10 Best Hikes in Millcreek Canyon Utah

Check out the best hikes in Millcreek Canyon from a Utah local! While Millcreek Canyon is only a few minutes from Salt Lake City, it’s definitely a wonderful escape into the mountains with excellent hiking opportunities! Let’s dive into the list.

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view from Gobbler's Knob hike in Millcreek Canyon

With easy access from the city and plenty of trail options of varying difficulty, there’s something for everyone. In addition to hiking, there are also plenty of biking, picnicking, and fishing opportunities in the canyon.

There’s a $5 day fee to use the canyon or you can purchase a yearly pass for $50.

Below you’ll find my list of the best hikes in Millcreek Canyon to check off the bucket list!

Need to Know: The winter gate in Millcreek Canyon closes the upper portion of the road from November to July each year. Some of the hikes on this list won’t be accessible during that time. You can get the current status here.

Best Hikes in Millcreek Canyon

This post is written with the hikes starting at the top of the canyon first. As the list goes on, we get closer and closer to the base of the canyon and the city.

Note on ratings: I always hesitate to provide ratings for hikes because a simple easy, moderate, or challenging rating is very subjective. It’s always better to take the distance, elevation, and your personal physical fitness level into consideration when assessing how challenging a hike will be.

The ratings here are just my opinion on the difficulty and are relative to each other for this canyon.

Murdock peak hike in millcreek canyon in the fall

1. Murdock Peak via Old Red Pine Road

  • Distance: 7.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
  • Trailhead: Old Red Pine Road Trail
  • Rating: Easy

This is one of my favorite peak hikes for the Fall months because the views are amazing, especially with all the changing leaves and the colors that fill the mountains. This is an easy-to-moderate peak hike with the steepest part at the end. You get incredible 360° views of the Wasatch Mountains.

On the weekends, especially in the Fall months, the parking lot for this area fills up quickly and since the road is narrow, traffic can get backed up. It’s best to get an early start to avoid some of the congestion.

You’ll need to make sure the winter gate is open in order to access this trail.

view of dog lake in millcreek canyon utah

2. Dog Lake

  • Distance: 3.6 miles round trip (if taking Little Water Trail out and back)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
  • Trailhead: Little Water Trail or Big Water Trailhead
  • Rating: Easy

Dog Lake is a very popular hike for those hiking with their dogs. It’s a short easy to moderate hike up to a lake, although I would really describe it as more of a large pond.

There are a few ways to access Dog Lake, but the most direct route is on the Little Water Trail out and back. This trail is a steady uphill and well-shaded. There are a couple of small water streams that you pass along the way.

I wouldn’t say that this is one of the best lake hikes near Salt Lake City, but it’s a great place to take your dog and there’s plenty of shade.

You’ll need to make sure the winter gate is open in order to access this trail.

hiking Gobbler's Knob in Utah

3. Gobblers Knob

  • Distance: 4.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: about 3,100 feet
  • Trailhead: Alexander Basin Trailhead
  • Rating: Challenging

Gobblers Knob is a challenging peak that can be accessed in a few different ways. If you want to start in Millcreek Canyon, you’ll start on the Alexander Basin Trail. Do not be deceived by the short distance! This trail is steep!!

At the top, you’ll get incredible views of both Millcreek Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon. Depending on when you do this hike, Alexander Basin can have a lot of snow, and there’s a very steep section in Alexander Basin, so try to get some current conditions before you take this trail.

This peak is over 10,000 feet, so the elevation will be an added challenge as well.

You’ll need to make sure the winter gate is open in order to access this trail.

view from the top of Mount Raymond

4. Mount Raymond

  • Distance and Gain:
    • Bowman Fork Trailhead – 9.7 miles round trip, 3,900 feet ascent
    • Alexander Basin Trailhead to Alexander-Bowman Trail – about 8.8 miles round trip, about 4,000 feet ascent *There’s an option to make this into a loop with the Alexander Basin Trail*
  • Trailhead: Bowman Fork or Alexander Basin
  • Rating: Challenging

There are a couple of ways you can start this hike in Millcreek Canyon – Alexander Basin or Bowman Fork.

Let’s start with the Alexander Basin Trailhead. If you start here, you’ll hit a fork about 0.9 miles in. You can continue on the Alexander Basin Trail or take the Alexander-Bowman Trail.

While the Alexander Basin Trail may be the shortest distance, make sure you take a look at the topo map because this is a challenging option!! Not only do you have to climb up and out of Alexander Basin to reach Gobblers Knob, but then you descend about 1,000 feet to Bakers Pass before climbing up about 1,000 feet again to Mount Raymond. Then, repeat that all on the way back – yikes!

Instead, at the fork, you could take the Alexander-Bowman Trail and avoid going up and down Gobblers Knob. This trail makes the hike a little longer, but there’s less elevation gain.

Yet another option is to start at the Bowman Fork Trailhead. This is the longest mileage option, but it’s a very nice hike with the elevation gain spread out over a longer mileage. This is the trail we decided to take and we really enjoyed it.

All three options go through Bakers Pass. At this point, you begin the final accent to Mount Raymond. This part of the trail is steep with some scrambling towards the top.

I put my trekking poles away and used my hands to climb up and over some of the rocks. This section was a lot of fun, but very sunny and exposed! The peak is beautiful with views of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Millcreek Canyon, and Salt Lake City.

No matter which trail you take, you can expect a challenging day in the mountains.

Lastly, this is a very long hike with not much water, so plan accordingly! Baker Spring on the Bowman-Fork Trail is the last water source we passed coming from the Bowman Fork Trailhead. I don’t know if this spring is available year-round. It was just a trickle in late July on a big snow year.

Make sure to check current trail conditions before you begin. You’ll need to make sure the winter gate is open in order to access this trail if starting at Alexander Basin.

the mount aire millcreek canyon hike

5. Mount Aire

  • Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,895 feet
  • Trailhead: Elbow Fork Trailhead
  • Rating: Moderate

Don’t be deceived by the short distance of this hike, it is steep! The wildflowers are beautiful on the pass before the final accent to the top.

There are definitely some steep sections that can be muddy and slippery depending on the time of year and the weather. Overall, this is a wonderful peak hike close to the city with great views.

You’ll need to make sure the winter gate is open in order to access this trail.

at the top of Millvue peak utah

6. Millvue Peak Trail

  • Distance: 4.6 miles roundtrip*
    • *There is a big discrepancy between what my GPS tracked and what AllTrails says for this hike. My GPS track looks correct and is consistent with the time it took me to hike this peak, so I’m going with those numbers here.
  • Elevation Gain: about 2,000 feet
  • Trailhead: Elbow Fork Trailhead
  • Rating: Moderate

This hike starts out easy to moderate up to Lambs Canyon Pass. This is where most people turn around which makes for a nice moderate hike. You can also access this pass from Lambs Canyon instead of Millcreek Canyon, but I do prefer the Millcreek trail.

From Lambs Canyon Pass, the trail to Millvue Peak becomes much less traveled. It’s hard to even see the trail once you get to the pass. You have to know what you’re looking for.

You can expect to be bushwhacking your way through thick brush on the way to the top for just over a mile. The trail also becomes steeper as you get closer to the peak.

I don’t love bushwhacking, so this wasn’t my favorite trail on this list or my favorite peak hike, but I’m still glad I did it. At the top, you can see many of the surrounding peaks on this list such as Mount Aire, Gobblers Knob, and Mount Raymond.

You’ll need to make sure the winter gate is open in order to access this trail if starting in Millcreek Canyon.

the Salt Lake Overlook millcreek canyon hike from desolation trail

7. Desolation Trail to Salt Lake Overlook

  • Distance: 4.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,260 feet
  • Trailhead: Desolation Trailhead
  • Rating: Easy

This is a great hike that can be done after work. It’s not too long and it’s relatively easy.

You can go out and back on the Desolation Trail, or create a small loop with Thayne Canyon Trail (which is what I did). See below for more info on Thayne Canyon.

The trail keeps going, but Salt Lake Overlook is a nice end destination with views down the canyon to the Salt Lake Valley. Most of the trail is well-shaded, but as you get closer to the overlook, it’s very exposed.

thayne peak hike in Millcreek Canyon

8. Thayne Canyon Trail

  • Distance:
    • varies depending on if you loop it with the Desolation Trail
    • 6.3 miles roundtrip to Thayne Peak (pictured above)
  • Elevation Gain: 2,867 feet to Thayne Peak
  • Trailhead: Desolation Trailhead
  • Rating: Easy to Challenging (depending on how far you go)

This trail can create a loop with the Desolation Trail (#7 above) at a couple of different points so you can make this into a longer or shorter loop hike depending on what you want.

The Thayne Canyon trail is well-shaded, but there’s no water, so plan accordingly. It can be steep over loose rock and through overgrown plants at times, especially the higher up you go.

You also can take the Thayne Canyon Trail to the Desolation Trail and ultimately on to Thayne Peak (pictured above). This is a challenging peak hike that’s not well-traveled, so you’ll likely experience some solitude.

If you hike to Thayne Peak, the last 1/4 mile is very steep, but overall it’s a nice peak hike with some great views.

at the top of grandeur peak hiking in millcreek canyon

9. Grandeur Peak from Church Fork

  • Distance: 5.6 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: about 2300 feet
  • Trailhead: Church Fork Trailhead
  • Rating: Challenging

This is a very popular peak hike. While there are a few ways to access this peak, I like to start from Church Fork. Parking is very limited at the actual trailhead so you’ll likely have to park along the road and hike up through the picnic area to the trailhead.

There’s a good amount of elevation gain on this hike so be prepared for a good sweat on the way up with beautiful views of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains at the top. If you start early, a lot of the climb is shaded which is really nice in the hot summer months!

hiking the pipeline trail in millcreek canyon utah

10. Rattlesnake Gulch to Pipeline Overlook

  • Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: about 1,300 feet
  • Trailhead: Rattlesnake Gulch
  • Rating: Easy

This is my go-to trail if I want a short after-work hike or trail run. This hike starts out uphill through Rattlesnake Gulch over loose rocky terrain.

Once you get to the Pipeline Trail junction, the rest of the hike out to the Pipeline Overlook is very easy and mostly flat. The views of both Millcreek Canyon and Salt Lake City are amazing, making this a very popular trail.

As of 2023, there’s a new trail called the Rattlesnack Trail that you can take instead of Rattlesnack Gulch if you want a more gradual accent or decent. This trail is longer due to the switchbacks, but it’s less steep and rocky. Watch out for the mountain bikers.

view of the Salt Lake valley from Mount Raymond

Important Millcreek Canyon Hiking Tips

Rattlesnakes

I’ve seen rattlesnakes a few times while hiking in Millcreek Canyon. They’re around, so you must be aware and on the lookout as you hike. This is one of the many reasons you should not hike with headphones.

Mountain Bikers

Mountain bikes are allowed on the trails on EVEN-numbered days with the exception of the Pipeline Trail (where they’re always allowed).

If it’s the weekend, you can expect to see a lot of bikers, so make sure to step aside when you see them coming down.

Dogs

One of the big reasons people love hiking in Millcreek Canyon is that it’s a dog-friendly canyon! In Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, you cannot bring your dog, but on ODD-numbered days, dogs are allowed off-leash on the trails in Millcreek Canyon.

On EVEN-numbered days, dogs must be on-leash. Remember, mountain bikers are allowed on the trails on even-numbered days too. 

Up Next: Top Waterfall Hikes near Salt Lake City

Looking for some waterfall hikes near Salt Lake City during these hot summer months? Then check out these awesome hikes next…

1. Adam’s Canyon Waterfall

This waterfall is North of Salt Lake City in the Ogden area. It’s a classic waterfall and a really beautiful hike with lots of shade after the first mile or so.

2. Hidden Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon

This is a super short walk to a beautiful waterfall. There are slippery loose rocks, but overall this waterfall is easy to find and a fun place to escape the heat.

Continue reading…

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