Mountains surround Salt Lake City, Utah and hiking is the best way to explore them in the summer. While many of Salt Lake City’s best hikes involve scrambling up mountain peaks, there are many easier jaunts that are friendly for families, beginners, or more casual hikers.
These three easy hikes are near Salt Lake City and feature epic vistas, a waterfall, and an alpine lake.
Three of the Best (And Easy!) Hikes Near Salt Lake City
1) Ensign Peak
If you’re looking to hike close to the city, Ensign Peak should be a top choice. This half-mile historic trail begins in a downtown neighborhood near the State Capitol. It follows the paths of pioneers to an incredible view of the valley, Great Salt Lake, and downtown skyline.
The story goes that two days after the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they hiked up this peak to survey the valley. From the top, they planned out the city that Salt Lake later became. Learn more about the history from the summit plaque on the monument. While the trail is a little steep at points, it is doable for kids to climb, and the vistas from the summit are worth the work. It can be brutal on hot summer days, but it is a beautiful place to watch the sunset.
2) Donut Falls
On this hike up Big Cottonwood Canyon, see Donut Falls. This waterfall uniquely flows through a donut-shaped hole into a cool cave below. Parking is a challenge on weekends, and since the trailhead is 0.8 miles from the main road, we recommend hiking on a weekday—unless you’re ok adding an extra 1.6 miles to your 1.5-mile walk. The trail welcomes kids, but unfortunately, no dogs are allowed in the canyon.
Summer is the prime time to hike here, and the dirt trail is easy until you reach the creek. You’ll find easy water crossings on smooth boulders to reach the waterfall here. If you’re feeling brave, you can go inside the cave to see the water flowing through the hole, but this part of the adventure is not kid-friendly.
3) Cecret Lake
Explore an alpine lake and a wildflower-filled meadow on the Cecret Lake trail up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Alta. The 1.8-mile out-and-back hike begins as a relatively flat path, but you will gain about 300 feet in elevation near the end to reach Cecret Lake.
Hiking season here is typically June-September or October due to snow conditions the rest of the year. Still, wildflower season is the best time to visit. Pink, blue, purple, and yellow flowers typically bloom along this mostly flat trail in late July or early August, making for stunning photos. Be careful to take pictures on the path and not walk in the meadow, as this damages the flowers and ecosystem.
Safety note: Moose sightings are common at the meadow and lake; keep your distance and enjoy watching these animals in their native habitat. Dogs aren’t allowed on the hike due to watershed concerns in the Cottonwood Canyons, but kids will love this entertaining trek.
About the Author:
Jenny Willden is a Salt Lake City, Utah native and a freelance adventure travel writer. She’s served as managing editor of Utah’s Outdoor Sports Guide magazine for over a decade and has written for over 70 other publications. When she's not writing, you'll find Jenny exploring the mountains via snowboard or hiking boots. You can keep up with her hiking adventures on Instagram at @jenny.willden.