Mill Creek Canyon
Mill Creek Canyon is one of Salt Lake City’s most popular recreation areas.
The recreation opportunities abound. Picnicking, hiking, biking, or just
plain old lounging in the outdoors are all available here. The canyon
begins off of Wasatch Boulevard on 3800 South. The road winds from
approximately 4900 feet to about 7400 feet. The scent of pines and colors
of flowers both increase the higher you go. In the spring and all
throughout the summer one can see any number of colors in the flowers
habitating the upper meadows.
Mill Creek hasn’t always been in the shape it is now. Back in the late 1980
’s the canyon had been overused and trampled enough to become a hangout for
a bit more of a rowdier crowd than today. The watershed had been affected
as well, many riparian areas were being hurt by erosion.
That all changed when the city of Salt Lake and the Forest Service entered
into an agreement to change the canyon into a fee area. Vehicles are
charged $2.25 or $22.00 for a year's pass. These fees have been instrumental
in recovering the canyon into the fantastic recreation area it is today.
Most days will find the canyon full of picnickers, hikers and bikers. Mill
Creek Canyon has the most picnic sites of any canyon near the city. There
are 10 picnic areas with each having at least several picnic tables. All of
the picnic sites feature a table, fire ring, and nearby bathrooms.
Church Fork is the largest and most popular area. It is also the first
picnic area you will encounter when driving up the canyon. There are many
picnic sites and babbling brooks winding through the area. Church Fork is also a great place to begin your hike on the Pipeline Trail or the hike to Grandeur Peak.
Box Elder and Upper Box Elder are the next picnic areas. This area is also
fairly large and contains many sites. Many of the picnic spots are located
right next to Mill Creek, the children can have fun frolicking in the water.
(In the late summer, stay away from the creek in the early season.)
About .6 miles from the Box Elder picnic area is a boardwalked trail and fishing dock that is handicapped friendly. Those not able to hike on the
more rugged trails will like this short stroll down the boardwalk next to
the stream. The fishing dock is situated on a small pond before a spillway.
The Terraces group area has a number of group picnic sites located a bit
higher on the side of the canyon. There are great views and the elevation
ensures a cooler temperature. The group sites can be reserved by
calling (801) 483-5473.
Maple Grove is the next picnic area encountered, this is also the spot of
the upper gate. The gate is open from July 1st to November 1st. Maple
Grove features many picnic sites and isn’t quite as busy as the lower areas.
White Bridge, Maple Cove, Evergreen, Fir Crest and Clover Springs are all
located in Upper Mill Creek. These picnic areas each feature several picnic
sites and one can usually always find an open site. These areas are located
at a bit higher elevation so be prepared for cooler temps and the
possibilities of summertime afternoon thunderstorms.
At the end of the canyon are the parking lots to access the Big Water,
Little Water, and the Great Western trails. These trails are covered by the
even/odd, dog/bikers ordinance. On even days bikes are allowed on the Upper
Mill Creek trails. Dogs are allowed on the trails on any day, but on even
calendar days they must be leashed. On odd calendar days bikes are prohibited
on the Upper Mill Creek Trails. So, on odd calendar days bikers can’t drop
down from the Wasatch Crest trail into Mill Creek.
Mill Creek is an excellent quick getaway for Salt Lake residents, be sure
and get up there soon.
Nearby Area: Big Cottonwood Canyon
The Terraces group sites may be reserved by calling (801) 483-5473.
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