Loop hikes are great since they let you have new scenery during the whole hike. There’s no “back tracking” over a trail you have already seen.
Outdoor enthusiast Sheryl MGlochlin shares her 5 favorite loop hikes.
I prefer “Loop” Hikes since they are more of a “one way” hike. I am able to travel much further and see more scenery along the way without having to retrace my steps back to the trailhead. An “Out and Back” Hike means I will eventually turn around and retrace my steps back to the trailhead.
There are more “out and back” hikes than “loop hikes” for an easy to moderate hiking ability in the Wasatch Mountains. For safety purposes, before leaving on an “Out and Back” hike, I set a time that I will turn around and head back to the trailhead. A loop hike, on the other hand, is a “one way” hike, which is why I need to be aware of how long and how difficult the “loop” is BEFORE I start.
FYI: ALL of Utah Ski Resorts have several summer hiking trails that connect to each other, allowing you to do some fun loop hikes. Request a map of the trails in their area. You will never be disappointed with the summer trails at any of our World Renowned Ski Resorts!
Big Water to Little Trail, Millcreek Canyon, SLC area
Drive to the top of Millcreek Canyon (access Millcreek Canyon from Wasatch Blvd and 3800 South). There are 3 choices of trails in this area (between upper and lower parking lots): Big Water, Little Water and Great Western. You can mix and match these trails any way you like since they all connect with each other, but I recommend starting on Big Water Trail, go to Dog Lake (approx. 2.5 miles) then come back on Little Water Trail. There are signs along the way to show you where to go. This is a beautiful, easy, shady hike through the forest. Total mileage for this route: approximately 4.5 miles.
NOTE: You can only access this top section of Millcreek Canyon from July – October. The gate closes during the rest of the year which makes this area perfect for biking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing since there are no cars to compete with on this 4 mile section of closed road.
Spruces to Jordan Pines, Big Cottonwood Canyon – SLC area
The mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon is located at Ft Union Blvd and Wasatch Blvd (approx 7200 So. and Wasatch Blvd). Drive approx. 12 miles up the canyon. Watch for a sign on the right that says, “Jordan Pines”, then drive 1/4 mile further and see “Spruces”. Get acquainted with these two popular picnic and camping areas, located 7000 feet above sea level. During the summer months at the Spruces, you’ll need to park along the canyon road and walk in unless you are camping. Follow any of the paved campsite roads until you get to the far right or west end of the campground. You’ll walk past several camp sites to get there. Look for a trail that is marked. This far west end of the Spruces has a little hill that divides it from Jordan Pines. This trail will take you up and over the hill, where you can look down into Jordan Pines Picnic area. As you start down the hill on the Jordan Pines side, stay to the left and look for a small trail sign that says “Spruces to Donut Falls Trail” and follow it. (You don’t need to go to Donut Falls, which is one mile further, in order to do this loop unless you want to.) After approx. 1 mile in the forest on this Spruces to Donut Falls Trail, you’ll pop out of the woods. On the right, there’s a bathroom, a small parking lot and a dirt road that takes you back down toward the canyon road. On the left, you’ll see the trail that continues up to Donut Falls. For the shorter loop, walk back down the dirt road for approx. 1/4 mile until you see the “Jordan Pines” sign on the right. Follow that road and trail back over to the Spruces. There are several little family-friendly “loop” trails between these 2 recreational areas. Have fun exploring and look for landmarks to let you know where you are. There are some private properties nearby, so be respectful and stay away from those areas.
Sweeny Switchbacks & South Sweeny, Park City Ski Resort area
Park in the upper parking area of the Park City Ski Resort. Instead of going to the resort, walk uphill on the paved road approx. 1/4 mile, to a dirt road that will connect you to the Sweeny Switchback trailhead. This is a beautiful loop hike in the forest above Park City! You can go right or left, then come down the other direction. For more details on this trail and 400 miles of other trails in the area, go to Cole Sport or Jan Sport at or near the Park City Ski Resort. Ask for the Hiking and Biking Trail Map of this area. I LOVE this map and use it a lot!! It’s well worth the $5 donation.
Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir, near Little Cottonwood Canyon
Most people who hike in Bell Canyon have one goal in mind – the Waterfalls, which can be a strenuous hike if you are not in shape. They completely miss another trail that is much easier to access and is extremely beautiful, especially in the early summer months when there is more water in the Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir. This is also a public fishery and a trail access into the Lone Peak Wilderness Area via the Bell Canyon Trail.
There are two trailheads that provide access to the Bell Canyon area. The easiest is on 9400 South. At the intersection of Wasatch Blvd and 9400 South, turn east as it turns into East Little Cottonwood Road and drive less than 1/4 mile. Watch for the parking lot on the right or south side of the road.
At the parking lot, take the main trail and follow it up to the reservoir, approx. 1 mile from the trailhead. As you look carefully at the reservoir, you’ll notice in some areas there is a single track trail that follows the reservoir all the way around water. As you look east, you can access this trail by following the dirt road up the hill for a little bit. Watch for a beautiful single track trail, off to the right, that leads you into the woods and will take you around the lake. It is a very beautiful, hidden, shady trail with a bridge over a creek at one point. Once you’ve hiked around the reservoir, get back on the same 1-mile trail that brought you up to the reservoir in the first place.
Sundance Ski Resort to Stewart Falls, Provo Canyon area, Utah County
One of my favorite loop hikes is taking the chair lift OR hiking up to Ray’s Summit at Sundance Ski Resort, then following the trail signs over and down to Stewart Falls. I think this trail is SO beautiful every step of the way! Once you have stopped to enjoy the stunning waterfalls, you’ll follow the trail sign back down to Sundance Ski Resort. This beautiful loop hike begins and ends at the Sundance Parking lot. There is a map on their website for this trail.