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My Favorite City Trail

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My Favorite City Trail

Don't you wish there was a scenic trail that started right near town? With easy parking and/or convenient mass transit that would deposit you right at the trailhead. And don't you wish you could run as far as you want, not just once around the lake and back to the parking lot? Well, there aren't many places like that in this world, but there is one good one that I know of: it's right near downtown Salt Lake City. In fact, you could stay in any of the big-name downtown hotels and run right out the door.

Here's the situation. Salt Lake City is a large, modern western city. But it is built right up the side of the mountains. Really big mountains. The last big buildings on the flat (before the start of the upslope) belong to the Mormon church. Right across the street from the church buildings is a city park that stretches up into the canyon. That canyon is called City Creek Canyon and there are trails up there! You start out in a small park surrounded by a quiet neighborhood. But as the canyon narrows, the trails begin. And they go on forever. No kidding - I mean forever. You could easily put together a 100-mile trail run up there. They run several races on those trails, and some of them take all day.

Here's how to get there. At the corner of State Street and North Temple (it's right downtown) jog into the little park with the stream and winding sidewalk. Then go on up the street (slightly uphill) until the park gates tell you that you have entered the Memory Grove/City Creek area. From there you can go on up the road for quite a while (maybe seven or eight miles uphill, one way) or you can run on the grass until you hit the bark trail (it's on the right side of the stream, by the bridge at the drinking fountain). Watch out for dogs here: it's one of the few places on this planet where you can (legally) let your dog off the leash. The trail keeps to the right side of the stream for a mile or so and then it narrows, makes a sharp right turn, and heads into the trees. Another few minutes of steep climbing and you hit another road. This road is one way for cars. But you get half of it: half of this lightly traveled road has been set aside for bikers and peds; it is the most popular running/hiking/biking spot in the city. Even if you don't like roads, it only lasts for a half mile or so and then it's back onto the trail. (If you REALLY don't like roads, you can drive into the one way road and park right at the upper trailhead.)

But for trail runners, the fun part begins at the top of the road. At that point there are two main trails that take off into the mountains. On the right side of the stream (going uphill), there is a well-traveled trail that skirts some expensive homes and soon heads right up the ridge into the mountains. I have followed this trail for twenty miles it keeps on going up into the Wasatch Mountains. This trial is used for the annual Wasatch Steeplechase and it is tough. Or you can follow the Shoreline Trail along the side of the mountain to the south. This trail is destined to be part of a much longer set of Western trails (they are even going to provide ways to get across highways).

From the City Creek road, the trail on the left side of the stream (going uphill) is more shaded and less-well traveled. On hot summer days, it is the trail of choice. If you run in the late afternoon you will be protected from the sun all the way up and you'll have a cool canyon breeze. This trail starts right at the intersection of the public street and the road into City Creek Canyon Park (road runners and bikers love this park). The trail follows the road for a while and then winds higher and higher into the hills. At one point, you will lose the (few) mountain bikers as they take off to the left on the connection to the Shoreline Trail. Head straight on up the canyon: it gets nicer the higher you go. As an added bonus, you are quite likely to see deer or other critters as you go. Watch out for rattlesnakes, but if you don't bother them, they won't bother you. I once stepped on a drowsy rattlesnake on this trail and he wasn't too happy about it. But after a bit of angry posing and rattling, he wiggled off into the weeds. And by the way, if you go on up high enough, you may run into a moose or two. They may look docile and sleepy, but they are not to be messed with. I ran into two big males that just chomped grass and stared at the skinny runner with hardly any clothes on. But another time a mother with a calf charged at me. I ran away. Most of the other critters will run the other way if they see you coming. Lots of coyotes and elk and skunks and such up there, but they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Actually, there are enough runners up there these days that you won't see many wild animals until you get pretty high up into the mountains.

One last note: Utah is a conservative state with some anti-environmental sentiment so there is some concern that private property owners who keep right on building up into the mountains are not going to be cooperative in keeping these trails open to the public. There is currently no strong nature conservancy movement in Utah. But it would be hard to believe that even a conservative state like Utah would not realize the valuable resource they have for their citizens. And although some of these mountain trails have been built upon during the past few years, we are still optimistic that at least this trail will not soon disappear.

By the TrailRunningUSA staff
Copyright 2000 by TrailRunningUSA

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