Five Family Friendly Hikes near Salt Lake, UT

Honestly I have been dogged by the cranky, under slept, restless, and stir crazy me. I have no logical reason. I have no excuse. But I feel like the heat is crawling in under my skin, and making me itch all over. I never, ever thought I’d be ready for summer to be over. But I am. There I admitted it. I am one of those people longing for snow. Now you can all throw vegetables at your screen :).

But luckily my husband helped me snap-out-of-it. And we hit the trail, be it a short one, for some fun in the sun.

Check out these hikes this summer:

1. Cecret Lake, Alta Ski Area

Cecret Lake is probably the most rewarding and scenic of the hikes on our “favorites” list. That is why we’ve done it numerous times this summer. That and the elevation is high enough that you beat a little of the heat. The trail is 1.2 miles each way and gains about 450 feet in elevation.  Easy enough, but still rewarding for the kids when they reach the lake, or the parents with a 30 lb. toddler on their back.

The trail has a few water crossings, is lined with beautiful flowers and ends right after a steep switchback up a hill. For more avid hikers, continue on to summit Sugarloaf Peak.

Directions:

Drive up the main road of Little Cottonwood Canyon, past Alta ski resort to Albion Basin Campground. The road turns to gravel once you get past the ski resort, but it’s suitable for two-wheel drive cars (with a bit of clearance). There’s a small parking lot at the trail head.

This a popular hike, and often the main parking lot fills up. The Town of Alta offers a free shuttle from the upper Albion parking lot during summer months from 9:30am – 4:30pm.  This shuttle is in operation through Labor Day, and possibly a weekend or two after that.

2. Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir

Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir sits right in the lap of Lone Peak. Great for hiking and fishing, yet very close to home. There are two trailheads. The Granite Trail is “longer” than it’s counterpart, the Boulders Trail. Granite Trail is .71 miles long and has a vertical gain of 560 ft. The trail has a gentle incline with little or no tricky footing. The Boulders Trail is shorter but steeper. The trail to the reservoir from this trailhead is .5 miles long and has a vertical gain of 578 ft. Some sections are steep with crumbling rock. Going up wasn’t bad but be careful on the way down.

While we’ve accessed the lake from both directions, we’d say the Granite trail is more kid friendly. The lake is beautiful and the location has some of the best sunset views in the area. More avid hikers can continue up the trail on the east side of the reservoir to Bell Canyon Falls further up.

Directions:

Granite Trailhead
The Granite Trailhead, located just East of the intersection of Wasatch Boulevard and E. Little Cottonwood Rd., provides 23 parking stalls and restrooms.

Boulders Trailhead
The Boulders Trailhead is located .6 miles south of the intersection of Wasatch Boulevard and E. Little Cottonwood Rd. on the East side of Wasatch Boulevard, on the North side of the entrance to the Boulders at Bell Canyon housing development. The Boulders Trailhead has about 20 parking stalls.

Parking at either trailhead may be limited during the early spring and on holidays. During these times, please use the overflow parking at the Salt Lake County parking lot just west of Wasatch Boulevard on the north side of Little Cottonwood Road.

3. Donut Falls, Big Cottonwood Canyon

kid friendly hikes

If you are a family in the Salt Lake valley, chances are you have at least heard of Donut Falls. The trail is higher in elevation and provides plenty of shade, making it a summer favorite. The hiking is easy, with very little elevation gain and a groomed gravel trail most of the way. Footing became tricky as we neared the falls and my husbands’ flip flops came in handy as we shuttled kids across the water. This may or many not be normal – we went during a rainy season.

In the winter families frequent the general area for some sledding fun. This trail can tend to be very popular and the parking lot at the trailhead can fill up quickly. Though it was empty the day we went :).

Directions:

Travel up the canyon road 9.0 miles, and you will come to a large parking lot with restrooms. Turn right and travel down the paved road past the Jordan Pines Picnic Area past some private property to the trail head parking area.

4. Fifth Water Hot Springs

This hike is both longer and yet possibly more rewarding, depending on what you are looking for. Our hike was less than ideal, due only to our own stupidity (ie. starting the hike during the hottest part of the day). Yet we still had fun. The trail is 2.5 miles one way with only moderate elevation gain. From the trailhead you follow the river on the left side, rolling up and down the hills, in and out of shade and crossing a bridge further in.

A few words-to-the-wise: Though I would not classify this as a difficult or dangerous hike, the trail does skirt a steep embankment that leads to the river. Waters were raging the day we were there, making me wish my dare-devil boy was tied in with a rope. I’d keep a hand on your little ones in case they miss a step. Secondly, beware rattlesnakes. Apparently we aren’t the only ones that like the warm water :). If you’d like the best chance of missing them, avoid early spring and the hottest times of day.

There are two separate “pool” areas. When we were there, the upper pools, 500 feet above the falls, were shaded, cooler in temperature, and the perfect depth. The pools below the falls were in full sun, hotter, and in most cases shallower.

Camping spots are also available. Our friends over at Nature for Kids took the whole family backpacking here!

Directions:

Take I-15 south to the US-6 (Price/Manti) Exit (exit 258). Take the exit east towards the mountains all the way up Spanish Fork canyon for about 11 miles (from the exit). Not too far after the highway turns from one lane each way to two lanes you will see a turn off on the left side of the road that says Diamond Fork. Take that turn off and follow the road until you see a sign that says Three Forks Trailhead.

5. Lisa Falls, Little Cottonwood Canyon

I almost hesitate to call this a hike. Maybe a small outdoor jaunt. It is .25 miles into the falls from the parking lot. The trail is unmarked, with a few tricky sections…but short. Once there, the kids enjoying playing in the water and scrambling the rocks. There is also a good sport crag adjacent to the falls if you brought some climbing gear.

Directions:

From the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon drive 2.8 miles to a pullout on the left (north) side of the canyon. This is on a bend, just past a large pullout on the right that accesses the Little Cottonwood Trail.

4 comments on “Five Family Friendly Hikes near Salt Lake, UT
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