Fall has officially arrived in Salt Lake. The temperature has dropped, the leaves are changing, and pumpkin beer is on the shelves. This past weekend we had gorgeous weather so we decided to take advantage of it with a longer day hike in the Wasatch. This time I chose the trail – Grandeur Peak – and a different canyon – Mill Creek. Grandeur Peak is part of the SLC skyline, and the hike promised incredible views of the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch Mountains. It did not disappoint.
There are two trail options when climbing Grandeur Peak – Church Fork and West Ridge. The Church Fork route is more popular and the only trail I knew of when we did our hike, however West Ridge is an alternate option but is much steeper and follows a less developed trail. The trailhead for the Church Fork route is at the top of a beautiful picnic area and sits at 5,900 feet. We parked on the road outside the picnic area and walked up to the trailhead where we began the 3.1 mile, 2,399 foot ascent to Grandeur Peak.
The first part of the trail followed a bubbling mountain stream as we climbed steadily out of the valley. We walked through a mostly shaded canopy of trees and leaves littered our path and sunlight catching the vibrant green, red, orange, yellow leaves
Then all at once, we were above the treeline. Even before we climbed higher, we had decent views of Mill Creek Canyon below, and soon the object of our climb, Grandeur Peak, was in sight. The rest of the hike left us unprotected from the sun, and although the temperature wasn’t much higher than 70 degrees, the constant glare of the sun was exhausting (not quite on a desert-level though). We switchbacked up the mountain, setting our sights on the saddle ahead.
Once we reached the saddle, we had amazing views of the canyons on either side – Mill Creek and Parleys – as well as the Salt Lake Valley. We stopped briefly to soak it all in before continuing our trek. You could definitely stop here, but the peak is only another half mile up and well worth the grueling climb.
Though the trail had been climbing steadily – at times gradual and other times steep – the final half mile haul was alllll steep. There were times when my upper body was parallel with the trail and though I had my trekking poles in my backpack I didn’t want to stop my momentum to get them out. It wasn’t a wise decision. (My knees paid the price in the hours and days that followed). I just wanted to get up that final ascent. Once we made it, all thoughts of pain vanished, and we simply reveled in the full 360 view at 8,299 feet.
For our descent I made sure to use my trekking poles (you’re welcome, knees!). We still marveled at the view as we dipped back down to the saddle, then down to the treeline, and finally under the cover of the trees once more. At some point in our descent, we wandered aimlessly off the trail and had to backtrack a little ways to find it again (luckily before my panic truly set in). The sun was a little higher as we made our way through the forest and sunlight glinted off the trio of fall colors all around us. And then we were done, back at the trailhead, on our way to the car, looking forward to the pumpkin beer in the fridge at home.