Sheryl McGlochlin points out her favorite secrets along the hiking trails.
• Stay on the trails
• There is safety in numbers
• Pay attention to weather conditions and dress in layers
• Wear good shoes with traction
• There is no cell phone reception in most canyons.
• Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return
What to bring:
• Water Bottle (1 – 2 liters)
• Snack i.e. Trail Mix, fruit
Now, on to the secrets…
1. Giant Granite Boulder Picnic
Hike: Located at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Unmarked trail – this is NOT the more popular Little Cottonwood Canyon Trail on the south side of the canyon road. Park on the EAST end, near the bathrooms, of the Little Cottonwood Canyon UTA Park n Ride parking lot on the north side of the canyon road. From the bathrooms, look northward to an unmarked trail. You’ll climb up a small boulder to get on the trail, then head east. This clearly marked trail zig-zags through the thick scrub oak. There are lots of little side trails in this area so pay attention to where you are going. Mountain climbers use these trails to get to the tall, 1000 ft. granite slabs of canyon walls. Stay together so you don’t get lost.
To find the Giant, granite boulder picnic area – You’ll come across several giant, hidden boulders sitting all by themselves among all of the thick scrub oak. The one I’m referring to is about one tenth of a mile from the parking lot. Keep your eyes open on the right side of the trail. The first fork you come to, stay to the right. The second fork you come to will head south, but continue going east. Keep looking for a very small detour on the left. When you find the giant boulder, climb up and you’ll be treated to incredible views from every direction!
Hiking level: Easy. This is the perfect, quick, little getaway hike for an entire family since it’s so close to the valley and the hidden giant rock is less than a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. If you have the time and energy, you should explore this whole area. Keep children with you since it can be like a big maze.
How to get there: From SLC, go south on I-15 to 9000 So. (Exit 295). Turn left onto 9000 So. (UT 209) and proceed east toward the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon for 7.2 miles. Along the way, UT 209 changes names from 9000 So. to 9400 So. and eventually becomes Little Cottonwood Road. At the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon UT 209 comes to a junction with UT 210. Look for the “hidden” UTA Park n Ride on the north side of the road near this junction. I emphasize, “hidden” since most people don’t readily see this Park n Ride area due to all of the thick scrub oak.
2. Big Deep Cave
Hike: Go to the Ledgemere Picnic area, a few miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon. There is plenty of parking located on the NORTH side of the canyon road. Don’t park on the south side unless you want to pay a fee. Cautiously walk across the street to the south side, to the picnic area. Start hunting for the cave after you walk across the bridge, over the creek, and on to the paved trail.
To find the cave follow the easy, paved trail WEST (or slightly downhill) to the very last picnic table (less than 1/10 of a mile). Most people who drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon have no clue that this cave is so close, since it’s hidden at the end of the picnic area. Once you get to the last picnic table, look around and you’ll see the cave nearby. NOTE of Caution: Do NOT scramble up the rocky mountainside. An elderly person or two year old could easily walk up to see the cave once you spot it.
About the cave: The inside of the cave is very wet and goes for a long ways. I’m not sure if this is a home for any animals, so beware. Bathrooms are located in the picnic area and are open during the summer season. Always watch children closely when you are near any of the canyon creeks. Ledgemere is a fee area IF you plan to stay and have a picnic. Take the time to walk through and explore the entire Ledgemere Picnic area in this canyon. The trail is paved all the way from one end of the picnic area to the other. Great for wheelchairs or strollers!
Hiking level: Easy. A fun, little getaway hike for the entire family since it’s so close to the valley.
How to get there: From Salt Lake City’s east side, take I-215 south to 6200 So (exit 6). At the off-ramp, turn east toward the mountains, and proceed south for 1.7 miles, as 6200 So. changes to Wasatch Blvd (UT 190). Turn left at the signal, (mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon), staying on UT 190, and continue up Big Cottonwood Canyon for 2 miles. Watch for a picnic area called “Ledgemere” on the right side of the road.
3. Hidden Pool
Hike: Suicide Rock is the large, graffiti covered rock at the mouth of Parleys Canyon. Plan to hike downhill first, then uphill on your way out. The first half-mile or so is paved (it’s a bike and foot trail), then when you see the dirt road, follow that as it drops down into the Suicide Rock green, lush oasis! Thousands of people drive past Suicide Rock every day on the east bench of Salt Lake City from either I-15 or I-215 but have never been up close and personal in this incredible, peaceful, quiet oasis surrounded by freeways up above. Teenagers have left their mark and garbage in some spots so turn this little adventure into a super easy service project by carrying a few garbage bags with you and packing out some trash when you leave. Make sure you walk around and explore many of the hidden treasures this special place has to offer. I recommend doing this hike in daylight hours as a group.
To find the hidden pool: On the south side of a chain link fenced area, follow the single-track trail EAST. You’ll step on rocks over the water and duck in some spots as you follow this trail. Keep your eyes open on the right side for a little detour that takes you to a beautiful, hidden, calm pool of cold water. Sit on the rocks and enjoy this incredible scenery! The trail continues heading east for a little further before it dead-ends.
Hiking level: Easy but more moderate than the cave or the giant boulder. Ride a bike or walk along the paved trail for the first portion of this trail. Stay on the right side of the trail since bikes may speed by you along this section of the trail. Once you descend into the Suicide Rock area, it’s a dirt road. This is great for the whole family. Stay together since there are several places to lose each other. It’s very close to the Salt Lake valley and has a lot of history. Look at the Historical marker along the paved trail and learn why it’s called Suicide Rock!
How to get there: At the intersection of 3300 South and Wasatch Blvd, turn EAST, then curve around to the north. Before heading north, notice the elementary school just east of you. This section of road is also Wasatch Blvd. This portion of the road has a tall, freeway, noise barrier wall so it’s easy to identify. Drive to the end of the road and park in the designated parking lot. Be aware of the “No Parking” signs along the neighborhood road.
4. Taste of Hawaii:
Hike: In a busy, outdoor recreational area like Mueller Park, with bikes, dogs, children, hikers, families, etc. on a Saturday morning, it’s amazing to discover a trail that has so much beauty that no one is on! That’s how I would describe Kenny Creek Trail. The reason is it’s a more difficult hike with 2.2 miles one way and 2200 feet elevation gain. Anytime you hike 1000 ft. per mile you’ll feel it. But you don’t have to go very far or do much climbing to get to our hidden treasure!
To find the Taste of Hawaii – Walk to the fee booth of Mueller Park. You don’t have to pay a fee if you are walking into the park, so park outside the fee area OR pay a fee and enter the first parking area on the right. You’ll find the trailhead across the street. If you parked outside the fee area, walk up the paved road for less than an eighth of a mile. On your left, watch for the hiking trail sign “Kenny Creek Trail”. Hike about one fourth of a mile to get to one of the best places on the trail – a taste of Hawaii! The thick green forest is dense, unpopulated, quiet and peaceful. Another reward will come in less than a mile from the trailhead – A breathtaking overlook with incredible views in every direction! A bird’s eye view of the canyon area, mountains to the south and to the west, the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island, and more! Also, look to the south and try to spot any of the hikers walking along the Mueller Park trail!
Hiking level: Easy for the first ¼ mile to the creek. The trail starts to climb and doesn’t let up much. If you continue to go further, make sure you wear long pants and a long shirt, regardless of the weather, since your legs and arms will get scratched up from the foliage. It is a very narrow, single-track trail but one of my favorites!
How to get there: From Salt Lake City, take I-15 north to 2600 South in Bountiful (Exit 315). At the off-ramp, turn right and go east on 2600 south. After a mile 2600 south curves to the left and becomes Orchard Drive. Continue north on Orchard Drive to 1800 South and turn right (1.7 miles from the I-15 exit). Continue east on 1800 south, which becomes Mueller Park Road, for 2.2miles to the Mueller Park entrance.
5. Giant Granite Walls (Scenery you’d find in Yosemite National Park)
Hike: Silver Lake, in American Fork, not to be confused with the popular Silver Lake near Brighton Ski Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon, is one of the prettiest and unpopulated hike in the Wasatch Mountains. On the way to our giant granite wall hidden treasure, expect plenty of other treasures like the spectacular views of the backside of Mt. Timpanogos, wildflowers, wild life, a partial shady trail, hidden waterfalls, and a beautiful alpine lake. All of this is just one hiking trail!
To find the Giant Granite Walls – In the parking lot, look for the bathrooms. On the right side of the bathrooms is the Silver Lake Trailhead. It’s a straightforward trail with no side trails. Get the most from this outing by keeping your eyes open for short detour trails taking you down to hidden waterfalls along the way. There are at least two of them. Silver Lake is 4.4 miles RT with 1.449 feet elevation gain. This is the hardest hike of the five I’ve featured. Take your time and bring plenty of water. When you get to the lake, look around and you’ll be in awe of the granite walls that look very similar to something you’d see in Yosemite National Park!
Hikng level: This is a moderate hike IF you go the distance to Silver Lake and the granite walls, however, there are plenty of scenic, hidden treasures found within the first mile of this trail. Find one of the prettiest waterfalls within a half-mile of the trailhead!
How to get there: From Salt Lake City, take I-15 south to Highland/Alpine (Exit 284). At the bottom of the off-ramp, turn left on UT 92 and continue east for 12.4 miles to the junction of UT 92 and UT 144 (FS 085). Turn left onto UT 144 toward Tibble Fork. Continue on UT 144 for 2.5 miles, to the east end of Tibble Fork Reservoir. Turn left onto the paved road going up to Granite Flat Campground. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Forest Service Road 008 toward Silver Lake Flat, immediately before entering the Granite Flat Campground. Continue on the dirt road for 3.2 miles to Silver Lake Flat, where you’ll find the trailhead parking lot on your left, at the north end of the lake. Caution: You can drive any type of vehicle you like UNTIL you get to the dirt road. At that point, make sure you are in a truck or SUV. The 3.2 miles of dirt road is NOT recommended for regular passenger cars.
Sheryl is an active outdoor enthusiast. You can find more information at www.liveandthrive.com