5 Overlooked Utah Winter Hikes Along the Wasatch

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Sick of Donut Falls? Try these Utah winter hikes instead.

Hiking to the Brighton Lakes

During my first winter in Utah, I drove to the Brighton ski resort to hike to Lake Mary—without realizing that early season snow had fallen the night before. I almost decided to turn around, but instead took my first steps toward falling in love with winter hiking. The trail cut across empty ski slopes and into the trees as I stripped off layers of clothing, forgetting to always start cold lest you sweat through your base layers.

 The 1.25-mile Lake Mary hike took at least an hour in the deep snow, but the complete solitude and breathtaking view made me forget that in an instant. The fresh powder surrounded the banks and capped the large rock in the center of the water. I lost myself in a landscape I’d seen before, transformed and made new by the snow. My mind raced at the possibilities for my other favorite hikes, and how magical they might be in the winter. If you typically save your hiking for summer, try these five Utah winter hikes to see the landscapes in a snowy new light.

 

Grandeur Peak Trail in Millcreek Canyon

Along the Grandeur Peak Trail in Millcreek Canyon.

Grandeur Peak, Millcreek Canyon

Distance: 6.5 miles roundtrip

Grandeur Peak is well known, but less traveled on winter weekdays. The steep start makes it a bit of a challenge to begin the 6.5-mile hike, but if you make it beyond the muddy slopes and icy stairs you’ll be in for a treat. The snow and ice hang gently on the low branches as you follow a tunnel path through the trees.

As you approach the saddle the trail opens up for incredible close-up views along the western edge of the Wasatch. From here it’s not far to the summit, where you’ll see for miles around the amazing snowscape that graces our mountains all winter long and into the spring. Bring Microspikes or your snowshoes after a storm.

Waterfall Canyon, Ogden

Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip

If you always hike near Salt Lake or Park City, mix it up and head to Ogden’s Waterfall Canyon. The rocky ascent climbs 1,100 feet over 1.2 miles and requires careful placement of your traction spikes on slippery terrain. On clear days (read: inversion free) take in views of Ogden Valley as you climb. As the trail narrows, cross a small, frozen stream that still flows beneath the ice.

Keep climbing up to reach the main attractionit might not be flowing, but the frozen falls will be just as beautiful as the rushing water. This is a perfect spot to rest on the big rocks and take photos of the falls like you’ve never seen them before.

Lake Blanche Trail

Snowy day on the Lake Blanche Trail

Lake Blanche, Big Cottonwood Canyon

Distance: 6.7 miles roundtrip

Looking for a challenge? Lake Blanche is 0ne of the best Utah winter hikes for you when the powder starts to pile up. The aspens and scrub oaks cling to late-season leaves even after heavy snow, which you’ll notice from your dramatically slower pace. The switchbacks are a workout any time of year, but especially when you’re post-holing your way through each step. The trail gets enough traffic to be trampled down pretty quickly, so it’s definitely doable for novices.

Take your time and rest frequently as you enjoy the views of Big Cottonwood Canyon. But don’t quit before the finish! The slippery rocks leading to Lake Blanche and the towering, snow-capped Sundial Peak behind it are beyond worth the exertion. Bring your traction devices, trekking poles, and a Thermos of hot cocoa along.  

Buffalo Point, Antelope Island

Distance: 1-mile roundtrip

If you haven’t been to Antelope Island in winter, you’ve been missing out on some of the best wildlife viewing Utah has to offer. The lack of human visitors allows the animals to get comfortable and show themselves in places they might not typically go. The herds of bison and families of deer can be found easily foraging for food under fresh snow.

You might also catch some jackrabbits, coyotes, and, of course, antelope wandering the trails. Take your snowshoes for a serene, simple hike out to Buffalo Point at sunset for stunning views of the Great Salt Lake.

Pine Hollow, American Fork Canyon

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip

If you want to take the pup out for a hike through a winter wonderland, head up American Fork Canyon. Stop at the Pine Hollow trailhead, located just before the gate that closes the road for winter. The 5-mile round trip starts with a mild grade up the side of the mountain before crossing a couple of flowing streams and snow-covered meadows.

After crossing through groves of pine for another mile, reach the ridge and views of winter white Mt. Timpanogos. Enjoy the crisp air and views, and let the dogs run free before heading back down. Bring snowshoes or spikes, and don’t forget the sunscreen to protect from the snow reflection!

The beauty of Utah in winter is that everything becomes new again under a coating of fresh powder. Try new Utah winter hikes or pick an old favorite and enjoy the spectacular winter beauty of our snow-covered state.

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About Author

Don Macavoy is a freelance photographer and writer living in Salt Lake City–when he isn’t traveling the world. He loves hiking, biking, skiing, and disc golf as well as finding the best craft beer and vegan food in every city he visits. He writes for his website dontworryimfinite.com and can be found at @travelfinite on Twitter and @dontworryimfinite on Instagram.

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