Salt Lake City's Most Fantastic Fall Hikes - Easy, Moderate and Challenging
Summers in Salt Lake City can be scorching, so it is often with great relief that skiers and snowboarders welcome fall, indulge in a few beer festivals and enjoy the fantastic foliage in and around the city. Better yet, the chill whispering in the air signifies the onset of ski and snowboarding season. What better way to commemorate the shifting seasons than a fall hike?
Here’s a breakdown of six easy, moderate, and hard fall hikes that are guaranteed to offer glimmers of crimson, vermilion, burgundy, russet, gamboge and amber.
Before you head out...
EASY FALL HIKES NEAR SALT LAKE CITY
SILVER LAKE LOOP
The Silver Lake Loop Trail is great for folks with accessibility needs, wheelchairs, strollers, or young children. This easy loop near Brighton is a fantastic place to spy the fall foliage and perhaps a moose or two in the serene waters. The trail is open year-round for hiking or cross-country skiing and covers approximately 0.9 miles, circling Silver Lake. If you’d like to add more mileage, you can tack on the trail up to Solitude Lake which climbs approximately 500 vertical feet in a mostly gentle fashion.
Trailhead: Silver Lake Visitor Center, Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon
Mileage: 0.9 mile loop with options to hike on to Twin Lakes or Solitude Lake
The sight of aspens reflecting in Willow Lake and a possible moose sighting or two makes the huff up to Willow Lake a fun outing. Just be sure to make a good amount of noise when hiking through the willows so you don’t frighten the aforementioned moose! Upon arrival at the lake, you’ll be able to catch great views of Solitude to the south. Though the trail does gain 600 feet of elevation and it is steep at first, the round trip mileage is short so it’s suitable for younger children. You can add another .7 miles by taking the loop trail around the lake.
Trailhead: Left side of the road in Big Cottonwood Canyon after passing Silver Fork Lodge. Drive 11.6 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon, there is no signage or off-highway parking. A stone monument marks the conservation area and the trailhead.
Mileage: 1.5 miles or 2.4 miles if the lake loop is added
MODERATE FALL HIKES NEAR SALT LAKE CITY
BELLS CANYON RESERVOIR & WATERFALLS
Begin with a moderate ½ mile climb and top out at the beautiful Bells Canyon Reservoir. This hanging alpine bowl carved by glaciation is stuffed with red and orange gambel oaks, golden aspens and evergreens. It's quite a show-stopping scene each autumn! You can easily earn satisfaction by simply hiking up to the reservoir and completing the loop trail around the water. Or you can continue on up the strenuous trail to a modest waterfall, though this portion of the trail is decidedly more challenging.
As this trail lies within the Wasatch watershed, dogs are not permitted. The trail is open year-round and makes for great trail running or snowshoeing. Look for mountain goats on the rocky scree slopes as you hike! The surrounding views of the Salt Lake Valley, Lone Peak Cirque and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west make this a jaw dropping sunset hike.
Trailhead: Bell Canyon Preservation Trailhead or Bell Canyon Granite Trailhead
Mileage: 2.5 RT to the reservoir, 4.6 Miles RT to the waterfall, out-and-back
Don’t miss the beguiling blue-green waters of Desolation Lake when framed by glimmering aspens in September and October. Begin climbing alongside a burbling stream and wind your way through aspen groves and meadows as gradual vert gain propels you up a handful of switchbacks. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on this trail and be sure to give moose a wide berth!
If you’re feeling winded you can opt for a shorter hike to Dog Lake when the trail splits about halfway up.
Trailhead: Mill D North Fork Trailhead, Big Cottonwood Canyon
Mileage: 7.5 miles RT, out-and-back
CHALLENGING FALL HIKES NEAR SALT LAKE CITY
Though a worthy amount of vertical is required, the views of Sundial Peak reflecting in the tranquil water of Lake Blanche should be motivation enough to tackle this trail. In addition to breathtaking fall colors, you’ll encounter interesting geology, stunning views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and plenty of lake action along this trail. Extend your hike a bit by linking up the singletrack that connects Lake Blanche to Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. This trail gains over 2,700 feet in elevation in three miles, so be prepared to sweat. Wear appropriate layers for cool fall weather and avoid cotton clothing if you can.
This trail lies within the Wasatch watershed, so swimming, campfires and dogs are not permitted.
Trailhead: Use the Mill B South parking lot in Big Cottonwood Canyon. You’ll often find this lot full on weekends so head up early or later if you can.
Mileage: 6.8 Miles RT
THE WASATCH CREST TRAIL
Beloved by hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners alike, the Wasatch Crest Trail is the crown jewel of the Wasatch. You can bag as many miles as you like—up to 23.4 miles in total—with stunning views along the entirety of the journey. Be prepared, as the elevation over 9,000 feet can be demanding!
Trailhead: It’s recommended to park at Guardsman Pass via Park City or Big Cottonwood Canyon in a designated parking area.
Mileage: The trail spans a distance of 23.4 miles, hike as far as you like and then turn around.
Saving the biggest beast for last! Mount Olympus is a worthy and quintessential hike for any self-respecting Wasatch rambler. With big city views, this gnarly trail climbs over 4,000 vertical feet in under 3.5 miles. If you’re keen to prepare for ski or snowboard season, this is nature’s ultimate Stairmaster!
Trailhead: Mount Olympus Trailhead is located along the east side of Wasatch Boulevard. From 4500 South, head south on Wasatch Boulevard for roughly 1.6 miles and look for a sign marking the parking area.
Mileage: 6.8 Miles RT
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