You’ve got a soul that yearns for wilderness, but a to-do list that prevents you from going very far. Thankfully, in Utah, just a short drive can take you to areas of isolated beauty. Choose from cliffs and rocks, lakes and streams or fragrant forests.
The hills of Park City are a paradise of trails both wild and tame. Unlike the Cottonwood canyons, dogs are allowed, so you and your pooch can hike up a resort hill where you might ski or snowboard in winter.
If you’d like an easy but different hike, try Park City’s Rail Trail, 28 miles of mostly flat terrain with a trailhead right in the city, on Prospector Drive behind Park City Plaza. Olympic skier and Park City resident Holly Flanders recommends the hike for its uniqueness. “The most unusual part of the Rail Trail is where it goes between Route 248 and I-80. It actually goes in a canyon between the two highways, with streams,” Flanders says. “You don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a highway; it feels pretty isolated. Parts of the trail go through wetlands, wild meadows and the old mining towns of Wanship and Coalville.”
Little Cottonwood Canyon is a beautiful place for summer hiking. Connie Marshall, the marketing director at Alta Resort, says, “Typically, wildflowers peak at the end of July or first part of August, a wonderful time for hiking.” You’ll be in a shaded forest of woodland streams.
To get to Albion Basin Summer Road, drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon until the paved road ends, then pull into the parking lot. There’s an information booth where you can pick up a map of hikes. Mountain bikes aren’t allowed, so you won’t be distracted by the threatening crunch of tires speeding toward you. Hikers are requested to stay on designated trails and not create new ones, and keep in mind that it’s dangerous to try hiking on any remaining snowfields.
In Big Cottonwood Canyon, Lake Mary is a great place to sit and reflect, though without much isolation; it takes less than an hour to get to this popular site from the trailhead at the Brighton Resort parking lot. You can keep hiking past Lake Mary to come to the less-crowded Lake Martha and Lake Catherine. It’s an area of open meadows and rock cliffs. Wildlife abounds; you’ll often see moose. Ignore them, and they’ll probably ignore you.
There are also two great hikes for those with unsure footing, or who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs. One starts in the parking lot behind the digital sign in Little Cottonwood Canyon. A paved path winds through the forest and along Little Cottonwood Creek, with picnic tables and creek overlooks. It’s perfect for appreciating the high water runoff of spring.
The other totally accessible trail is at Silver Lake, near the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, where the road curves around to Brighton. Pull into the large off-road parking lot. A boardwalk crosses over marshlands and wetlands and surrounds most of the lake. It’s also a great hike for families with small children. The scenic beauty of the lake gives the illusion of being far away from civilization—and isn’t that what you’re looking for?