Salt Lake City is a big city with the best, yes I said best, access to the Rocky Mountains of any of the major cities in the Western United States. As such there are a lot of fun hikes with kids around Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake is surrounded by mountains – the Wasatch Front is to the east, the Oquirrhs to the west, and to the north and south are small ridges that come down from the main part of the Wasatch. All of these mountains have trails that are fun to explore. Some of them are along creeks and others head to a lake.
Here are some of my favorite hikes to go on with the kids (although I have to say I was never allowed to go on one of them, Cecret Lake, since dogs are not allowed in Little Cottonwood Canyon! From what I heard though it was a really fun hike). I am listing them from North to South.
Antelope Island – this island in the Great Salt Lake is a state park. It is about a 45 minute drive from SLC, and is fun to explore with your kids with a variety of trails. This island is fun for a very different experience than hiking the mountains of the Wasatch Front. On all of these hikes you may see Bison, coyotes, or antelope, which all roam around the island. The island also has great views. If you and your kids are feeling strong you can hike to the highest spot on the island, Frary Peak, which is a 6.4 mile roundtrip hike. The trail passes by some boulders to climb on and has amazing views over the lake and of the Wasatch Front. Shorter hikes include Ladyfinger Point Trail, Buffalo Point Trail or the Lakeside Trail, which range in length from 1/4 mile to just under 3 miles. Here is a nice map of the trails on the island.
Ensign Peak – This peak is located up a short trail and overlooks downtown Salt Lake City, and has fantastic views of the entire valley. The trail itself is less than one mile long, but it is steep as it climbs up to the peak. A historic marker is located at the top with a small fence surrounding the view point. The hardest part about this trail is finding the trail head, which is located in a residential area just above the Capitol. People with more energy can continue on the trail as it follows the ridge farther up. Here is a link to directions to the trailhead.
City Creek Canyon – City Creek Canyon begins at downtown Salt Lake City and cuts up north-east into the foothills from there. There are some fun trails to explore in the cooler months of fall and spring in the foothills above City Creek Canyon. In the middle of the summer most of this area is just too hot as there are not a lot of trees. The lack of trees make for great views of the valley. For a nice easy walk you can start at Memory Grove Park (located by downtown SLC) and follow up a paved road or a foot trail that head up the canyon beside the creek. After about 1 mile these converge and cross a road. You can continue across the road on the road that heads up the canyon. The lower portion of this, up to the road, is open for dogs and the creek has some nice spots. Memory Grove park has a small pond and grassy areas.
Dog Lake (Millcreek Canyon) – This trail is located at the very top of MillCreek Canyon, just drive up the canyon until the end of the road and park. This trail is about 1.8 miles one way if you follow the Little Water Trail or 2.5 miles one way on the Big Water Trail. I prefer the Little Water Trail. This follows the creek in the beginning, which gives good chances to play and then after a small bridge goes to the right and begins a climb. Sights along the trail include wildflowers, creek, Aspen groves, some evergreens, nice views, a nice lake just over the top, dogs, and sometimes Moose.
Neffs Canyon – this is a less popular canyon in the Salt Lake area. There are two different trails to get up to a rope swing that someone has put up here. The hike to the rope swing area is very short, about 1 to 1 1/2 miles round trip. From the parking area you can either go to the left (east side) or the right (west side). Both trails will converge at about where the rope swing is located. The left trail follows a dirt/gravel road that slowly climbs up past a water tower and then hits a junction. The right trail is much more interesting as it wanders through the forest, past boulders, and if you can find it a short steep climb will show you a cave that goes into the mountain. The right trail eventually will meet up with the main trail/road. At the junction go to the left and you will very soon see the rope swing to your right in the shade. The trail itself keeps climbing and after a couple of miles comes to a beautiful meadow. From the junction, the right trail climbs up past a creek with some pools and then eventually disappears in some rocks. Here is some info about the hike and the address for the trailhead.
Ferguson Canyon – Most of the trails in Salt Lake are located in one of the main canyons. This is a lesser known gem that we enjoyed exploring. It is located between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. It is really more popular as a rock climbing destination, but can also be enjoyed with kids for a short day out. The trail begins in the hot, exposed foothills but winds its way up past a water tank and then continues around until it gets into the cool, shady canyon. The canyon is mostly shady as it is kind of narrow and has cliffs on both sides. There are many rock climbing routes here and lots of climbers. Sights on this trail include a creek down the canyon, rock climbers, rocks to scramble on, and shade. It is only about one mile to the rock climbing area, but the trail continues past there and climbs steeply. With kids you can stop, have a snack and watch climbers or venture as far up the trail as you can make it.
Cecret Lake (Little Cottonwood Canyon) – This is a short (about 1 mile one way) trail in Albion Basin at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Wow! This trail is beautiful! The lake is awesome (you may see salamanders or mayflies). There are lots of cool rocks to climb on along the trail and the wildflowers can be amazing. Be warned though, this area gets very busy because it is so nice and it is a short hike. It can be difficult to find a parking space, but it is well worth it.