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Trib Trails, Beginner Peaks: Grandeur Peak

Push past the false summit and enjoy a breathtaking view of the Salt Lake Valley

(Paighten Harkins|The Salt Lake Tribune ) The view of Mount Olympus from the top of Grandeur Peak on May 9, 2021.

This is the third in a three-part series of trails that will take beginner hikers to the top of a mountain. First, we visited Avenues Twin Peaks in Salt Lake City. Then, Sardine Peak in Weber County. This hike brings you back to Salt Lake County and up a mountain most locals have definitely heard of and seen. I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with me. I know Major the dog has.

When I started this series, I said I hadn’t climbed any of the Wasatch Range’s premiere peaks. That remains true. I have, however, climbed one of the most well-known.

This hike took me three tries. The third time, I did it, but my body did not want me to. I ate some pretzels at the summit and promptly threw up. I was fine after, but take this as your warning.

You may be wondering why I consider this a beginner’s peak. It’s a fair question, given the aforementioned vomit. I have two responses.

First, compared to the other peaks I haven’t hiked, this one truly is easy. It’s a long trek, but it is less steep by more than a thousand feet (and shorter) than, for instance, the route to Pfeifferhorn, or even Timpanogos, which is known as one of Utah’s more accessible peaks.

Second, this series has been a progression from easier peaks that some could argue aren’t peaks at all to now — a real peak. At 8,299 feet, you can see this one from the Salt Lake Valley without trying. It’s an impressive mountain.

Some might even call it...grand.

(Paighten Harkins|The Salt Lake Tribune) Major the dog looks around at the top of Grandeur Peak on May 9, 2021.

Grandeur Peak

The Hike • Hiking to Grandeur Peak is not easy, but it’s worthwhile.

Your journey begins near a small waterfall. You’ll roughly follow the creek responsible for those falls for the first one-third of the hike, which has some pretty solid tree cover and easy access to water. You’ll continue until you meet a divergence with the Pipeline Trail. Follow the signs that point north, toward the peak.

About 0.8 miles from the trailhead, you’ll make your first detour from the creek and begin navigating the switchbacks that lead you out of the ravine to the saddle. I find the first part of the hike, up to this point, the hardest.

As you navigate the switchbacks up, tree cover diminishes. Make sure to wear and bring sunscreen because you’ll get a lot of sun. You’ll need enough water, too, especially if you take dogs. There aren’t natural water sources the rest of the way up and it’s tough. It’ll also be immediately worth it when you get your first viewpoint and are treated to views of the canyon you just climbed out of. The view gets better at every switchback as you climb.

The trail is fairly easy to follow, and there will likely be plenty of other folks out to follow. When in doubt, take the path of least resistance. If there are tree branches askew across a path, it’s probably not the right one.

You’ll reach a false summit before you hit the real one. The first time I tried this hike, the false summit dissuaded me and I turned around, but it’s only about 0.3 miles to go once you’ve hit that point. You get a beautiful view of Salt Lake City (and a tucked-away mining scar) but keep going! It’s worth it.

There are a few areas as you near the peak that require some light scrambling. Lots of people used trekking poles, but I personally didn’t need them.

At the summit, you’ll be treated to views of the towering Mount Olympus, and of course Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake. You can even get a peak at the Uinta Mountains. Pack something to eat and drink so you can reward yourself for the effort — and prepare to descend the way you came up.

The ascent took me 3 hours, plus 1.5 hours to get down. It’s possible to go faster if you’re more fit than I am.

(Paighten Harkins|The Salt Lake Tribune) A hiker ascends from the false peak to the top of Grandeur Peak on May 9, 2021.

Getting there • From Salt Lake City take I-80 east to I-215 south and take the 3300 South exit. Turn right onto Wasatch Boulevard and follow it to 3800 South and turn east. You can also exit at 3900 South, turn left onto Wasatch Boulevard and turn east into the canyon. Drive up 3800 South up the canyon, past the fee station for about 3 miles until you reach a sign for the Church Fork picnic area, accessed via a road on your left. The trailhead is at the end, past the picnic area. There’s a small parking lot there, with about six spots, or you can park along the main road and walk up to the trailhead. Chances are, you’ll have to park on the road, which adds anywhere from .3 to .4 miles to the trek and about 280 feet of elevation. Remember you’ll need to pay $5 at the fee station when you leave.

Region: Millcreek Canyon

Destination: Peak

Distance: 7.3 miles

Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Elevation gain: 2,656 feet

Restrooms: Yes

Dogs allowed: Yes, on-leash on even days and off-leash on odd days

Bikes allowed: Yes, not recommended

Difficulty: 4

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