The rustling from a grove of gambel oak sounds too loud to be the wind on the sparse leaves still hanging onto the late November branches high in Ophir Canyon.

A small mass of movement in between the tree trunks betrays itself with a few quiet gobbles. As the wild turkeys waddle uphill, three deer spring suddenly to action and flurries of snow begin to fall.

Winter is beginning on Porphyry Hill.

Hiking in gorgeous Ophir Canyon can be a confusing prospect. “No trespassing” notices appear up and down the canyon, interspersed with “Entering public lands” signs. Fear not, hikers: Porphyry Hill is a safe bet, almost entirely on the Lion Hill Loop, a larger loop trail the county maintains for pedestrians, cyclists, ATVs and horses. It ends on a hilltop on public land.

The Oquirrh Mountains are generally underrated for hiking — partly, I think, because so much of the range is private property, and partly because the Wasatch and Stansbury ranges on either side are considered the more “real” mountains.

Well, let me tell you: When you’re 8,700 feet high up on Porphyry Hill, with the flatness of the desert stretching far below you to the west and Lewiston Peak looming to the east, the Oquirrhs feel pretty darn real.

Locals tell me the area is gorgeous in summer, but I’m recommending this hike for the cold months, when the trail is not abuzz with ATVs. Boot traction or snowshoes will be advisable soon. Mind avalanche forecasts; as I said, these are real mountains.

(Erin Alberty | The Salt Lake Tribune) Porphyry Hill offers sweeping views of Ophir Canyon and the Tooele Valley. Photo taken Nov. 27, 2017.

Getting there • From Ophir Town, travel northeast on the main Ophir Canyon Road about 1.4 miles to a gravel road with a sign indicating parking for the Lion Hill Loop on the east side of the street. It is the second sign for the Lion Hill Loop trail. Turn southeast onto the road and travel about 0.4 mile to the parking lot and trailhead kiosk that appears to the north.

Trail description • The entire hike follows old roads, starting with the one you drove on to the trailhead. Get back on the road and hike southeast about 1 mile to a junction marked with a sign noting that public access ends on Halls Basin Road (the road that heads east). Turn right, taking the road to the south, and hike uphill to a beautiful overlook 2.25 miles into the hike. This point, known as the Mercur Overlook, is a fine stopping point; the hike gets quite a bit harder for the final mile, though Porphyry Hill is worth it.

From the overlook, take the road southwest up into the trees, where it bends north and west. A half-mile from the overlook, you’ll reach a junction with a sign stating “View area road ends, please stay on trail.” Take the road to the south. This last leg is not part of the Lion Hill Loop, but it’s on public land. The road rises steeply another half mile to the top of Porphyry Hill. Take in the sweeping views and return the way you came.

Hiking time • 5 hours

Round-trip miles • 6.6 miles

Elevation gain • 1,845 feet

Difficulty • Medium to difficult

Trailhead restrooms • No

Fees • None

Dogs allowed • Yes

Bikes allowed • Yes