Word About Town

Five Local Hikes that Avoid Crowds

Check out these trails that let you connect with nature. Other people, not so much.

By Jane Gendron June 27, 2022 Published in the Summer/Fall 2022 issue of Park City Magazine

Trail usage is up these days, which means that some of our beloved, go-to hikes are starting to feel a bit congested. Happily, Park City is graced with roughly 400 miles of mostly single track, which means skirting trail traffic doesn’t require too much effort. Plus, nearby National Forests deliver ample opportunity to explore vast—and, yes, quieter—terrain. Here, with the help of local experts, we introduce you to a handful of moderate, uncrowded hikes located in and around Park City.


HIKE: Yeti’s to Moose Puddle
Park: Utah Olympic Park; the trailhead is up Olympic Pkwy (past the parking lots), through a second (employee-cars-only) gate, and located on your right, just before the road’s hairpin, uphill turn.
Distance: 5.9 miles
A lofty loop with sweeping views, thanks to roughly 1,200 feet of elevation gain, this Olympic Park excursion is downright jaw-dropping in autumn—and has a fair bit of shade during toastier months. If you hike this loop in a counterclockwise direction, you’ll follow switchbacks up through aspens and reach a couple of false summits (overlooking peaks, such as Murdock) before passing the turnoff to the Olympic Trail and heading back down Moose Puddle through a shale-y, view-graced section, followed by a grove of massive conifers. Of note: You’ll be sharing this trail with mountain bikers; however, Yeti’s is designated uphill-only.

HIKE: Snow Top Loop
Park: Lower Deer Valley Resort lot; walk roughly 10 minutes on Queen Esther Dr to the Deer Crest gate on your right; the Solamere trailhead flanks McKinley Gap Rd. (Street parking may also be available at the trailhead.) 
Distance: 3 miles
Gain roughly 300 feet of elevation as well as views of Jordanelle Reservoir, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain resorts, and beyond. Start on Solamere connector, then head right, looping in a counterclockwise direction. When you emerge from the aspens, don’t miss the sharp left up Snowtop, which offers some exposed and Gambel oak–bedecked terrain for the climb. Then, swoop back down and around Solamere, popping briefly through a dead-end street and back onto the trail (bear left). You’ll retrace your steps for about half a mile at the hike’s end. Of note: There are several options to extend this hike beyond the loop.

HIKE: IO Trail and/or Charlie’s 9K
(or a DIY, Guardsman Pass–centric loop)
Park: Bloods Lake Trailhead or Bonanza Flat Trailhead
Distance: Varies
Once the snow melts, the gorgeous Bonanza Flat Conservation area gets busy. So consider avoiding the popular Bloods Lake Trail, and instead foray into the alpine wonder of the neighboring resort terrain—much of which sits on stunning conservation easements dating back decades. If you opt for the hiking-only IO Trail (three short sections totaling 1.6 miles), perhaps follow the multi-use access roads all the way to just-shy-of-10,000-feet Jupiter Peak. Alternatively, you could explore Charlie’s 9K (a 5.5-mile trail that contours the mountainside at roughly 9,000 feet). There is a network of interconnected trails here with looping potential, so be sure to map out your route in advance.


HIKE: Wasatch Mountain State Park’s
Wild Turkey to Crow’s Nest Loop
Park: The Visitor Center, 1281 Warm Springs Dr, Midway
Distance: 5+ miles
Park day-use fee: $10
Traverse an oak grove and meadows and ascend to the aptly named Crow’s Nest, where views of Heber Valley and Snake Creek Canyon are your reward. Start on the Huber Grove Trail and meander to Epperson and Spring Pond before gaining elevation on steep Wild Turkey. Then, loop Crow’s Nest and return via Middle Mountain back to Spring Pond. Although the lower-elevation trails see some foot traffic, crowds thin significantly as you gain vertical. Also worth checking out at Wasatch Mountain State Park: Pine Creek Nature Trail, a shady, family-friendly hike with a creek and a boulder field.

HIKE: Slate Creek Trail,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Park: Yellow Pine Trailhead, just off Mirror Lake Hwy, Kamas
Distance: 5.6 miles
Officially built as a mountain biking trail and completed just last year, this forested singletrack is best hiked in a counterclockwise direction (bikes are directed clockwise). You’ll meander through ponderosas, aspens, oaks, and wildflowers; savor cool stream crossings; and step out into clearings for glimpses of the High Uintas’ 10,000-foot peaks. Of note: The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest spans more than 2 million acres, containing a plethora of hiking options. Also worth checking out in South Summit: The Oakley Trail (park at trailhead on Pinyon Lane, Oakley) is a steep and view-laden climb that loops via Seymore Canyon Trail. Visit southsummittrails.org for details.

Before You Go
Pack water and snacks, dress in layers, wear sunscreen, bring a buddy, and let someone know where you’re headed. Be prepared to encounter wildlife, such as moose and coyotes, and fellow trail-users on foot, bikes, and horses. For wayfinding, use the Trailforks app (trailforks.com) or Mountain Trails Foundation’s interactive map (mountaintrails.org). For more info, also check out Snyderville Basin Recreation (basinrecreation.org), South Summit Trails Foundation (southsummit.org), and Wasatch Trails Alliance (wasatchtrails.org).

SPECIAL THANKS TO Scott House of Wasatch Trails Foundation, Lora Smith of Mountain Trails Foundation, Heinrich Deters of the city’s Trails & Open Space department, Rick Fournier of South Summit Trails Foundation (and Mountain Trails Foundation), and Cheryl Fox of Summit Land Conservancy for sharing their trails and hiking expertise.

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