Utah Hiking Trails For Families With Kids: Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake City Overlook (Mill Creek Canyon)
Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake City Overlook
Desolation Trail is a moderate-level trail up Mill Creek Canyon near Salt Lake City. The trail is fairly well shaded in some areas and very exposed in others; however, there is enough shade, that even summer hiking is popular. Desolation Trail travels over 18 miles to Desolation Lake (many people approach the lake from a much closer starting point), but most people hike just to the overlook of Salt Lake City (4 miles roundtrip). The hike is very popular and you will most likely see other hikers including families with children.
The trail begins at a fairly large parking lot (the parking lot can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays due to the popularity of the area with bicyclists and hikers). As the trail maintains a fairly moderate and consistent, switchbacks compose a large portion of the trail. There are portions of the trail that are just over a foot-wide with steep drop-offs, making families a bit wary when passing other hikers. The trail is well-maintained though.
Approximately 0.8 miles up the trail you will come to a fork in the trail. Either direction will take you to the overlook, but I suggest you take the right fork for a more consistent ascent. As you hike, you will have great mountain views off to the east, but will not be able to view the city until you reach the overlook.
There is no sign marking the overlook, but look for a large outcropping of rocks on the right (to the west) and a view of the city. Hikers are sometimes unsure whether they've reached the outlook, but you will know you're in the right place when you have your first chance to see the city. You will need to hike off of the main trail for a few feet to the rocks. Many people will climb up on the rocks for a better view. If you're lucky, you may be able to view golden eagles or other large birds circling the mountains.
Length: 4.68 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,286 feet
Ending Elevation: 7,024
Best time to go: The Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake Overlook is done year-round. In the winter, it is a great snowshoe. There may be some mud or lingering snow in the spring, but is a great choice when many of the higher trails are still snowy.
How to get there: From Salt Lake City, take I-215 East. Take exit 4 (3300 South/3900 South). Turn left onto Wasatch Boulevard. Turn right on 3800 South and continue to Mill Creek Canyon. After the toll booth, continue for approximately 2.5 miles. The parking lot will be just after the bed and breakfast on your right.
Fee: Mill Creek Canyon has a $5.00 fee that you pay as you leave.
Other info: There are bathrooms at the trailhead. Maps of Mill Creek Canyon are available at the toll booth. Dogs are allowed at all times in Mill Creek Canyon. They are allowed to be off-leash on odd numbered days.
Below is the GPS track as a JPEG. Click on the MotionX link below to view it on GoogleMaps or to download to your IPhone or IPad.
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Looking for more family hikes near Salt Lake City?
- Dog Lake Trail: Utah Hiking for Families with Kids
Dog Lake Trail is a fun, scenic hike near Salt Lake City. Great for a short hike with the kids to view Dog Lake!
- The Living Room Trail: Utah Hiking for Families with Kids
This is a short, fun hike above U of U. Great views and "furniture" made of rocks!