Though hiking in the Wasatch Range is primarily a fair weather activity, strapping on a pair of snowshoes makes it viable year-round.
There are some packed-down trails and roads that are conducive to a winter walk without snowshoes strapped to your feet, but if you want to venture off into the trees, you’ll want a pair. If you’ve never been out on the trail with a pair of snowshoes, there are plenty of relaxing and low-key spots scattered around the Wasatch Front that you can start out with.
The sport is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors in the winter, stretch your legs, and find some solitude. Stop by Outdoor Recreation to rent a pair of snowshoes for the weekend and try out the following four trails (each fairly close to Salt Lake City) that offer great hiking potential (while avoiding the ski and snowboard crowds).
1. Killyon Canyon
If you have a dog, or like to stalk them because you can’t have one of your own, then you should take a hike in Killyon Canyon. The canyon is easily accessible, about a 25-minute drive from Salt Lake City. The trailhead is five miles up Emigration Canyon and another mile once you’ve turned off the main road through a residential area. The trail is best for snowshoeing after a fresh snow, as it tends to draw dogs and people that pack down the powder. The trail is great for a moderate stroll as it is easy to follow, winding along a creek, and you can walk as far as you want before turning around. Plus it’s fun to watch your dog trek through the deep snow while you stay on top in your snowshoes.
2. Emigration Canyon Ridgeline Trail
This trail is accessible via Parley’s Canyon or Emigration Canyon. Either way, it is conveniently located about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City. The area is popular for hiking in the dry months and for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter months. This trail is moderate and features sections of up and down terrain. It is an out-and-back trail, so you can go as far as you want before turning around. It’s a 9.3 mile hike all the way, so if you are really feeling ambitious, you can choose to make an expedition of it. This is another trail that is great after a fresh snow as it can get packed down over time. There are great panoramic views of East Canyon and Emigration Canyon along the ridgeline. There are no dogs allowed on this trail because it is in a watershed area, so leave Fido at home and bring a couple human friends instead.
3. Millcreek Canyon — Desolation Trail
This is one of the most popular snowshoe destinations due to its close proximity to Salt Lake City. Millcreek Canyon is an easy 20-minute drive from campus and features multiple trails that are accessible year-round. One of the best spots in the canyon for some snowshoeing is Desolation Trail. This trail is located 2.5 miles up the canyon road, making it quick and easy to get up, park, and head to the trail. Some of the more frequently walked portions of the trail may be packed down enough for walking without snowshoes, but there are plenty of deep places among the trees to wander off and trek around. The trail climbs in a series of switchbacks before reaching the Salt Lake Overlook; however, if you just want to snowshoe around and breathe in the winter air, you can stay below the main trail and walk toward Thayne Canyon, which leads to some deep snow and more remote spots to enjoy the wintry peace and quiet. Keep in mind that there’s a $3-per-vehicle fee on the way out of Millcreek Canyon.
4. Mormon Trail (AKA Pony Express Trail or California Trail)
If you are looking for something close by with plenty of flat terrain, then the Mormon Flats Trail is a great snowshoe destination. The best way to access the trail is by driving five miles up Parley’s Canyon before taking the East Canyon exit. Then you need to drive three more miles to Little Dell Reservoir. The trail is actually more than 100 miles in total, but this section gives you access to nine miles of easy-to-moderate terrain, which can be tailored to whatever distance you desire. This trail offers open views and a less crowded environment for your snowshoe adventure.