canyon)
  • Trail Length: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,453 feet

As the shortest hard hike on our list, don’t be fooled – Bell’s Canyon is equal parts challenging and beautiful. Because it’s so short, you’ll definitely feel the elevation gain a lot more than some of the longer challenging hikes on our list. Along the 4.6 miles of this trail, you’ll find tough inclines, rock scrambling, and uneven terrain. But when you see the incredible waterfalls along the trail and the canyon views, you’ll understand that the reward was definitely worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Andrey Zarkhikh (Flickr CC)

Red Pine Lake

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 31 miles/1 hour
  • Trail Length: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,073 feet

As one of two difficult alpine lake hikes on our list, Red Pine Lake is an absolute gem hidden in the Wasatch Mountains. Hiking in Salt Lake City doesn’t get much better than this, with its challenging ascent, gorgeous mountain views (some of the best in the area) and the serene, cool waters of the lake. On the way up, you’ll find rocky terrain with some spectacular streams and small cascades. Oh, and you’ll also find some of the best mountaintop views of Great Salt Lake on the way up, too.

Photo Credit: Brandon Rasmussen (Flickr CC)

White Pine Lake

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 26 miles/35 minutes
  • Trail Length: 10.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,762 feet

Another stellar alpine lake with jaw-dropping views, White Pine Lake is Red Pine’s counterpart and it is well worth the 10.5 miles of hiking required to get there. This trail is much less popular than Red Pine Lake, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll have many parts of the trail to yourself. Along the way, you’ll climb 2,700+ feet and see some absolutely fantastic mountain peak views (similarly beautiful to the ones on Red Pine). If you’re feeling up to it, you can continue on to summit White Baldy, which requires a significant scramble but provides some really amazing views.

Broads Fork Twin Peaks

  • Distance from Salt Lake City: 24 miles/30 minutes
  • Trail Length: 10.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,285 feet

Possibly the most challenging hike on our list, the Broads Fork Twin Peaks trail is actually a combination of two different trails – Broad Forks and Twin Peaks. If you want to shorten this hike or break it in two, it’s absolutely doable as you can just do these hikes separately. For us, however, a good full-day hike is a must every so often, and the 10.5-mile adventure of the trails combined is a welcome challenge.

Climbing over 5,000 feet of elevation, this hike isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it suitable for beginners. You’ll hike up to the summit of Twin Peaks (11,303 feet of altitude) and then back the way you came. The trails can be difficult to follow and a good portable GPS (not your phone) is highly recommended so you don’t get lost. After lots of uphill leg burning and scrambling, you’ll reach the Twin Peaks summit and look down on some of the most incredible and rewarding views in the entire Salt Lake City area.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Salt Lake City

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

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