After weeks of rain ruining our weekend plans, last Sunday dawned bright and brilliant. But after a few moments of consideration, we realized our go-to Wasatch trails were still under a few feet of snow. What to do?
Having checked out Mill Creek Canyon this winter for some easy family-friendly snowshoeing, we decided to head back and see what we could find. What originally drew us to this canyon was their “dogs allowed” policy. Our furry friend hates being left behind. 🙂
We originally planned on hiking Mount Aire, but the road to the trailhead was still closed, meaning it was also probably under a few feet of snow. So our second choice was the Grandeur Peak trail and we parked at the Church Fork Area. The area was busy and people were parking along the roads. We followed the paved trail across the bridge and up as it winded across gushing creeks and past beautiful picnic areas. When we reached the official start to the Grandeur Peak trail (and left the pavement behind) we took a quick assessment of our crew.
Honestly, I was a little dismayed. My legs were aching to hike and cover some miles, but our kid’s were showing signs of the dreaded first-hike-of-the-year syndrome. Meaning after 20 minutes of hiking, they were already voicing all sorts of complaints. So we set aside the 4.5 mile/2000′ vert. hike up Grandeur Peak, and decided to hit the Pipeline Trail that just so happened to intersect our trail at this time.
The Pipeline trail heads up Mill Creek Canyon, parallel to the road but 300-400 ft higher on the north side of the canyon. There are multiple access points as it winds and rolls its way up [or down] the canyon. After .5 miles down the trail, I was beginning to wonder why we’d never been here before! Our kids enjoyed the gently rolling single-track and even our dog was smiling. Although it doesn’t take much to make him happy.
Most of the trail was well maintained, with wood walls/barricades on the steeper more exposed hillsides so we didn’t worry about the kids. There were a ton of mountain bikers and trail runners. Most were moving slowly and cautiously because of foot traffic. We had plentiful views of the Salt Lake Valley and the snowy peaks of the Wasatch.
After 1.5 miles, my husband gave me the option of trail running back to the car, then driving up to the Terraces Picnic area and picking them up. Sounded great to me! I found them easily, all refreshed by a good snack and making a river and house with my son’s tractors. By the way, I’ve decided these are the perfect backpacking toys. Light, small, and infinitely entertaining for my kiddos. They’ll be traveling miles with us this summer!
Access #1: Via Mill Creek Canyon Road (3800 South Wasatch Blvd.) 6.1 miles to Elbow Fork, about 2 miles past Log Haven Restaurant at the sharp turn in the road next to a dam. The trail leaves from the north side of the road and heads west following a buried pipeline.
Access #2: Via Burch Hollow Trail. Take the Mill Creek Canyon Road about 4.3 miles up the canyon, about 0.1 mile past Porter Fork. The trailhead starts on the left (north) side of the road.
Access #3: Via Rattlesnake Gulch. Take the Mill Creek Canyon Road and look for a trailhead on the left (north) side of the road soon after the guard station.
You can also access it via junctions on the Burch Hollow Trail, Grandeur Peak Trail and close to Mount Aire Trail.
$3 per car, paid on the way out. They do accept credit cards.
Bikes are allowed on trails only on even-numbered days!
Dogs are allowed. Law requires that dogs MUST BE LEASHED IN THE ENTIRE CANYON on EVEN-NUMBERED DAYS and are allowed to be unleashed on odd-numbered days except in developed areas. Aggressive dogs must be removed from the canyon and be careful NOT to drop from many of the trails into Big Cottonwood Canyon, where dogs are not allowed.