Having lived in Utah my entire life, I regret to say I only found a love of hiking a few years ago. But I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Aside from the amazing scenery and the physical health benefits, hiking has been found to be good for your mental health as well. Even more so that working out at a gym or jogging on city sidewalks. Depending on which area of the state you’re in or which elevation you’re at, you can hike (or snowshoe) year-round in Utah, but July is an excellent time to start! On a sunny, cloudless day there is a temperature drop of approximately 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit per 1000 ft. of elevation climb. Add to that the shade and the lack of heat-absorbing concrete all around you, the mountains are an excellent place to escape the heat.
But before you jump in your car and head up the mountain, take some time to prepare yourself. Let me start with this:
DO NOT HIKE WITHOUT APPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR AND WATER!
Sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and a fully charged cell phone are also fantastic ideas! More great tips can be found on the American Hiking Society website.
A helpful website/app to use to find hikes in your area is Alltrails.com and there are also several hiking books out there as well. One thing I found when I started using books and websites to find new trails is that the rating system of “easy” to “difficult” is a little subjective. If you are new to hiking and out of shape, even an “easy” hike can be challenging. One thing I really recommend looking at closely is the elevation gain compared to the total length of the hike. For example, a hike that is 3 miles round-trip may sound quite easy due to the short length. But when you look at the elevation gain and see that it’s 1500 ft. over only 1.5 miles, trust me, it will be all uphill and will get your heart pounding. If you’re really hoping for more gradual incline, look for an elevation gain of less than 500 ft. per mile. Also, read through descriptions and reviews of trails and on websites to see if the trail is mostly shady or exposed, covered in loose rock or is mostly dirt.
To get you started on becoming an avid hiker, here’s a list of some of the easiest hikes near the Wasatch Front that are good for nearly any skill level and many of them are excellent for young children as well.
1) Silver Fork Loop Trail in Big Cottonwood - It doesn't get any easier than a mile on a boardwalk around a lake. But it's perfect for taking small children
2) Cascade Springs in Utah County - It's more of a series of trails around some natural springs. They have signs everywhere with names of plants and the trails are paved. Another perfect one for small children.
3) Fehr Lake Trail in the Uinta Mountains - The only thing that is remotely hard about this trail is the elevation at 9,500 ft. But it's flat and if you go later in the summer it's filled with wildflowers. You can stop at Fehr Lake to keep this hike very short, or go past it to two more lakes for a 3-mile hike.
3) Ghost Falls in Corner Canyon in Draper - It's a pretty trail and flat most of the way, but you won't get away from the heat as much because it's not very high up. Ghost falls is unremarkable as far as waterfalls go. But this is a very good beginner trail.
5) Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood - If you hike from the main road to Donut falls, it's 3 miles round trip, but if you drive up the dirt road to the trailhead, it's more like 1.5 miles round trip. You can stop at the river leading to the falls, or wade across the river to get beneath the falls. Many people choose to scramble up the rocks on the side of the falls. If you choose to do this, be exceptionally careful. Many people have been injured and even killed on these rocks.
6) Lake Solitude Trail in Big Cottonwood - This trail actually is connected to the Silver Fork Trail (the first one listed). It's about 3 miles round trip and the only steep part is at the very end when you are about to reach the lake.
7) Cecret Lake in Little Cottonwood – This is a short, but still challenging hike, particularly as you approach the lake. The last ¼ of a mile is steep with no shade, however it's absolutely stunning at the end of July when the trail is covered in wildflowers. (Note: the road to the Cecret Lake trailhead is closed this year until July 10th for maintenance.)
Remember, the more prepared you are to go on your hike, the more fun you’ll have. And the more likely you are to do it again!
- by Barbara Muñoz, Policy Analyst