Nine Easy Hikes in Utah Perfect for After Work

Nine low-mileage hikes offer great views, interesting destinations and, most importantly, post-work decompression

Though you may be unfamiliar with the term “wildland-urban interface,” if you live anywhere along the Wasatch Front, you bear daily witness to the unique shoulder-to-shoulder closeness of Utah’s biggest metro area and millions of acres of undeveloped forests, canyons, mountainsides and alpine meadows. What this means, of course, is that rather than having to relegate spending time in nature to the weekends, Utah urbanites can get from desk to walking on dirt in under an hour. As such, we encourage you to take advantage of this unheard-of proximity and spring’s balmy, longer days by ending your workday in a way that undoes the damage done by our technology-driven daily lives like almost nothing else: going for a hike.  

1. Adams Canyon, Layton—3.5 miles, out-and-back

This super-scenic and very popular trail runs along the North Fork of Holmes Creek to the impressive 40-foot-tall Adams Waterfall. The trailhead, with bathrooms and ample parking, is located just east of Layton off Highway 89 on East Side Drive. The route begins with steep switchbacks and plateaus as you work your way into the canyon past the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Leashed dogs are allowed in Adams Canyon. Climbing or attempting to slide down the waterfall is prohibited. 

2. Jack’s Peak, Salt Lake City Foothills Natural Area—2.8-mile loop

This loop trail begins at the end of Lakeline Drive, just north of Parleys Canyon. Short but steep, and with sweeping valley views throughout (i.e. lots of west-facing exposure), this excellent trail is best hiked in the spring or fall. Mailboxes at the summit memorialize Jack Edwards, a toddler who passed away from leukemia in 1995. On-leash dogs are allowed. 

3. Grandeur Peak (Face) Trailhead, Salt Lake City to Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead, Millcreek Canyon

This newly completed section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail runs just under five miles (one way) through the foothills from the Grandeur Peak (Face) Trailhead at the very north end of Wasatch Boulevard to the Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead in Millcreek Canyon—with a valley viewpoint located conveniently at the halfway point. Options for hiking this trail include walking to and from either trailhead to the overlook platform; hiking the entire section as longer out-and-back; or leaving a second vehicle (or a bike) at one trailhead to shuttle to the other. Note: mountain bikes are allowed on this trial and off-leash dogs are allowed in Millcreek Canyon on odd calendar days only.

4. Neffs Canyon, Olympus Cove, Millcreek—3 miles, out-and-back

This route is popular, especially with dog walkers, for good reason. Ample parking and multiple route length options—all shady—make Neff’s a convenient choice for both a quick, leafy jaunt or an all-day objective. Get there by turning off Wasatch Boulevard at Churchill Junior High onto E. Oakview Drive. Turn left onto Parkview Dr and follow the signs to the Neff’s Canyon Trailhead. Walk past the water tank up the dirt road. Bear left at the top to continue along the canyon trail (the right-side option makes a quick, mile-long loop back to the parking lot) that climbs steadily through the forest. You’re a mile-and-a-half in when you encounter the Mount Olympus Wilderness sign. If time allows, continue another mile along the continually steeper trail until arriving at a gorgeous high meadow flanked with aspen trees and craggy peaks. 

5. Mt. Olympus Trail, Holladay—3 miles, out and back to the stream

Looming large over the eastern Salt Lake Valley is the impressive Mount Olympus. While hiking to its peak is a popular bucket list item for both new and longtime valley residents, knocking out the first third of this route is easily done in two hours, and offers a heart-pumping workout along the way. The trail travels south along switchbacks from the Wasatch Boulevard trailhead and then heads directly up as it approaches an intersection with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Keep right until the trail meets the BST again, where you’ll again keep right. The route continues to climb as it turns a corner into Tolcats Canyon. You’ll soon reach the stream, which runs year-round except in the driest years. Leashed dogs are allowed.

6. Heughs Canyon, Holladay—2.5 miles, out-and-back

In the spring and early summer, this steep but lovely hike ends at a gorgeous moss-flocked waterfall. Park in the marked stalls on Wasatch Boulevard just east of the Old Mill Golf Course. Walk half a mile along Oak Canyon Drive and to the end of the private Berghalde Lane to the trail’s start. (Please respect area homeowners by keeping your dog leashed until you’re at least .3 miles up the trail.) Once off the pavement, the 2-mile round trip route climbs steadily along the shaded Heughs Creek. After crossing a second bridge, the trail steepens until arriving at a boulder field. Make the short scramble over the boulders to the base of the waterfall.

7. Ferguson Canyon to Big Cottonwood Canyon, Cottonwood Heights—3 miles, out-and-back

A more rolling route along one of the newest sections of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is the out-and-back route from Ferguson Canyon to the Dogwood Campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Begin at the new Ferguson Park, located just south of Big Cottonwood Canyon on Prospector Drive. Follow signage for a quarter mile up to the trailhead on Quicksilver Drive. Walk up the hill past the water tank onto the well-marked trail that alternatively runs through shady groves and sage-covered hillsides. Bear left at the first fork you encounter (right continues up Ferguson Canyon), crossing a seasonal stream. The trail continues through meadows, along an open hillside overlooking the valley and ends at the Dogwood Campground restrooms. Note: Though dogs are allowed in Ferguson Canyon, they are prohibited on this trail’s Big Cottonwood Canyon section.

8. Bell Canyon Upper Bridge, Sandy—3 miles, out-and-back

Though the full route to Upper Bell Canyon Reservoir is more of a full-day endeavor, hiking from the amenity-heavy Bell Canyon Preservation Trailhead (on the south side of the intersection of Wasatch Boulevard and Little Cottonwood Canyon Road) to the bridge offers a route more appropriate for an evening outing. From the trailhead, keep bearing left at each trail junction you come upon until reaching the bridge. Hungry for more? The canyon’s lower falls are 1 mile farther up the trail, but the route gets significantly steeper and rockier along the way. Before you go: pack a dinner to enjoy at one of the trailhead’s picnic tables with views of the Salt Lake Valley. Dogs are not allowed in Bell Canyon.

9. Rock Canyon Cave, Provo—3 miles, out-and-back

This popular Utah County hiking and rock climbing destination is located directly east of the cupcake-shaped Provo Utah Temple. The route begins as a paved road at the Rock Canyon Trailhead but quickly changes to a shady trail that meanders over five numbered bridges. About a mile and a half up the trail, between bridges #3 and #4 on the north side of the trail, is an old mining cave and an apt turnaround point for an after-work hike. If you have more time, continue on the main trail to a fork right after bridge #5: stay left to continue to Khyv Peak (formerly known as Squaw Peak); the lesser traveled right fork is a very steep route leading to Y Mountain. The 7-mile round trip route to Khyv Peak passes through evergreen stands, a meadow and a campground before becoming steep for the last half mile or so to the summit.

A Trail Tome for Ever Hiker

Ashley Brown wrote Urban Trails: Salt Lake City as a homage to her late grandmother. “My intent behind this book was creating something for every hiker, from the hardcore trail runner to people like my granny, who knew and loved the restorative benefits of getting out into nature,” Brown says. As such, Urban Trails is an apt tool for hikers of all abilities to explore more than 40 routes both within and adjacent to cities lining the Wasatch Front. Pick up your copy at REI, Kings English Book Shop or from  

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Melissa Fields
Melissa Fields
Melissa (O' Brien) Fields is a contributing editor to Utah Bride & Groom magazine and a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. She is an accomplished freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience.

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