These 5 urban hiking trails in Salt Lake City offer the perfect balance of wilderness and accessibility. Get great hikes in Salt Lake City by walking right out of the city and directly into nature.
Why Go Hiking in Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City is well known for it’s world class skiing, HQ of the Mormon church and the Sundance Film Festival. Little known, however are the many great urban trails in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake is a fairly compact city surrounded on three sides by the Wasatch Mountain range. There are six canyons radiating out which provide a number of hiking trails easily accessed right from the city center.
5 Urban Trails in Salt Lake City
Millcreek Canyon is located on the eastern benches of Salt Lake and even though it’s close to the city, it feels like wilderness. As you drive into the canyon, the suburban neighborhood quickly fades away and you are surrounded by thick forest.
The road stretches seven miles into the canyon and there are 23 trails leading off from various points on the road. In the winter, the road is closed approximately three miles up the canyon providing the opportunity for cross-country skiing and walking up the snowy canyon.
Another awesome thing about Millcreek is that it is very dog friendly. On odd days, dogs can romp off-leash in the canyon. Normally, my dog is very nervous on walks. I’ll save you the back-story of her crazy life, suffice to say that she is quite frightened of humans, is heavily medicated and she firmly believes that change is bad. However, being off-leash and on the snow in Millcreek temporarily turns her into a super happy, relaxed dog. The magic of nature.
If you like skiing as well as hiking, check out this insanely useful guide to scoring discount ski tickets in Salt Lake and this local’s guide for where to stay and ski in Salt Lake.
City Creek Canyon
While Millcreek requires a car for access, City Creek Canyon simply requires some shoe leather and urge for a nice long walk. You can access City Creek right from downtown. Just hang a right at the northeast corner of Temple Square and go up Canyon Road.
The canyon goes up approximately 6 miles one way. But if that’s a bit much for you, you can walk up 2 miles or so to Bonneville Boulevard, hang a left and head back toward the city on the upper road. Going this way will lead you past the Capital Building and the lovely Capital Hill neighborhood. Most of the trail is paved and access is good in all weather.
The road is closed to car traffic on odd days and the canyon is dog friendly (leash-only). I used to live in the Avenues neighborhood to the east of the canyon. While living there I developed a regime of walking the canyon which gave me a lifelong love of walking. You could even say that it was these early efforts at exercise that ultimately lead to my epic pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.
Since you love hiking, check out these hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park and Hadrian’s Wall in England and these outdoorsy activities in Panama City Beach Florida.
Red Butte Gardens/Eastern Benches
Red Butte is nestled up against the mountain just south of the University of Utah. There are trails that run north/south between the University and Emigration Canyon and you can also walk east up Red Butte Canyon. You can also access the gardens and stroll Red Butte itself. And be sure to check out their summer concert series.
Just south of Red Butte is a trail called The Living Room. The Living Room is accessed from Colorow Drive (near the Navigen building at 383 Colorow Drive). The trail isn’t very long, only about 2.5 miles round trip, but you gain 1,000 feet on the way. However, at the top, you can rest by flopping into one of the “easy chairs” that are made of stacked stone. It’s a LOT more comfortable that it sounds. And from your sandstone Barcalounger, you get a 180′ view of the valley floor.
Red Butte itself isn’t dog friendly, but the Living room trail and nearby roads are. I took my bravery-challenged dog off-leash, although I probably wasn’t supposed to. But she had a good time and we both got our exercise.
Hiking is a thirsty business so re-hydrate after your hike at one of Salt Lake City’s many micro brew pubs.
Jordan River Parkway
The Jordan river begins as the outlet from Utah Lake and runs 51 miles north through three counties before emptying into the Great Salt Lake. The City of Salt Lake has established a pedestrian walkway along the most of the river and there is trailhead access every few miles.
Along the trail, you will find nature reserves, recreation areas, historic buildings, city parks, gardens and golf courses. Because the trail is smack in the center of a major metro area, you will also find some road noise, light rail tracks and urban encampments. But despite that, I applaud the city’s efforts to provide a green beltway that is easily accessible my most of the city’s residents.
After you hike, re-energize yourself by stopping into one of Salt Lake’s great cheese shops.
Tanner Park/Parley’s Historic Nature Park
Officially, this area is the Parley’s Historic Nature Park but the locals call it Tanner.
Yet again, an off-leash opportunity for my dog to find joy. This park mixes the wilderness feeling of City Creek and Millcreek with the urbanity of Jordan River parkway. The trail is nestled in a mini-canyon between I-80 and South Salt Lake.
The dog-friendly part of the trail starts out in Tanner Park and heads down a small canyon for two miles. The paved multi-use pedway goes beyond the dog area for extended biking and walking. It’s easy access makes it a great option for a quick bit of afternoon exercise.
Salt Lake City hiking offers the perfect balance between wilderness and accessibility. So choose one of these 5 urban trails in Salt Lake City and have a great hike. Happy Trails!
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Thursday 2nd of February 2017
Great article...here is an update from Red Butte Garden "Thanks for including us, unfortunately some of the information is incorrect about Red Butte Garden. Dogs are not allowed in the Garden (unless they are service animals), the Living Room hike and trails that may allow dogs along the creek up Red Butte Canyon are not on our property. We do offer 5 miles of hiking trails inside our property."
Friday 3rd of February 2017
Thank you for clarifying, I'll correct the article to be more clear
Saturday 27th of February 2016
Nice work, Carol... You might need to mention the rattlesnakes in Red Butte during warm months and do a bit of debunking about the danger they (rarely) pose...
Saturday 27th of February 2016
Good point. They aren't out much in February