The Cottonwoods

Paragliding with Braedin Butler, a Family Tradition

Some say they’re adrenaline junkies, and some say they’re idiots asking for death. To us, they are adventure seekers living the dream. We took a look into the niche world of paragliding through a firsthand account of the sport from Braedin Butler, an aerospace engineering student at Utah State University and avid paraglider. He says most people miss the point of paragliding.

“The first thought of people who aren’t too familiar with the sport is ‘Oh that’s so dangerous, you’re crazy,’ but it all comes back to the fact that it’s just as safe as you play it. Be smart about it. If you play it safe, it’s safe, just like driving a car.” On first glance, it may seem like reckless recreation but in reality it’s a way to soar with hawks, bond with friends and family, and experience a view unlike any other.

Butler got into the sport at 15 years old, after a three-generation family tradition of dads teaching their sons how to paraglide. He lives the adventure sport lifestyle skiing and mountain biking in the wasatch, but the sky is his favorite outdoor playground. He loves kiteboarding, kite skiing, and a unique sport called kite buggying that involves using a kite and a large trike getting up to speeds of 50 miles per hour on wide open spaces like the Salt Flats. To top it off, Butler is also a cross country track athlete at Utah State, but he says paragliding is probably his favorite of them all.

His favorite place to fly is a zone near Centerville, Utah by the Great Salt Lake. “Especially at sunset,” he says. “It’s the best time to fly.” There, he was enamored by the sport. “Paragliding is just beautiful; that’s the reason I love it so much. When you are in the air and everything is silent, you get a bird’s-eye view of everything and you just feel so free.”

“[I love] when you’re in the air next to another pilot flying … my dad and I would fly wingtip to wingtip, close enough to where we can just have a conversation with each other.” Of all the ways to bond with your dad, having a one-on-one conversation soaring a couple thousand feet in the air might take the cake. Some other favorite moments include birds circling around and sharing thermals (an upward current of warm air) with paragliders, flying up and gaining altitude together in the same pocket of hot air.

Butler hopes to use his aerospace engineering degree to contribute to the safety of the world of flying sports, especially paragliding. He will continue to fly for the rest of his life, following his grandpa’s lead.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photo and Video courtesy of Braedin Butler

 

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Guide to Discount Ski Tickets

Living along the Wasatch during the winter season can feel particularly incapacitating.The typically accessible trails are covered in a thick snowpack, requiring high levels of technicality, resources, and devotion. For most, the only recourse from the inversion and languid indoor blues is adrenaline-pumping immersion in Utah’s trademark “Greatest Snow on Earth” atop a pair of skis or snowboard. Unfortunately, the average student shredder can hardly afford to sustain themselves, let alone expend much-needed cash on absurdly expensive ski passes. Not to worry—we here at Wasatch care about your happiness and strained income, and this week we share with you some screamin’ deals to get you on the slopes without breaking the bank.

The Any-Day Discount Pass Approach—Discount Vouchers in the Valley

If you have the extra money and are compelled to go where you want, when you want, evade full price passes by visiting one of the many savvy outlets. On-campus folks in a rush can stop by the Student Union services desk and purchase tickets at a slight discount (really, only about $5).

Discount tickets can also be found at Lift House, Canyon Sports, REI, Salty Peaks, Sports Authority, Milo Sports, Sid’s Sports, Wasatch Ski Connection, Ski-N-See, Harmon’s grocery stores, Canyon Sports, and AJ Motion Sports.

Pro-tip: Passes tend to be significantly less expensive if bought in bulk—a good option if you intend to ski multiple times, though not enough to justify purchasing a season pass.

Or, if you prefer surfing for discount passes at home, check out these online resources:

  • Liftopia.com
  • Ksl.com
  • Groupon.com
  • Uofuonelove.com
  • freeskiersociety.com

As Good as it Gets: Specialty Promotions and Circumstantial Offers

Browsing many of the options listed above, you may think to yourself, “Wow! Lift tickets are still super expensive!” And you would be right! For those of us with more modest budgets, a couple of our local resorts offer specialty promotions that, if properly seized, can be an astoundingly inexpensive way to hit the slopes:

Powder Mountain:

  • College Days:  $27 – Every Wednesday and Thursday. Must present current student ID.
  • College Night: $15 – Every Thursday night, with student ID.
  • She Shreds Ladies Night: $15 for women every Wednesday night.
  • Family Night: 6 tickets for $65 every Tuesday night. (Your “family” can be brothers from other mothers, and sisters from other misters.)

Brighton:

Unfortunately, Brighton is pretty stringent with standard day passes, though they do offer several awesome deals for night skiing (usually $45 regular rate)!

  • Monday: Family Snow Evening – $99 for a family or group of 4 or less. Includes lift tickets and a 24″ pizza from the Alpine Rose.
  • Wednesday: Buy a combo meal at participating Arctic Circle Restaurants and receive a buy one get one free night skiing voucher.
  • Thursday: Snow Sports School Thursday Night Lessons; Get a two-hour lesson + a night lift ticket for $50.

Best of luck out there, savvy skiers.

D.rees@wasatchmag.com

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Best Hikes for In-Between Seasons

The end of February and beginning of March aren’t necessarily seasons. It’s a little too sunny and mushy for winter, but not warm or rainy enough for spring. For avid trail users or even casual walkers, this makes trails difficult to navigate. High elevation hikes are especially at risk for avalanches while lower trails are mucky and trapped in the inversion. Here are four of our favorite hikes to hit during this weird in-between time.

Spiral Jetty in February. Photo by Carolyn Webber

Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty is one of the easiest and most unique off-season hikes in Utah. If the weather is nice and the road is in good condition, this is more of a roadside attraction than an actual hike. The parking lot is a five minute walk from the jetty unless the road is impassable, in which case it’s up to three miles long. Water levels are low enough to reveal this man-made spiral of rocks, but, depending on temperatures, there might be a light dusting of snow. Get your mileage in by hiking on the oolitic sand to touch the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island

Another lakeside destination, Antelope Island, offers a different sort of barren beauty. In the summer, there is little protection from the baking sun and in the winter, no refuge from the ever pervasive cold wind. This means post-winter, pre-spring time is the Goldilocks of seasons on the island. Roaming around the island are herds of buffalo, and Antelope Island is one of the few places in Utah to see these impressive mammals in the wild. There is a $10 per day use fee for the area and a variety of crisscrossing trails you can hop on and explore.

Hiking up to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the winter. Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Donut Falls

One of the Cottonwood’s most famous hikes, Donut Falls is usually characterized by crowded trails and full parking lots. In the offseason, both disappear, making it the perfect time to visit. The falls themselves might be frozen, an interesting view alone, but temperatures could be warm enough to let some water sneak through.

Killyon Canyon

Killyon Canyon is the best destination when The Cottonwoods are closed or bumper to bumper from ski traffic. The hike is in Emigration Canyon, just a five-minute drive from campus. Unlike the Cottonwoods, dogs are allowed up Emigration, so bring your poop bags. This time of year, there’s almost definitely snow, possibly enough to snowshoe. The trail is about 5.5 miles round-trip and gains a little over 1,700 feet of elevation. As far as Wasatch hikes go, it’s mild, but still just as scenic.

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Winter Hike to Lake Blanche

On any given weekend, the road up Big Cottonwood Canyon is dominated by skiers and boarders headed to get their powder fix. More than a few cars will pull off to the side of the road on the first bend of the S turn, however. They are headed to a more secluded day in the Wasatch, and some are finding it at Lake Blanche.

Blanche is one of the most popular hikes in the canyon and strikingly beautiful, or so I’ve been told. Just a few weeks ago, I set out with my friend Claire to see how it holds up to the hype.

Our day was perfect- blue skies, warm (for February at least), and no fresh powder. Within fifteen minutes of closing our car door, we were approaching the split from the large, mildly graded main trail to the narrow, steep footpath leading up to the lake.

Since the heavily trafficked trail hadn’t seen much snow, the path was beaten solid for us and we ditched our snowshoes. The road was nearly full of cars, but we saw others only intermittently and never had to dance that awkward tango of maintaining the appropriate distance between parties.

The trail is more or less a straight shot back and up into the canyon. It maintains a medium grade for the majority of its three miles before steepening out near the top. We gained 2,700 feet of elevation along the way, but the serene atmosphere helped me forget the altitude. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and I fully expected to see Bambi run by us at any moment.

At least, until we hit the last quarter. To my great misfortune, I spied Sundial Peak, the mountain that borders the lake, poking just over the ridge in the background. I thought we were getting close, maybe five more minutes.

Forty minutes later we were still trekking. Up near the top, the sun crept over the far ridge and landed on the snow, softening it. Until this point, the hike had been in shadow, keeping the trail nice and firm. Now, every step was a roulette spin as to whether or not we’d end up crotch deep in snow. The hiking turned to trudging, but the view increased exponentially.

We persevered and soon were topping out and enjoying the flat ground. The lake is completely snowed over and could be hard to pick out if we didn’t already know where it was. Sundial stood proudly in the background, urging me to think of warmer weather and a time when I could return to climb it.

After the traditional end-of-hike Clif bar and pictures, we started the return trek to the car. On the way down, we saw the fresh tracks of the split boarders we had seen at the top, and we couldn’t help but be a little jealous. Still, by the time we were cozy back in the car, our consensus had become clear: Blanche was not an overrun, over-hyped trail. It was worth it.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Nick Halberg

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Find Your Pitch, Ice Climbing close to home

Climbers have three options in the winter: drive south, go indoors, or layer up and get on some ice. If you haven’t yet tried option number three, there is still time, the season isn’t over yet. Yes, attaching metal spikes to your feet and holding on by the tip of an ice axe can be a little intimidating, but there are few epic adventures more brag-worthy than standing atop a pillar of ice. Try it once, and you’ll be hooked.

Most people have their baptism by ice at Ouray Ice Park in Colorado: the perfect launch pad for an ice climbing career. The man-made ice is reliable and thick, while in the Wasatch, fluctuating weather patterns and avalanches make route finding a little more fickle.  For those sick of following a Candy Lane trail of colored, chalked-up holds in the gym, put your gloves on instead and try these ice climbing routes.

PROVO CANYON

After driving up this canyon, park at the Bridal Veils parking lot, and you will find another vehicle full of climbers. Accessibility and consistent ice make this place a little crowded, but there is a high concentration of climbs here. Access the famous Stairway to Heaven just off the trail, a multi-pitch climb that can reach up to 10 pitches during a good ice season. The first pitch, lovingly called The Apron because of its width, is easy to set up a top-rope on and do laps. There are a few bolts at the top, so you can hop between routes if you are in a bigger group.

If you keep walking up the trail before turning toward the Stairway area, you will come to the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls. While it rarely freezes, there are a few fantastic climbs to the right of it. Ice leading experience is required.

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON

You really can’t call yourself an ice climber and live in Utah without climbing the Great White Icicle. It’s a classic multi-pitch easily accessible off the freeway. The views get better and better at the end of each of the four pitches, but don’t get distracted and forget to watch for falling ice. Because of high traffic, you will get hit with ice, so always wear a helmet. Once you’ve done this classic, you might as well hike over to Scruffy Band, a collection of ice dripping off granite slabs. You can switch easily between routes of easy grades.

MAPLE CANYON

When avalanche dangers are high in the Wasatch, Maple Canyon is the perfect alternative. Around every winding cobblestone corner, ice pours into perfect climbing routes. There are several routes accessible off the Main Road, but Box Canyon and Left Fork also reveal hidden treasures. Tennis Shoe Slab is long but sustained, and the intimidating Dagger is just around the corner, suspended over an easy first pitch that has set chains. The Wet Itchies and Bowling Ball Head are a little more steep, but fun if you are ready to push yourself.

JOE’S VALLEY

This famous bouldering destination also has stellar ice in the winter months. The CCC and Donoricicle are both breathtaking pillars of thick ice that just taunt you to climb them. A top rope can easily be set up at the Donoricicle, but leading experience is necessary for the two pitches of the CCC. A plus here is the belayer isn’t stuck with a bad view, the frozen Joe’s Reservoir and surrounding mountainous landscape are visible below.

**If you are going ice climbing in Utah, purchase the detailed guide “Beehive Ice” by Nathan Smith and Andrew Burr. Also, check avalanche conditions prior to the climb and check equipment constantly throughout.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

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Carpool up the canyons

As bus riders grabbed their skis and stepped off toward the lifts last Friday, they were met with a pleasant surprise — a free beanie and a thumbs up from enthusiastic people heading the POW Day event. POW Day, which began last year through a partnership with Protect Our Winters (POW), Ski Utah, and local resorts Snowbird and Alta, was such a success that they decided to expand it this season to Powder Mountain and Sundance.

For the Cottonwood resorts, the day was representative of a bigger initiative taking place all season long. Snowbird’s new program, RIDE (Reducing Individual Driving for the Environment), incentivizes carpoolers and bus riders, said Hilary Arens, Snowbird’s Director of Water Resources and Environmental Programs.

Arens knows what all skiers want: “Time, money, and powder,” she said.

Those carpooling with three or more skiers or riders receive VIP parking close to the lifts by Entry 1 and Entry 2. Besides proximity to fresh tracks, they also receive a punch card that, after 10 times carpooling, they can redeem for a transferrable half-priced Snowbird day pass. Monthly, Snowbird will select twenty season pass holders who ride UTA to receive a half-priced day pass as well.

Carpoolers participating in RIDE also enter a raffle, in which eight people are selected for a once in a lifetime early-up ride on Gadzoom. One bus rider and one employee are chosen for this event too, which will take place a few times a season.

Snowbird teamed up with POW, Breathe Utah, Canyon Transportation, and UTA to design and launch the RIDE program and, soon, similar benefits will spring up at Alta, Brighton, and Solitude ski resorts. Snowbird worked with UTA to improve the frequency and reliability of their buses, and season passes double as a UTA pass. This is a cost Snowbird incurs, said Brian Brown, director of marketing for Snowbird, but any extra incentive to reduce traffic in the canyon is worth it.

“We believe we can make a difference, even if it’s a small one,” he said. “I am 100 percent confident that over time, this program is going to pay off and we are going to have less people driving up the canyons.”

At POW Day, that difference was calculated at a reduction of 24,197 lbs of CO2 for the four participating resorts, according to Paul Marshall, spokesperson for Ski Utah.

“With a tree absorbing an average of 48 lbs of CO2 annually, POW Day saved as much CO2 as 184,000 trees would absorb in one day. With a healthy forest density of 75 trees per acre, this is equivalent to 2,455 acres of trees, or all of Snowbird,” Marshall said.

This was the first year Ski Utah tracked results, which they did thanks to people registering via the SNOCRU app, and they hope to increase those numbers each year. But, there’s no need to wait for next POW Day to make a difference; each time riders carpool to Snowbird with three or more people, they are keeping 40 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

“There is a carbon fee to come ski. To come up these canyons, to run the chairlifts and the buses,” Arens said. “So, the best thing that we ask of our employees and guests is to offset that by coming up together and reducing Snowbird’s carbon footprint.”

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Chris Segal

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Grandeur Peak: A Grand Adventure Year-Round

Winter in the Wasatch brings crisp mornings glinting from a fresh layer of frost. It’s dark and sunless until close to 8 a.m., making the brisk air sharp in your lungs without the tempering warmth of the sun. If you are anything like me, your summer is filled with hiking, biking, and climbing. Then, at sign of first snow you immediately retreat into hibernation mode. Mornings and weekends once filled with adventure are now spent indoors binge watching Netflix and eating an assortment of Holiday-themed comfort foods. However, winter hiking is a great way to get through the winter blues and has many perks that summer hiking doesn’t provide: no bugs, no crowds, and no smog. Grandeur Peak is the ideal snowshoe or hike if you like a challenging trail with spectacular views of the valley and neighboring mountain ranges, without the near death experience. While this trail isn’t the most difficult or treacherous, it’s still no walk in the park. With an elevation gain of roughly 2,600 feet and approximately five miles round trip, the hike finishes at 8,299 feet.

There are two ways to approach this hike: from the steeper west face, accessed from Wasatch Boulevard at about 2900 South on Cascade Way via Frontage Road, or from Mill Creek Canyon beginning at the Church Fork picnic area via 3800 South in East Mill Creek. There is a small toll fee of $3 if you are entering Mill Creek Canyon, so keep this in mind.

The west face hikes begin just out of the parking lot. Walk up the dirt road and take the first right fork. This trail is a little less marked than the Church Fork trail, but the rule of thumb is “just stay right”. The trail begins on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and (depending on snow levels) is a bit icy and rocky for the first mile. Wear waterproof hiking boots and bring trekking poles. You’ll spot scrub oak, sage brush, snow, more snow and a deer or two. Grandeur Peak is a dog-friendly trail, so feel free to bring your four-legged friend with you. You’ll indefinitely meet a few other furry friends along the way.

About a mile in, the trail gets significantly steeper. If you are snowshoeing, wear rolling or mountain terrain snowshoes. These have larger decks and more traction, which makes them better suited for icy, steep terrain and deep powdery snow. About two miles in, the mountain becomes a true winter wonderland. Nothing but bright white, glistening snow for miles around. From the false summit, look down at a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley. It’s tempting to stop here, but don’t. The trail becomes very steep and one final quarter-mile push gets you to its peak. Here you can stop, pat yourself on the back and have lunch while taking in 360 degree views of surrounding peaks, such as the majestic Mount Olympus to the south. To descend, simply follow the trail back down the way you came. Remember to bring plenty of water and don’t forget your thermos.

a.winter@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Alaynia Winter

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Get ready for POW Day

If you’ve ever skied or boarded Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon on a Saturday, you know the frustration of the Disneyland-esque lines up to the resorts: Never-ending, and sometimes longer than the actual time spent having fun.
Protect Our Winters (POW) and Ski Utah have come up with a solution that they call POW Day. On Friday, Jan. 13 (the snowiest day in Utah according to 50 years of data) anyone carpooling with three or more skiers/riders per vehicle or anyone riding a UTA bus to the resort will be rewarded. They can expect priority parking, POW Day beanies from Discrete, and an opportunity to ski or snowboard with a POW athlete such as Caroline Gleich, Forrest Shearer and Brody Leven. The event will take place at Alta, Snowbird, Powder Mountain, and Sundance beginning at 8 a.m. The POW Tent, at the base of each participating ski area, will give out raffle tickets and check in carpoolers and UTA riders. From 2:30 to 4 p.m., there will be a party with giveaways, DJs, and speeches about climate change.
Paul Marshall, spokesperson for Ski Utah, said this event which began last year was created to address problems such as congestion in the canyons and inversion from carbon emissions.
“We’re trying to increase tourism but also protect this pristine product that we have,” he said. “We think taking these kind of steps and helping change habits by incentivizing people will help change their habits for the future.”
Plus, POW and Ski Utah want everyone to know how easy it is to use public transportation, considering everyone with a season pass in the Cottonwoods also has a free UTA pass. UTA has improved their bus service this year, meaning all day service to resorts from Powder Mountain to Sundance.
Also this year, POW Day teamed up with SNOCRU, a snowsports app that connects you to your friends while on the mountain. At the check-in tent, Ski Utah will help check people into the app to see just how many carbon emissions they will have reduced that day.
“This will give us a true number and something we can build off for years to come,” Marshall said.
While they did not track everyone who participated last year, Marshall said all 500 beanies were distributed, and they have doubled that amount this year.

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Ski Utah

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winter cooking in the backcountry

You have just finished a seemingly endless day of snowshoeing up to Lake Blanche. You are cold, exhausted, and starving, but it is 5 p.m. already and the sun has just a few rays left peeking over the far side of the valley. What you need is a warm, big bowl of something delicious to spur your camp set-up; but nothing sounds more unappealing than cooking a traditional meal while your hands slowly turn to icicles. Luckily, your friend has come prepared with retort meals to save your stomach (and hands).

Retort is a method of cooking where all food is prepped at home and put in bags to reheat in boiling water. It is by far the easiest and most efficient way of getting a meal out of your backpack and into your mouth. Although fairly simple, here are a few tips to make the process even smoother.

  • The looser the meal, the faster the reheat time. This means soups, chili, sauces, and broths are ideal.
  • Cut up large chunks of food. Big pieces of meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc. take a longer time to reheat. Cutting them down can shave minutes off your cook time.
  • The more surface area the meal has, the faster the cooking time as well. Squishing the food down into a flat pancake will heat more food and will ensure that terrible cold center disaster does not happen.
  • Always double bag foods when transporting. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, is more unpleasant than finding frozen chili strewn throughout your gear six miles into the backcountry.
  • Get a stove that can hold a large pot. Nobody wants to have to cook one meal at a time, and even less people want to be the last person to eat. Also, don’t let the bags touch the sides of the pot. This is sure to melt them.
  • Plan and prep at home. Spending an hour in the warmth of your kitchen cooking and bagging a meal means spending fifteen or twenty minutes in the cold snow before you can eat it.
  • Not every part of your meal has to be reheated. Bring a bag of Fritos, some cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. Add warmed taco meat and you have yourself a nice bag of walking tacos.
  • Use Ziplock or Glad freezer bags. Both these brands don’t use BPA in their products and the freezer bag will hold together better in the boiling water.

From here, the possibilities really are endless. I have seen people reheat whole steaks they grilled at their house, bring all the components of a real ramen out and add the hot broth, even soft boil eggs. Since you are camping in cold temperatures, you need not worry about food spoiling. Bring the milk, meat, and cheese! Be liberated by having a way to cook good food in the beauty of snow-covered mountains. If all else on your trip hits the fan, at least you’ll remember the curry you had sitting next to frozen Lake Blanche.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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How to: Hike With Your Pup in the Wasatch

If you enjoy immersing yourself in nature, odds are your dog does too. With four points of contact to the rocky soil and an instinctual connection to all things outside, your dog is a much more effective hiking buddy than you may think. This week, we share with you some helpful guidelines for experiencing nature with your pup safely and responsibly, as well as some opportune, and prohibited, places to embark.

Pack for Two: Dogs exert a great deal of energy while climbing a mountain, and they need plenty of food and water in compensation. Pack double water and enough treats for a subsequent snacks — especially on longer hikes. Rather than relying on your cupped hands or the tiny lid of a water bottle, bring a drinking bowl, ideally a durable one that won’t break in your pack or against a rock.

Be Conscious of Location: While the four-legged form is exceptionally well-equipped for steep and rocky terrain, it’s best to avoid anything too technical, lest you overwhelm or potentially endanger your furry companion. Smaller peaks and regular trails are fine, just avoid anything with serious scrambling or exposure. Many places are explicitly prohibited to dogs- more on that below.

Be Respectful: Be respectful and conscious when in the alpine. Regardless of how warm, kind, and obedient you think your doggy is, bring along a leash in any circumstances, one never knows how their dog will react to certain stimuli and personalities in nature. Bring along a few baggies to collect your dog’s sporatic waste. Yes, it’s gross, but you should carry a larger bag for trash anyway — you won’t even notice a bit of extra, contained cargo.

Also — and this one is important — be sure that your furry friend is in good health and up to the task. Last summer I had to carry Rosco (the smiling border collie above) down two plus miles of hiking trail on the account of an injured dewclaw that I had thought wouldn’t be a problem that day.

Where to Go: A Few of My Favorites and Permitted Areas
Grandeur Peak and Mount Wire are very close to campus and great for both humans and dogs — really, most trails along the foothills, smaller mountains, and Bonneville Shoreline Trail are exceptional.
Neff’s Canyon
East Canyon
Mount Olympus Trail — a bit of technical scrambling after saddle though virtually no exposure.
Mill creek Canyon — a multitude of great dog hikes, off-leash permitted on odd days.

Permanent Prohibitions: No Dogs Allowed, Watershed Areas
Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons
Parleys, Dell, and Lambs Canyons
I strongly recommend not marching your dog up any of the Wasatch’s 11,000ers, even those outside of watershed areas.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Dalton Rees

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