Sure, the weather’s a lot colder, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the outdoors. In fact, many hikes and natural lookouts only benefit from a snow-capped landscape. Brave the cold and fill your weekends with winter wonderland getaways— try these seven hikes in the Salt Lake area. They look totally different this time of year, and you won’t be battling crowds for the best views. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Living Room Lookout
If you’ve lived in Salt Lake City for a while, you’ve probably already hiked up to the Living Room Lookout, but it’s worth another visit in the winter. The 4-mile hike is enough of a workout to keep you warm, and it’s close enough to downtown to make it a quick day hike.
If you haven’t hiked the trail yet, you can expect to find natural rock formations that are perfect for lounging (hence the name). The rocky furniture looks out over downtown SLC, so head up after a snowstorm to check out the city blanketed in white. For those looking for an intellectual workout as well as a physical one, you’ll find the Natural History Museum of Utah just down the road from the trailhead.
Ensign Peak is another hike that’s close to downtown. It’s shorter than the Living Room hike (it’s only about a mile), but the peak offers just as beautiful a view of the city. In fact, this is where Brigham Young first surveyed the Salt Lake Valley and planned out the city with his fellow pioneers. You’ll find a monument at the top marking the spot where that planning took place.
Crews are trying to bring back vegetation along the trail here, and while this project is underway, it’s important to stick to the marked trails. Straying could hurt young plants, which would be a setback to revegetation efforts.
The popularity of Big Cottonwood Canyon’s Donut Falls makes it a good winter hiking option—you won’t have to battle the same crowds you might have encountered in the summer. Just swap out your water bottle for a thermos of tea or cocoa, and you’ll be ready to go. All told, the hike is about 3.5 miles out to the waterfall and back, but snowy conditions can close some of the road leading up to the falls, which makes the hike longer.
The trail is covered in hard pack snow through the winter, but it’s a shallow route. If you catch it during a relative dry spell, you’ll most likely be fine without snowshoes. Beginning hikers love the gorgeous trek through the snowy forest, and expert climbers will sometimes scale the waterfall as an added challenge.
Dripping Rock Falls
This is another family friendly hike that’s even easier than Donut Falls. It’s less than a mile long, fairly flat (only 19 feet of total elevation gain), and entirely paved. Eye candy on this hike includes a river and rocks that drip with water. It won’t be as fun to play in the water during the winter, but freezing temperatures give this hike a totally different look.
If this short jaunt doesn’t hit the spot, there are lots of other hikes nearby. The Spanish Fork River Trail is another paved path that’s within walking distance from Dripping Rock, and it follows the river for more than six miles. Picturesque lookouts at Canyon View Park are also within walking distance. For those seeking a challenge, the Spring Canyon Trail is a roughly 20-minute drive from Dripping Rock, and it features five miles of steep climbing, likely through heavy snow.
Tucked away on the east side of Salt Lake Valley, Bell Canyon is the “choose your own adventure” of hiking trails. There are lots of beautiful sights and features, including the Bell Canyon Reservoir, which is just a half mile above the trailhead.
The trail gets more difficult after the first reservoir, but those who continue are rewarded with multiple waterfalls (most say the first one is the most impressive). After the waterfalls, the trail’s difficulty really ramps up. Keep going, and you’ll find a second reservoir sitting right above the trail’s first waterfall.
Campgrounds are a sort of hidden gem for winter hikers. They’re less crowded, and many are closed to campers, which means more of the grounds are open for hiking. What’s cool about Tanners Flat is that even though the campgrounds are technically closed, the road into the park is maintained throughout the year. You’ll find it about 4 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon.
True to its name, Tanners Flat is pretty flat, so you won’t make any steep elevation gains. However, it can get really snowy, and there won’t be any campers to help maintain the trails. You might need snowshoes or even cross-country skis. Check the conditions before you drive out so you aren’t caught unprepared.
Just north of Mill Creek Canyon Road, you’ll find a moderately difficult winter hike with impressive views to match. The hike to Grandeur Peak is about 6.5 miles long, and you’ll probably need traction spikes. Keep at it and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of both Millcreek and Parley’s canyons.
There are actually two ways to reach Grandeur Peak. The most common is the 6.5-mile route from Church Fork, just off Mill Creek Canyon Road. That route is doable for most hikers with traction spikes. If you’re tight on time but have energy to spare, there’s a shorter, steeper trail you can take from the West Ridge Trailhead.
These seven hikes should have your weekends filled for a while. But they’re just the start! Keep exploring, and leave a comment with any other beautiful hikes you find this winter. And don’t forget to share any stunning pictures you took along the way!
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