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.
Photos by Alaynia Winter