Trib Trails: Discovery Loop Trail

Believe it. A pretty, uncrowded trail close to Salt Lake City and Park City does exist

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Discovery Trail in Summit County on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

Hiking season has arrived. It’s time to get out and experience nature by finding those rare, flickering granola bar wrappers and water bottle caps and gazing at the backs of the explorers on the trail ahead of you.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Utah has thousands and thousands of miles of trails. Even with the boom in interest in outdoor activities, that’s enough to get some separation from your neighbors — even on a weekend. And no, finding open space doesn’t have to first require hiking for hours or driving to remote locations.

Don’t believe it? For all the doubters, I present to you the Discovery Loop Trail.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trees near the Discovery Trail in Summit County on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

This short but satisfying trail is within a short drive from both Salt Lake City and Park City. It partially meanders through an aspen grove, crosses a small stream and has enough elevation gain to raise the heart rate but not to alarming levels. No, it’s not possible to escape the distant hum of Interstate 80. But if it doesn’t bother the deer (and possibly moose), of which there are abundant signs, then why let it bother you?

Most satisfying of all, the Discovery Loop is apparently so lightly used that wildflowers sprout up in the middle of it. At times, the carpet is so thick it’s difficult to discern the path from the peripheral foliage.

So uncover your hiking poles and wash out your water pack. With trails like this to explore, you and nature can actually share some quality time together this summer.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Along the Discovery Trail in Summit County on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

The Hike: Before you go, check out the Basin Recreation trails report to make sure the route isn’t too muddy to hike. Pick up the trail from one of the parking lots on the south side of the road. Just one trail leaves from this area and it is mixed-use, so be alert for mountain bikers. Follow it west until you cross a sign directing you to the Discovery Loop Trail further west. Though it says “hike only,” this is still mixed use until you reach the Discovery Loop offshoot, which you’ll find on the left 0.35 miles in. The trail quickly fades to a rough guide, but even with flowers sprouting up in the middle of the trail, it’s still pretty easy to follow. It ducks through aspen trees and leads to a stream. As soon as you cross the stream, the trail climbs steeply for about a third of a mile. Once it tops out, turn right and walk downhill toward the interstate. Pass the sign for the Toll New World trail. At 0.90 into the hike, turn right at the Discovery Trail sign. It descends somewhat steeply. Keep staying right and you will reach a clearer path at 1.20 miles in. Follow it back to the trailhead.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Discovery Trail in Summit County on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

Getting There: From I-80 East, take the Parley’s Summit exit. Turn right, then turn left at the stop sign onto Aspen Drive/Kilby Road. Turn right on Discovery Way. There are two parking lots on either side of the road and another immediately off Milne Drive, next to the restrooms

Region: Summit County

Destination: Discovery Loop Trail

Distance: 1.75 miles

Time: 50 minutes

Elevation Gain: 348 feet

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Restrooms: Yes (closed in winter)

Biking: No

Difficulty: 2

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