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Trib Trails: Red Pine Road loop lends itself to tree-gazing

Well-maintained trail at the end of Mill Creek Canyon features glowing yellow, pink and orange aspens intermixed with dark evergreens.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trees explode with fall color along the confluence of Red Pine Road Trail and Little Water Trail at the top of Millcreek Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

The changing of the leaves around Utah this year has been some of the most vibrant and colorful in years. If you haven’t gotten out to see it, there’s good news: It’s coming to you. While many of the trees at higher elevations have begun to drop their leaves already, the ones at lower elevations are just beginning to change color.

The Red Pine Road loop hike at the end of Mill Creek Canyon features a little bit of both. Some of the aspens have already dropped their leaves on the broad path. Others are still aglow. And all are contrast against the deep green of the conifers. The trail never gets too steep, so it’s possible to just get lost in the scenery. Just make sure to do it soon. The gate to the upper half of the canyon closes to cars for the season starting Nov. 1.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trees explode with fall color above Red Pine Road Trail at the top of Millcreek Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.


The Hike: From the Little Water trailhead at the top of Mill Creek Canyon, at the far north end of the lot, go east. At 0.1 mile, find the start of the Red Pine Road trail. Instead of going over the bridge and onto that trail, veer right on the Little Water Trail for about .6 miles until it connects with the Great Western Trail. Turn left onto Great Western Trail and follow it northeast toward Desolation Lake. Go 1.6 miles to the intersection with Red Pine Road. Turn left to cross the wood bridge and return to the parking lot along this well-maintained trail as it makes a sunny descent back to the stream and trailhead.

Note that bikes are only allowed on the trail on even days on the calendar and that dogs can only be off-leash on odd days.

Getting There: Take I-80 east to I-215 south/Belt Route. Then take Exit 3 for state highway 171 south/Wasatch Boulevard/3300 South. Use the left lane to turn left on 3300 South, then turn right onto Wasatch Boulevard. Go .8 miles, then turn left at the light onto Mill Creek Canyon Boulevard/3800 South. Follow this road to its end, 9 miles up the canyon, and park in the lot. There is a $5 fee ($3 seniors) to enter the canyon, payable on your way out.

Tribune staff writer Erin Alberty contributed to this report.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trees explode with fall color as people make their way along the Red Pine Road Trail at the top of Millcreek Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.

Red Pine Road loop

Region: Mill Creek Canyon

Destination: Loop with fall colors

Distance: 5.2 miles

Time: 3 hours

Elevation Gain: 1,046 feet

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

Restrooms: Yes

Biking: Yes

Difficulty: 2

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