Hiking is one of the top summer activities and in Utah it’s one of the most beautiful walks you’ll take. Eric Nelson, supervisor at the Sport Chalet in West Jordan, Utah, and Boy Scout leader is a pro when it comes to knowing everything you need to know about hiking local trails.
What To Bring
Knowing where you’re hiking and how long you’ll be out is the first thing to consider when packing for your hike. One thing’s for sure, no matter where you’re going, hiking works all aspects of the body; therefore you’re going to want to wear comfortable, lightweight clothes. Nelson recommends a small backpack with a hands-free water system, leaving your hands available for a walking stick. You might want to consider a collapsible, lightweight walking stick or possibly two, which will provide a little more momentum as well giving you something to fend off animals if need be. Make sure to bring along healthy snacks to keep up your energy. The footwear you choose is also important. Nelson suggests hiking boots which are sturdy and higher on the ankle. Not only does this give you much needed ankle support, but also protects you from vegetation and possibly snakes.
Best Hikes around Utah
The best hikes are going to depend on what you’re looking for. Nelson recommends picking up some hiking books, doing some research on the Internet, or calling the Parks and Recreation Department to get advice on the best hikes to fit your needs. Not every hike ends in water and not every hike ends with a city view, but it’s a guarantee that any hike you take will end with a wow when you choose one of the trails Nelson suggests.
- Lake Mary – the lake will add an exclamation point to your adventure
- Mill Creek’s Rattlesnake Gulch – a great view of the city from the top of the mountain
- Big Cottonwood Canyon – a wide variety of more intense hills
- Gobblers Knob & Mount Raymond – great for more advanced hikers
- Lake Blanche – lake hike for advanced hikers
- King’s Peak – most challenging, highest peak in Utah
Hiking with Little Kids
If you’re thinking of taking the kids, you’ll want to start with Jordan Parkway. Kids should start out hiking on a more level surface and this is a good one. Once they have developed a little more endurance you can start with smaller incline areas like American Fork Canyon. We also like Smith Morehouse Reservoir for its diverse trails that range from a couple of miles to 25 miles. Donut Falls is another great trail for a family outing as well as Silver Lake and Secret Lake. Mill Creek trails are good options once the child’s endurance is built-up, but these trails go straight up so make sure the kids are prepared. We suggest you bring one adult for every five kids. Even if you’re only taking five kids, Nelson says never take them alone. A good rule to follow is two-deep leadership which allows you to protect yourself as an adult and also protect the youth. If something were to happen, one adult can assist while the other stays with the remaining children.
What to Do If You Encounter Wildlife
If you’re hiking in Utah in the summer, it’s likely you could run into a snake. Nelson’s advice is to walk around the snake and try to stay as far away from it as possible. They’re just as scared of you as you are of them and they won’t strike unless they feel threatened. Mill Creek Canyon’s Rattlesnake Gulch trail is a good one to avoid during the heat of the day, because snakes like to make their way out onto the trail. Scorpions are also something to watch out for, especially in desert hiking. Nelson says they aren’t as poisonous as people think. Bugs are a whole other issue but knowing what’s in the area can help determine the level of bug spray you’re going to need. Nelson recommends wiping yourself down with dryer sheets prior to your hike, because bugs hate them. His biggest advice is: do your research before your hike so you know what to expect and can prepare accordingly.
Dogs On Trails
A lot of places carry little backpacks for dogs so they can carry their own food and collapsible water containers. When hiking with your pet, it’s important to keep your pooch on a leash and don’t let them wander off. It keeps them safe and it keeps you safe to know where they are at all times. If you want to take your puppy do your research so you know whether or not your hike is pet friendly. Mill Creek Canyon allows dogs all the time. They use odd and even days to determine whether it’s an on-leash or off-leash day. There are a lot of mountain bikers up Mill Creek so if you’re going to take your dog, you should be mindful of the riders. Dogs aren’t allowed in Big Cottonwood Canyon or Little Cottonwood Canyon because of watershed concerns. The Utah Parks and Recreation Department can you fill you in on all pet restrictions. You should definitely call for more information before heading out on the trail.
Bring Along an Emergency Kit
If it’s just you and another person hiking you’ll simply need an emergency kit made for two people, but if you’re going with a group you may need a kit made for more. Nelson carries a 3 by 5 card in his first-aid kit, so he can keep track of what is being used so he can replace it before the next hike. Another great item to have, especially if you’re hiking with children, is bee sting pads or a Sting Ease stick. Knowing how long you’re going to be out and how intense the hike is going to be is also important in preparing your kit.