If you’re like me, you may have been a husky dog or a snow leopard in a past life, and your heat tolerance is middling at best. I struggle to exercise in the summer because my constitution doesn’t tolerate temperatures above the 85-degree range. The only solution is to head out early or opt for cooler activities. I’m not an early riser, so my only respite lies in paddleboarding or seeking out shady trails or high elevations for hiking or biking. Here are a few paths you might try for cooler and more comfortable hiking during summer in Northern Utah. These trails offer shade, and some include running water and a waterfall.
A Few Quick Reminders About Trail Etiquette
Thanks to the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic and more flexible working schedules, more people than ever are heading out to enjoy our abundant local recreation opportunities. For this reason, it is more important than ever to adopt a community-minded attitude and respect the guidelines for responsible trail usage. Here are a few critical points, but you can brush up on all the details in our Mountain Manners article.
Wheeler Creek to Ice Box Canyon
The Wheeler Creek Trail winds through a deep canyon that offers tall cliffs and a meandering stream near Huntsville, Utah. Dogs may use this trail but should be kept on a leash, and dog poop needs to be packed and carried out. This trail may be used by hikers, bikers or horses. Expect to see groves of scrub oak, marshes, meadows, wildflowers and birds. The suggested route for this loop trail is in the clockwise direction to lessen exertion. Though there are some open areas along this trail, the proximity to the river will help to keep hikers or bikers cool. Expect to enjoy stunning views of Snowbasin Resort.
A moderate hike located near Kaysville Utah, the Adams Canyon hike encompasses approximately four miles of out-and-back trail featuring a dramatic waterfall. Dogs are permitted on this trail in the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest. Because it is both shady and accessible, this trail can become crowded, so it’s recommended to avoid weekends and early evening hours.
The trail will kick off with some steeps and switchbacks before offering shady cover and moderate hiking until a bit of rock scrambling is required to reach the waterfall, which is worth the hike. Approximately 60-70% of the trail is protected by shade. Note that the first part of the trail contains sand, which can be tiresome for small legs to navigate.
Salt Lake Valley
Heughs Canyon Trail
Located between Mount Olympus and Big Cottonwood, the Heughs Canyon Trail is a little less crowded than many of the other trails along the city’s foothills. Though steep, it’s a far cry from the heart-thumping incline of the neighboring Mount Olympus trail, and Heughs Canyon offers a great deal more protection from the searing heat.
Hidden Valley Trail
This short, paved and dog-friendly hike offers a good amount of shade and is also quite enjoyable for savoring fall foliage as a circuit around Hidden Valley Park or used as a way to access the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. The Hidden Valley trailhead can be found at Hidden Valley Park in Draper. Though there is exposure to start out, the trail will wind through trees along the foothills. There are many options for trail users to extend their hike or link up to adjacent paths. Be sure to consult trail maps for the area in order to orient yourself. Note that the upper trail has far less shade, but the open areas are ideal for enjoying sunsets across the valley in cooler weather.
This trail is appropriate for young children who will enjoy the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge that sits over a small waterfall that runs in the early summer months. Do keep an eye out for rattlesnakes around dawn or dusk!
American Fork Canyon
Island Meadow Trail
Escape the torrid heat by venturing up American Fork Canyon for a short hike on the Island Meadow Trail. You can expect shady spells and temps 10-20 degrees cooler than the scorching city nearby. Lengthen your hike by beginning at the Timpanooke Trailhead and using the Salamander Flat trail to enjoy the aspen and conifer stands. Cross a small bridge and make a left up the hill. This trail is often studded with a profusion of wildflowers, so be sure to consult our wildflower identification guide before heading out. The signage on this trail network isn’t great, so be sure to consult a map first. Note that there is a $6 day use fee to use the parking area and trailhead.
This moderately easy out-and-back hike involves some elevation gain with excellent scenery, especially in the autumn months. The trailhead is near Sundance Mountain Resort adjacent to the Aspen Grove Family Campground. This trail can become crowded on weekends, so head up early if you’re keen to hike on Saturday or Sunday. The trail will begin with a short section of steeps before mellowing out onto a gentle path shaded by aspens that give way to Stewart Falls. Small meadows will provide tempting glimpses of Mount Timpanogos and Sundance Mountain Resort. Dogs are permitted on this trail.
Note that this trail does contain a few rockier sections and can be narrow in places. Be sure to brush up on trail etiquette and understand who has the right of way by referencing this article. A $6.00 day use pass is required to park and enjoy this trail.
The coolest temperatures can be enjoyed at the base of Stewart Falls. In the olden days, many hikers would climb up and ski the snowfields on the flanks of Timpanogos! You can read more Sundance history here. The dramatic falls cascade over 200 feet in two tiers down the limestone face. Afterwards you can stop for a snack or lollipop at the Sundance Deli or a refreshing beverage in the Sundance Owl Bar.
This 4.2 mile hike gradually gains elevation through pine and aspen forests, providing plenty of shade. The hike is rated moderate and features about 750 feet of elevation gain before terminating at the intersection of the Olympic Trail, Mid-Mountain and Ambush trails. Dogs are permitted on this trail, though they must be leashed, and there is no running water. Note that bikes frequently use this trail, so keep your head on a swivel. In early summer the wildflowers along this trail are breathtaking, and the forest cover opens up to offer fantastic views of Park City Mountain.
This trail is near the Utah Olympic Park. From Highway 224 drive 1.4 miles along Bear Hollow Drive looking for a trail kiosk with a map and trash/recycling receptacles. Dogs are permitted, but please do not leave poop bags along the trail for unsuspecting bikers to squash as they grind this portion of trail that permits 'uphill only' bike traffic.
Good Mountain Manners - Trail Ethics Guide - Click Here
Salt Lake City Day Trips - Click Here
Wildflower Guide - 10 Wasatch Wildflowers - Click Here
Wildflower Walks & Hikes - Click Here
Best Spring Mountain Bike Trails - Click Here