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Neff's Canyon the Wasatch Front's Hidden Gem

Updated on June 9, 2011
Neff's Canyon
Neff's Canyon

If you are looking for a hike where you and your four legged friends can go together in the Wasatch Front your options are pretty limited due to watershed restrictions, there are only a handful of canyons that will allow pets to enter one of my favorites is Neff’s Canyon. I call Neff’s the “hidden gem” for many reasons but mainly because finding the canyon trailhead itself can be an adventure in of itself. It is located just due south of Millcreek Canyon, another pet friendly canyon however you have to pay to enter, North of Mount Olympus’ shadows at the top of the posh neighborhood of Olympus Cove. I am not going to detail the exact directions because if you really want to explore this beautiful canyon you need to hunt it down like a treasure, which is also another key point of this canyon is that not to many people know it exists or even how to get there.

One of the many beautiful trails
One of the many beautiful trails

The canyon’s history started in the mid 1800’s when the first Mormon Pioneers started settling in the Salt Lake Valley. A group of pioneers mainly from Pennsylvania started building houses on the east bench one of them being John Neff. In 1847-8 John Neff built a flour mill in the creek coming from Murdock Peak and in 1848 during the first general conference the canyon was named Mill Creek and the canyon just due south was named Neff’s after John. In the late 1880’s the city established water rights and Neff’s Creek/Spring water rights were sold and Mount Olympus Waters Inc was formed, In late 2010 Mount Olympus Waters Inc was purchased by DS Waters. In the late 1940’s a group of locals discovered a cave opening, that adventure led to what was then the deepest cave in North America. Neff’s Cave is now the 10th deepest cave in North America at 1,187 ft., however, it is not entirely explored due to strict restrictions by the National Parks Service and Grotto who guard the keys to the gate covering the cave entrance, they even restrict pictures being published. From my research it sounds like it is nothing spectacular a death hole as many put it, dark with slick shale rock. Neff’s Canyon also has its seedy history of murders and deaths but you can look into that yourself.

Awesome rugged rock formations
Awesome rugged rock formations

One of the first thing you notice when you pull into the trail head parking lot is the beautiful jagged rock formations that are dominant throughout the canyon. The canyon itself consists of a canyon system north of Mount Olympus, North’s Fork, Thomas Fork, and the Main Neff’s Canyon. From the Trailhead Parking lot there are 2 trials to choose from both of these trails are not for the novice hiker they are rocky in some spots and sometimes technical and dangerous. The east side trail head is an old Jeeping trail and the easier of the two it also has spectacular views of the Salt Lake Valley and the canyon itself but no shade. The west side trail head is shaded and near the creeks, however, it is much more technical and difficult than the main trail head due to thin, eroding, rocky trails and multiple trails that lead of the main trial that one could easily get lost on. Both of these trails meet up in the first meadow so it does not matter which one you choose. When you get to the 1st meadow it is a good spot to stop and rest there is plenty of shade places to sit a rope swing and a natural spring. When you decide to hit the trail again there is another set of multiple trail heads that you must choose from the rocky trail that heads south goes up to a small rock garden and Neff’s Spring it will eventually meet back up with the main trail from what I’ve researched but it is overgrown and hard to tell where the trail goes in some spots. The trail/s that keep heading due west is the main Neff’s Canyon trail/s. they all cross each other but end up in Neff’s 2nd meadow where most people stop and enjoy the breathtaking views of the canyon and Salt Lake City this hike is about 3 miles and will take you about 3 hrs, if you are with your four legged friends you can go no further than the Mount Olympus wilderness sign due to water shed restrictions. If you decide to keep going you will end up on Desolation Trail just south west of Thayne’s Peak, Desolation is a major trail that is 27 miles in length and connects multiple trails throughout the Wasatch Front. The Entire Hike to the summit is about 5.5 miles and takes around 6-7 hours.

"Nectar of Life" the natural spring in the first meadow by the rope swing
"Nectar of Life" the natural spring in the first meadow by the rope swing


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