Cara MacDonald, KSL.com

5 destinations for early-spring hiking

By Cara MacDonald, KSL.com | Posted - Mar 22nd, 2019 @ 12:17pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah may be a hot-spot for winter lovers, but even the most avid fans of snow are getting ready for a change of pace. As the Wasatch Front warms up, more and more outdoor enthusiasts hunt for an appropriate time to start going hiking, biking, climbing, and more.

The following hikes describe some options for early-spring hikers looking to get outside as soon as possible. Though they may still have some snow and mud, these hikes should all be navigable with the help of boots, poles, or snowshoes in late March and early April:

Frary Peak on Antelope Island

  • Distance: 7 miles there-and-back.

  • Difficulty: Moderate.

  • Getting there: Drive to Antelope Island via Syracuse and follow Antelope Island Road down the east shoreline to the south. The trailhead is located at 40.9936, -112.203.

Antelope Island is known for being a unique destination to watch the sunset and encounter wildlife. Frary Peak is the highest point on Antelope Island, so the trail not only provides stunning views of bison and other animals. It also gives awe-inspiring views of the Great Salt Lake, the Wasatch Mountains, and the entire island. Timing this hike with sunset will yield even better views and photos.

From the trailhead, the route is obvious as it ascends the west side of the mountain and then traverses along the ridgeline to the summit. Tired hikers can turn around at any point.

This out-and-back has a number of benefits as an early-spring hike: It’s one of the few allowing dogs, it’s at a low elevation and thus is one of the first hikes to lose its heavy snowpack, and the fee at the gate combined with the greater challenge of spring hiking makes it a minimally-trafficked route.

Cara MacDonald, KSL.com

A snowy take on Donut Falls, Big Cottonwood Canyon

  • Distance: 3.5 miles there-and-back.

  • Difficulty: Beginner.

  • Getting there: Take a left onto Big Cottonwood Road from Wasatch Boulevard and drive about 9 miles up. The parking lot is on the right side. There will be a gate which is often closed, encouraging hikers to park in that lot and walk to the trailhead.

Popular for a reason, Donut Falls is a spectacular sight. Hikers enter into a cave where they may have to wade a little bit into the water. Once inside, they’re greeted with a cascade of shimmery water through a donut-like hole in the ceiling. The hike itself, though short, is also very pretty. Trekkers will make their way up a leisurely trail through a mountain forest until they reach their destination.

Cara MacDonald, KSL.com

Donut Falls is invariably one of the Wasatch Front’s most trafficked trails, but early in the spring, many hikers are turned off by cooler temperatures, mud and snow. A must-see for all Utahns and visitors alike, spring is a good time to see it without such heavy crowds.

Ghost Falls, Draper

  • Distance: 5.3 miles, loop.

  • Difficulty: Beginner.

  • Getting there: Drive up Corner Canyon Road until the trailhead comes into view. There will be a parking area, a pit toilet and picnic tables.

Ghost Falls is well-known for its cascade of water around midway up, and it is a more leisurely hike for those just beginning to ease into hiking season. This lower-elevation popular trail is well-trafficked enough that by late March it is hospitable for hikers (though they may want to wear boots in case of mud).

Know that Ghost Falls is a narrow trail and is commonly visited by horses and bikes, so be aware of surroundings and consider not wearing headphones when hiking alone.

Mount Wire, Salt Lake City

  • Distance: 4.5 miles there-and-back.

  • Difficulty: Moderate.

  • Getting there: Starts just south of the University of Utah’s Natural History Museum. Park in the museum’s parking lot and walk up the stairs to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail’s trailhead. Trek along this trail for a few minutes until a yellow sign spelling out “174” comes up, at which point turn left and start walking up the mountain. A mile up, the trail will split. Take a right and then keep right until reaching the peak.

Mount Wire is a short but somewhat intense climb and is sure to get hikers’ thighs burning. The trek up and down provides stunning views of Salt Lake Valley, making it a great sunrise or sunset destination. At the peak, a 25 foot-tall airway beacon with a ladder soars above the hill. Hikers can climb to get a superior view of the already magnificent scene.

The Foothills tend to get pretty dry in late March and early April, so hikers should run into few obstacles, but bare in mind it might get muddy or even a little bit snowy towards the top.

Cara MacDonald, KSL.com

Avenues Twin Peaks, Salt Lake City

  • Distance: 3.6 miles there-and-back.

  • Difficulty: Moderate.

  • Getting there: Start at the Terrace Hills trailhead, which is located at the northernmost end of Terrace Hills Drive in the Avenues. From there, simply follow the well-marked trails until reaching the destination.

The Twin Peaks hike in the Avenues isn’t very heavily-trafficked, and it offers scenic views the whole way up. This hike has a notable incline and thus is ranked as a moderate hike, but rolling hills make the stroll through green, dusty fields very pleasant and doable for even beginner hikers.

Twin Peaks is a great choice for sunset and sunrise, due to its soaring views of Salt Lake City. Further, as it’s in the Foothills and in a particularly exposed location, hikers can expect little snow and minimal mud in early spring.

Read more about spring hiking destinations on the Wasatch Front here.

Cara MacDonald

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