My Favorite Hikes

Golden Mountains

Sawtooths

I love to hike.  When I say, ‘love’, I mean, it is my joy, my peace, my meditation, my renewal.  Well, not so much the hiking itself, rather the struggle to get to the top and then finally, arriving at the destination.  The beautiful, wonderous destination full of magical scents of pine and earth and water that when breathed in deeply ease the care of all things worldly.

It’s my dad’s fault really.  Growing up, my mom at his suggestion, would announce we were going fishing.  What she really meant was that we, all seven of us, along with a big fur-ball dog, were going to cram into a hot, faded blue, vinyle-upholstered station wagon and drive and drive until my dad, sensing that ‘this was the place’ would pull over and finally release us from the un-air conditioned pressure cooker.  

And although it sounds unpleasant, it wasn’t.  Once we got there, it was exciting.  There was always so much to explore.  Along with the random weekend excursions: once a year, a quick two weeks during the summer, after my dad bought the Prowler, (a third wheel camper), we would join up with his best friend and family members, and live off the grid, hiking, swimming and fishing.  My dad was so proud of that camper. I think it made him feel like he was living the high life in a land of  perfect solitude.

I can’t remember which trip it was that I first felt that release, that point when all the cares of my small world would fly out the window while speeding down the highway at 55 miles per hour. I just remember always feeling like there was no better place to be than in the mountains.

It’s a feeling that’s never left. I try to enjoy the ocean, the desert, but the joy isn’t there like it is in the mountains. And now I find myself living in a new place with much more grand and inspiring mountains then even before: this wonderful place, this land of purple mountains majesty accessible only 15 minutes away with two main canyons (and many more smaller ones) leading to three different ski resorts… but no Prowler.  So I do what I can to revel in it: I hike.

Sunset just outside my office.

Sunset just outside my office.

My favorite hike is Lower Bell Canyon.  Bell Canyon is located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, which will take you up to the Alta ski resort and Snowbird ski resort.  The trip up the canyon is jaw droppingly beautiful with many trails to hike along the way.  In fact, you don’t even need to know where any trails are, just drive up the canyon and when you see a car or two parked along the road, your bound to find either great rock climbing opportunities or a beautiful hiking trail.

Lower Bell Canyon

Lower Bell Canyon

But my favorite hike, Lower Bell Canyon, isn’t up the canyon.  It’s actually at the entrance or mouth of the canyon. It’s my favorite because it’s a 25 minute hike and much of it is in shade, so it’s pleasant even in the heat of afternoon.  Although it is only a 25 minute hike, it is still challenging, with beautiful vistas all the way to the other side of the valley.  From the top of the hike, you can get a clear view of Kennecott on the horizon.

I spotted an Elk casually grazing while walking up to the lake once,  and upon my arrival,  was verbally accosted by a chipmunk who was not shy about insulting me for not providing him sustenance.

On the way up to Bell Canyon

On the way up to Bell Canyon.

Hiking in Salt Lake is something everyone does.  So where ever you go, there are always, and I do mean always, others who are hiking the same trail.  Because of that, you might expect the trails to look worn, littered and unkept.  Surprisingly, it is a rarity that you will find anything of the sort. Thanks to everyones’ mindfullness, the trails look pristine and the destinations always feel as though you have just discovered a hidden wonder.  Below is just one example.  Evening end of hikeSidenote: Pets are not allowed on this hike and most others along either canyon.  Neither is swimming or fishing, (catch and release only) as most of these waters are what feed into our drinking water.

I joined a hiking group once I arrived here.  Plenty of singles of all ages who like to keep active. Plenty of singles who have their own favorite trail and will eagerly lead the group once a week.

Speaking of pristine, to the point of magical, where thoughts of woodland fairies and nymphs might reside, below is another favorite hike.  It too is short, only a mile and a half, but it is unrelentingly steep and the birch never open up to other sites until you come to this:Short but steep hike up Big Cottonwood Canyon

and this:Moose at Big Cottonwood Canyon

The white spots to the left in the picture are some of those singles who thought it would be cool to see how close they could get to the moose.  I should title this picture, “Who’s calling Lifeflight?”

The picture below is just above the ski resort, Alta.  A bit higher altitude then where we’ve been before. But because of the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, the wildflowers of Indian Paint Brush, Balsamroot, clover-longstock, Lupine and Larkspur and many more are abundant here and carpet the area in beautiful mutli-hues of blooms.

Many photographers make this their ‘go to’ destination for a day of bliss.  And many newly engaged couples find this a perfect spot for their wedding announcement picture.  In fact, most evenings, should you be hiking along this trail, you may spot a couple in full wedding garment, posing.

There are many  hikes around this area.  They are pleasant, but challenging and with the highter altitude, more options are available for spotting deer, elk, moose and bear.  Also, with the highter altitude, the weather is cooler, in fact, can be quite cold: down to the 50’s once the sun goes down.

. Hiking at Alpine

My final favorite hike is a beautiful hike discovered on a right turn into a quiet neighborhood just before entering MillCreek canyon off of Wasatch Boulevard.  Neff Canyon.  Home of the deepest cave in the U.S.  Although gated and locked due to it being so hard to get to by rescuers, as well as its narrowness, which makes the very act of rescuing even more difficult.  Too many occurances, too many deaths, so they locked it up.  You can, however, explore it with special permission from the forest service, so I’m told…  Entrance to Neff Canyon

Fall colors at Neff Canyon

Fall colors at Neff Canyon

This is one of those hikes you can choose it’s length.  But it is a bit confusing at the beginning because there are so many trails going this way and that.  You’re never sure if you’re on the right one.  Actually most all of the trails wind, but lead you to the same place which is here:

Swinging at Neff Canyon

Swinging at Neff Canyon

It is a open area underneath a canopy of trees.  A common area, where the neighbors hike to, for a quick evening stroll and then head home.  But that’s the neighbors, not serious hikers.  For the hikers, the trail continues on to the left.  There is another trail that appears more solid, more like an actual hike.  It’s to the right.  It goes up and up, becoming steeper and steeper and then quite suddenly stops.  Its a ruse. Don’t be fooled.

The real trail, as I mentioned earlier, goes on to the left.  But again, there are two trails that go on to the left (facing the swing) and there is a stream that divides them. The stream is just behind the person taking the picture above.   If you follow the trail on the far side of the stream, the picture below is what you will eventually come to. Although the hike is pleasant,  shaded, cool but mostly level and so not really too challenging, this is where it ends.

Bouldering at Neff CanyonNeff Canyon - Bouldering

So stay to the right of the stream and you will find yourself coming up out of the wonderful, soothing shade and into the hot, melting sun, where the trail runs on forever and ever, or so it seems, as the hike to the beautiful meadow is 5.5 miles.  During this trip, my  friend and I had only prepared ourselves for a leisurely, afternoon sunday hike so didn’t make it more than 100 yards out into that unrelenting sun before turning around, declaring that there was no shame in being a ‘neighbor hiker’.