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Best Hikes Near Salt Lake City: 6 Awesome Trails Within an Hour of SLC

wide view of Salt Lake City, Utah during the daytime with bright green mountains and blue sky overheadMillcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah; (photo/Adrian Alba)
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Curious as to the best hikes near a classic Western capital city? We’ve rounded up the best hikes within an hour’s drive (or less) of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Utah is home to a plethora of hiking — like, tons. At first thought, I could probably rattle off 20 or 30 hikes throughout the states that I’ve enjoyed over the years. But, most of these hikes — many of your favorites, too — are probably centered in places like Arches, Bryce Canyon, or Canyonlands National Parks, or outdoor havens like Moab or Park City, Utah.

Instead, we are taking the path less traveled (ironically) by looking for the best hikes near the state’s capital. Salt Lake City is the most populous city in the state and home to a huge metropolitan area. Here, you can hit up everything from a large-scale convention to an urban city tour to history museums and, yes, hiking and camping.

Naturally, well, after a bit of sightseeing and brewery hopping, we immediately scoured the area for trails. Here are the best hikes in and near SLC. We’ve listed the hikes in order of mileage, and also helpful info like driving time, amenities, and more.

Best Hikes Near Salt Lake City

Hell Canyon Trailhead

Hike #1: Directly north of the city, and basically up a hillside where houses and buildings sit below, this is a great hike and viewpoint in the heart of SLC. Hell Canyon’s trails feature quite a few switchbacks as you climb uphill. While short, it’d be a great hike for families, trail runners, or those looking to see the best views of Salt Lake, especially right when the seasons are changing. (Also, sunsets!)

Hike #2: Look for the Ensign Peak hiking trail at Hell Canyon Trailhead if you want a longer hike and even more views. The Ensign Peak trail climbs all the way up — more gradually than the Hell Canyon hike — to the top of Ensign Peak at 5,417 feet. This trail is 5.8 miles.

Hike #3: Check out nearby Ensign Downs Park, too, for more of an urban hike vibe that features less elevation/climbing, and more nature viewing.

  • Miles from downtown SLC: 2.5 mi.
  • Driving time: ~10 min.
  • Trail mileage: 2.4-2.7 mi. out and back
  • Difficulty: easy/moderate
View from a slightly uphill sloping gravel trail, looking northwest
View from Rattlesnake Gulch trail, looking northwest; (photo/Jeremy Christensen)

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail 

Sitting in the shadow of 8,299-foot Grandeur Peak is this awesome SLC trail. Rattlesnake Gulch offers all the best aspects of other hikes in the eastern Salt Lake Valley area, wrapped into one. It’s a shorter distance but moderate terrain, and can quickly be linked up to several other trails to form a loop or longer endeavor.

It’s accessible year-round, offers great wildflower and wildlife viewing, and it’s dog-friendly. And Rattlesnake Gulch isn’t just for hiking — you can run or mountain bike this trail too.

Decide you are hardcore and want to summit the entire Grandeur Peak? You can get to the top from Rattlesnake Gulch, too. (Follow Rattlesnake Gulch Trail to the Pipeline Trail to Grandeur Peak East.) There’s a nice big paved parking lot at this trailhead, though no restroom (just head a few miles down the road to the Grandeur TH to find one).

  • Miles from downtown SLC: 12 mi.
  • Driving time: ~20 min.
  • Trail mileage: 3.4 mi. out and back or loop
  • Difficulty: moderate

Red Butte Canyon Trails

The Red Butte Canyon Hiking Area is an amazing and easily accessible outdoor destination that SLC has to offer. A few steps away from the University of Utah, Red Butte offers everything from garden paths, to short tourist overlooks, to challenging singletrack trails — plus steeper and rockier terrain and big summits for those who like a challenge. This is a well-developed area, with parking, water access, and restrooms nearby.

We recommend hiking the Mount Van Cott Trail via the Red Butte Canyon Trail Loop (these trails run together, and you can hike it clockwise or counterclockwise). The trail loop is steep, but rewarding in views.

Mount Van Cott sits at 6,300 feet, so the top portion of the hike can get windy. While at the top, be sure to check out views of the adjacent Red Butte Mountain to the south and the adjoining Twin Peaks to the north.

Plus, you can add on the quick, 1.4-mile jaunt up Red Butte Overlook while you’re in the area. In total, you’ll hike about 6 miles.

  • Miles from downtown SLC: 5 mi.
  • Driving time: ~18 min.
  • Trail mileage: 4.3-mi. loop, 6 mi. out and back
  • Difficulty: moderate
Red Butte creek forming a pond in fall with yellow and brown foliage and some snow
Scenery from Red Butte Creek near the University of Utah; (photo/Nature 2D)

City Creek Canyon Trailhead

This trail weaves through City Creek Canyon and follows City Creek the entire way — 6.5 miles. If you are craving a nice scenic creek walk — maybe with some wildflowers and waterfalls, close proximity to the city, and flexibility in mileage — SLC’s City Creek is for you. This is also an out and back, so you can make the hike however long you want — 3 miles, 4 miles, or the whole thing.

It’s one of the flatter trails on this list, so it’s also good for a big group or family hikes. As you get further into the canyon, you’ll start to get better views of various peaks in the Wasatch Mountains.

  • Miles from downtown SLC: 3 mi.
  • Driving time: ~10 min.
  • Trail mileage: 6.5 mi. out and back
  • Difficulty: moderate
a view of the very green wasatch mountains outside Salt Lake city, Utah
A view of the Wasatch mountains near the Twin Peaks Wilderness; (photo/Nick Oman)

Lake Blanche Trail

Lake Blanche is a moderate trail off Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. It’s home to a very scenic trail and has several options for waterfall and lake viewpoints. Climb up along a creek for a bit, and then over a few switchbacks (this trail gains and drops the whole way).

And another note, the amount of elevation puts this hike on the more difficult side. At the top, you’ll find Lake Blanche, along with her sister lakes Lillian and Florence.

This trail is also in the protected Twin Peaks wilderness area, meaning no dogs, and camping and backpacking are permitted.

  • Miles from downtown SLC: 20 mi.
  • Driving time: ~30 min.
  • Trail mileage: 6.8 mi. out and back
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult
view of Big Cottonwood Canyon in SLC Utah
Mountains in Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City; (photo/Mike Ver Sprill)

Mueller Park Trailhead

Hike #1: Located in Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the Elephant Rock Trail is a must-see if you are spending even just a few days in Salt Lake. The trail is a 6.8- to 7-mile out and back to the Big Rock, and this trail is open to hikers, dogs, and horses.

It’s also got a perfect mix of scenery: a creek, both tree coverage and open vistas, rocky overlooks, and some elevation but not too much. There’s a picnic area and restroom at the trailhead.

Hike #2: If you are a speed-hiker or trail runner looking for more of a challenge, Mueller Park offers the largest mileage hike on our favorites list. You can cover 19 miles hiking or running from the Elephant Rock trail to North Canyon in Mueller Park. It’s not an easy one, with the steepest sections topping out around 20% grades.

This trail option circles and tops out on several prominent peaks, and is also open to mountain biking. (Note: Because it’s also popular with mountain bikers, we recommend hiking on a weekday, or getting out early.)

  • Miles from downtown SLC: 14 mi.
  • Driving time: ~20 min.
  • Trail mileage: 7 mi. out and back, or 19 mi. point to point
  • Difficulty: moderate

Next time you are in Utah — we’re talking Salt Lake City and not Moab — be sure to save time for some of these great hikes.

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