Tooele County residents are extremely fortunate to live only a short drive away from some of the most magnificent mountains in the world.
The Wasatch Mountains that rise above Salt Lake Valley make for one of the most picturesque backdrops of any city in the U.S. Their exposed lofty peaks rise from the valley floor at almost sheer angles in some places. Even now when the temperatures have been oppressive, their dark canyons and cleveites in high places harbor old snow slides that have been melted around the edges near the rocks into strange almost wavy shapes.
The true Rocky Mountain forests that exist upon the Wasatch are a welcome respite from the heat of the surrounding desert valleys. There are hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. One article can’t even begin to cover them all, but as the summer wears on, I thought it might be useful to share some of my favorite hikes in that range. From Tooele to many of the trailheads is about an hour’s drive away; hopefully many of you will look further into some of these ideas and enjoy the splendor of the mighty Wasatch.
Grandeur Peak: This hike is roughly three miles one way and is located in Millcreek Canyon. The trailhead begins at the Church Fork Campground several miles up the canyon on the left. Main attractions of this hike are that you reach the true summit of a prominent peak on the Wasatch Skyline that provides amazing views of downtown Salt Lake City to the north and the Mount Olympus Wilderness Area to the south. There is a rushing stream with several small waterfalls at the trailhead. Very good trail. Moderate difficulty. Dogs allowed.
Lake Mary Trail: This hike takes you past beautiful Lake Mary, which is an alpine lake set in a granite bowl below 10,452 foot Mount Millicent. The trailhead starts near the lift house at the Brighton Ski Resort at the head of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Distance to the lake from the parking lot is just over a mile. Main attractions are running streams, a waterfall at the Dog Lake Trail Junction, and Lake Mary itself, as it is a perfect place to have a picnic. Because this trail is so short, I consider it easy and good for kids. Watershed — No Dogs Allowed. Numerous other peaks and lakes can be reached from this start point as well.
Silver Lake Trail: This is more of a board walk than a trail. It provides extremely easy access for persons of all abilities around Silver Lake, which is located in a flat in a forest of aspen and fir below Mount Evergreen. It is quite possible for people to see a moose while visiting this lake. Excellent short outing with kids if you are looking for a picnic and to beat the heat. Silver Lake is located in the town of Brighton at the head of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Mount Olympus: This one is hard bought. The trail begins off of Wasatch Boulevard a short ways south of 4500 south. The steep railroad tie steps at the beginning are a forewarning of what is to come. While the trail is hard and steep, the views on top of this prominent rocky summit are incredible! I have encountered large white Mountain Goats on top of this peak as well. The trail is 4.2 miles one way and it is steep. This is a more difficult ascent for strong hikers.
Little Matterhorn: Views from the top of the 11,326 foot Little Matterhorn, or “Pfeifferhorn” as it is sometimes called, are some of the best you will find in the range. The trail begins at the White Pine Trailhead in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Get there early on summer days because the lot fills up fast and parking spaces are a finite commodity. About a mile along the trail to White Pine Lake, the Red Pine Trail will veer to the right and around the shoulder of a mountain into the Red Pine drainage. You will pass Red Pine Lake. From there the route continues through the forest, climbs up and over an enormous boulder field and reaches a ridge crest. From there you head west along the knife ridge to the summit cone, which is obvious. This is a difficult climb that will test strong hikers. The rewards are great however, so if you’re up for a challenge, do your homework and try the Little Matterhorn.
Sunset Peak: This is a simple and enjoyable 1.25 mile climb to the top of a 10,645 foot peak. The peak is pyramid shaped from some vantage points and when you arrive there you know you have accomplished something. The trail starts at the Catherine Pass Trailhead at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The town of Alta provides summertime shuttle service for hikers to this trailhead on the half hour from the lower parking lot. Difficulty is moderate due to some exposure and sandy spots. The birdseye view of Lake Catherine, Martha and Mary to the north is beautiful and worth the effort.
Cecret Lake: The lake is located in a glacial bowl in the shadow of 11,051 foot Sugarloaf Mountain. Interpretive panels and a short hike to a pretty lake make this an attractive destination. The distance to the lake is about one mile from the trailhead in Albion Basin at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Shuttle service to the trailhead is provided by the town of Alta in summertime.
Mount Baldy: There is an easy way and a hard way to climb 11,068 foot Mount Baldy above Snowbird/Alta Ski Resorts. The easy way is to take the Snowbird Tram to the summit of 11,000 foot Hidden Peak and then walk the ridge east to the saddle and then up to the summit. The hard way is to follow the Snowbird service road all the way up Peruvian Gulch to the aforementioned saddle and then east to the summit. I like the easy way because a tram ride at Snowbird is a memorable experience any time of year.
Stewart Falls: This is a good trail to a set of waterfalls that totals a drop of 200 feet. The trail starts at the Aspen Grove near Sundance Ski Resort on the backside of Mt. Timpanogos. Total trail length is 3.5 miles round trip.
Mount Timpanogos: This is the King Peak of the Wasatch Mountains — Mt. Nebo is higher but nothing is more impressive than the glacial cirques, perennial snow fields, ice cold streams, and wildflower gardens of 11,749 foot “Timp.” This is a long hike via any approach. You can reach the summit from the Aspen Grove Trailhead near Sundance or the Timpanookie Trailhead in American Fork Canyon. The Aspen Grove Trail is 8.5 miles one way to the summit and the Timpanookie is just a bit longer. You will never forget a hike up Timpanogos so if you have the stamina and determination, go knock it out!
As with everything in life, know before you go to any of these places. I have simply provided some destination ideas. If you want to visit any of these places, contact the Wasatch-Cache/Uintah National Forests for more information. Do your homework beforehand. Be prepared, have fun and enjoy some incredible mountain scenery as you beat the heat in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.