CITY GUIDE 2019 | City Guide | Salt Lake City Weekly
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    Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon - NIKI CHAN
    • Niki Chan
    • Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon

    Get Out!
    Your guide to the best outdoor adventures the Salt Lake City metro area has to offer.
    By Naomi Clegg

    Salt Lake City is on virtually every list of best outdoor cities in the U.S. for a reason. We sit in a bowl surrounded by mountains, the Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west, which offer boundless options for mountain sports and recreational activities within a few hours' drive or less. Whether you're a hiking enthusiast or a marathon runner, a road biker or a car camper, a skier or a snowboarder, there's a little something for everyone here.

    SLC Bike Collective - NIKI CHAN
    • Niki Chan
    • SLC Bike Collective

    An increased focus on infrastructure improvements has made Salt Lake City one of the best cities for bicycling in the West. Cycle the city with's comprehensive bike map, which shows every existing bike trail and lane in the city and its surrounding environs. Recreational riders can also take bike-maintenance classes at the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective or join a variety of group rides through the collective and other organizations.

    Golden Spoke Trail, newly christened in 2018, joins a network of six pre-existing trail systems together to form a 106-mile paved trail that stretches from Provo to Ogden. With the completion of the last remaining segments, it's now the longest continuous, multi-use urban trail network west of the Mississippi River. Following, at various points, the edge of the Wasatch Range and the Jordan River, the trail is smooth and mostly flat, making it great for a family ride or walk and a tempting option for the road cyclist's first century ride.

    Shoreline Trail - UT.GOV
    • Shoreline Trail

    For cyclists looking for more of a challenge, any of the six paved-road canyons that line the east edge of the valley are a good bet. Emigration Canyon consistently proves the most popular. Climb the canyon entirely within a bike lane on the 8-mile, 1,200-foot route, which rises moderately to Little Mountain Summit. If that doesn't get your heart thumping adequately, tack on another 7 miles and 1,500 feet and pedal to Big Mountain Summit for even more spectacular views.

    Mountain bikers, we didn't forget about you: For an easily accessible, choose-your-own-length ride, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is a great single-track option for newbies and more skilled riders alike. Hop on and off at any point between Ensign Peak and the mouth of Emigration Canyon for a quick post-work ride and killer views. And for a dense trail network with a wide variety of terrain, from beginner to advanced, head down to Corner Canyon in Draper. It's a mountain-bikers' mecca—but make sure you yield to hikers and horses.

    Nestled into the foothills next to the University of Utah is arguably one of Salt Lake City's most popular trails. The approximately 2.5-mile round-trip hike climbs through rocky terrain and seasonal wildflowers until it reaches an area dubbed The Living Room, where hikers can rest their legs on stone "sofas" and enjoy a view of the valley. It's a short—but challenging—jaunt accessible to families, dog-walkers and plain ol' recreational hikers.

    Venture up the canyons, and you'll reach trailheads that take you to the many lakes that dot the mountains. And up there, it's all about the lakes! Start from Mill B South Fork for the trail to Lake Blanche, a 7-mile out-and-back hike—but don't stop when you get to Lake Blanche. Continue along the trail to reach two more, slightly smaller sister lakes, Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. Or, head farther up the canyon, where you'll hit the Mill D North Fork, from which you can access the beautiful, gently rising Desolation Lake Trail, which winds gently through stands of aspens and wildflowers before reaching the peaceful, emerald-green lake. This 8-miler might be best in the fall, when the shaking aspens turn a vivid bright yellow. For a more family-friendly option from the same trailhead, take the classic 3-mile hike to Donut Falls.

    And for a shorter but still plenty-rewarding lake experience accessible to small kids, start from the Brighton parking lot on the 4-mile round-trip hike to Lake Mary and its two sisters, Martha and Catherine. This hike is particularly lovely in July and August, when the plentiful wildflowers filling the pathside fields come out in full force.

    Frary Peak Trail - JOSH SCHEUERMAN
    • Josh Scheuerman
    • Frary Peak Trail

    Considering we're the Great Salt Lake's eponymous city, it's pretty easy to spend time here without setting eyes on the lake's salty shores. Buck the trend by making the sub-one-hour drive out to the lake for some rustic car camping. A seven-mile causeway leads out to the lake's largest island, where primitive camping sites are available year-round at Bridger Bay Campground. Antelope Island is home to a herd of 600 American bison, along with antelope (of course), deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, shorebirds and waterfowl. Hike out to Dooley Knob or Frary Peak for excellent views of the lake, or spend your time bird-watching and animal-spotting. But watch out for gnats, which are out in full force from approximately April to June—if you go during these months, bring a head net. Trust us!

    For a less-exposed, more mountainous experience, head up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the Albion Basin campsite, which has 19 first-come, first-served sites nestled among white pine and aspen. Peak season is July through September, when the warm summer weather reaches up into the canyons. Be warned: no water or hookups are available at these campsites. But braving the vault toilets is worth it for the summer wildflowers; a short mile-long hike leads to the lovely Cecret Lake.

    Also in Little Cottonwood Canyon is Tanners Flat Campground, a 38-site spot in a wooded area with easy access to many recreational activities and (bonus!) a plethora of nearby waterfalls. Hike the popular Red Pine Lake and White Pine Lake trails, mountain bike along Cottonwood Creek Trail and Albion Meadows Trail, take a trip just up the road to the Tanners Gulch climbing area or spend a lazy afternoon trout fishing in Little Cottonwood Creek. Water is provided, as is an onsite volleyball court.

    Of course, for a reservation-less option, you can always pack out your gear to a site along the many trails in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. Dispersed camping is legal pretty much anywhere in the canyons, as long as you're 200 feet from trails and water sources. And always remember Leave No Trace principles.

    Two of Salt Lake's largest parks prove popular for the running crowd, with large paved loops surrounding ponds and grass fields at Sugar House Park and Liberty Park. The tree-lined paths provide a green shelter within the city and make it easy to track your running distance (both loops are approximately 1.4 miles).

    For a running refuge seconds from the bustle of downtown, run the trail that starts at Memory Grove Park, right down the hill from the Capitol. The in-and-out path is approximately 2 miles roundtrip. For a longer run, continue up the paved City Creek Canyon path for another four miles. It winds through a pretty forested area next to the creek and provides some good elevation gain on the last couple miles. Or head above the canyon for a short but intense thigh-burner up the steep slope to Ensign Peak.

    Venture further into trail-running territory along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which is popular for both runners and bikers and, despite its high elevation, is relatively flat. Or take your run indoors and train on the same track run by the world's best athletes at the Olympic Oval in Kearns, a climate-controlled 442-meter loop around an ice rink with an eight-lane sprint zone. A day pass is four bucks.

    Salt Lake and the surrounding areas are home to many races, including the Salt Lake City Marathon, Half and 5k, which starts at the University of Utah campus. Also popular is the nearby Ogden Marathon, which winds gently through Ogden Canyon for a total elevation loss of just over 1,000 feet. And of course there's the Ragnar, which this year will take place on a 6.5-mile loop at This Is The Place Heritage Park, for a tag-team marathon-length race.

    Brighton Ski Resort - JOSH SCHEUERMAN
    • Josh Scheuerman
    • Brighton Ski Resort

    Skiing and Snowboarding
    Just a quick drive up one of the many canyons that surround Salt Lake City gets you to some of the world's best ski resorts. Take a jaunt up Little Cottonwood Canyon for a skiers' favorite, Alta, which due to its fortunate geography gets some of the best snow in North America. This skiers-only resort is sometimes described as "steep, deep and cheap." Don't come for the nightlife; come for the snow and the variety of well-maintained runs, from beginner to expert.

    Sharing the canyon is Snowbird, a hip resort that along with some of the most advanced runs for skiers and snowboarders, offers fine dining options, a full spa and a variety of cultural events, including regular live music and speakers.

    A local favorite up Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton is affordable and super accessible to kids and beginners. Kids under 10 are free, and the resort is famous for its variety of ski and board classes and lessons. Also up Big Cottonwood is Solitude, an uncrowded resort with a variety of terrain.

    Park City Resort has the most territory of any resort in the U.S. and is also one the most popular (and, sometimes, the most crowded). It's a ubiquitous Utah ski experience. Deer Valley is a pricier option for skiers only that offers fast lifts, a world-class ski school and excellent service, dining and lodging. Go here if you're looking for luxury.

    Ski down the same slopes where athletes won medals in the '02 Olympics at Snowbasin. It's one of the oldest resorts in the U.S., with great cafeteria food and uncrowded verticals. And for the least crowds, Powder Mountain has a cap on guests and thousands of acres accessible by foot or motorized snowcat.

    Salt Flats - BLM
    • BLM
    • Salt Flats

    Sports and Salt
    Experience 'sort of stunning' sunsets and work out your core at the Great Salt Lake.
    By Kelan Lyons

    Mention to a Utahn that you're going to spend some time in the city's namesake body of water, and the response is invariably the same: a scrunched-up nose, a look of disdain and some version of the words, Why would you want to do that?

    "The lake itself does tend to get a bad rap. People always want to talk about the smell and the bugs," Dave Ghizzone, owner of Gonzo Boat Rentals and Tours, says, though he swears the odor comes from nearby Farmington Bay. Smell be damned, the Great Salt Lake is an underrated spot in the hot summer months for boating, rowing or, for the truly bold, taking a dip. With unbeatable vistas of mountains and magnificent sunsets, braving the bugs and smell is worth it. Plus, Ghizzone says, "Once you're out on the main body of water, there's really no odor at all."

    Ditch your preconceptions and get out on the water. Here are some suggestions.

    Pedal Boating
    Pedal boats are a great way to kill an afternoon on the water. "They're not very fast, but they are a lot of fun, especially on a calm day," Ghizzone says of the watercrafts. His business rents out four-seater pedal boats, which Ghizzone describes as "kind of a legacy thing" for the Great Salt Lake and "more of a family activity"; children are allowed to join adults, he says, provided they wear a life jacket. The boats are tough to tip over, and peddling isn't difficult because, thanks to the salt, the boats sit up higher on the water, making them great options for weekend warriors who want to spend time with their kids.

    Fearful landlubbers, take note: The chances of your boat taking on water in the GSL are low. "You don't have to worry about sinking because the water's so dense," Dave Shearer, the state park's harbor master, says, though he warns sailors to pay attention to weather forecasts. "If the wind picks up, you can get some pretty quick waves out there," he says, but "average daily conditions out here are very good." Shearer recommends prospective boaters check out Sailfest, held in June by the Great Sale Lake Yacht Club, or contact Gonzo Boat Rentals and Tours. "There's plenty of opportunities to get out on the water," he says.

    Stand Up Paddleboarding
    A cross between surfing and kayaking, stand up paddleboarding is more commonly known by its acronym, SUP, not to be confused with the greeting. SUPers stand on a board and use a paddle to navigate the water, giving their bodies—especially their cores—a full workout while doing their best not to lose their balance and stay dry. Trent Hickman, owner and operator of Park City SUP, says the views GSL SUPers get of the Wasatch Mountain Range, not to mention the sunsets, "can be sort of stunning." Hickman says he doesn't think the saltiness makes SUPing any harder, but, "if it's highly windy or choppy, that can make it incredibly difficult."

    Amanda Green, co-owner of Green Adventure Sport Rentals, compared her Great Salt Lake kayaking experience to "paddling through cough syrup." (Ghizzone says there's less resistance in the water because of the salt, rejecting Green's cough syrup comparison, unless you're paddling through waves. And Hickman says the difficulty of paddling through the lake "can be subjective.") Using a kayak, Green says, "you can still have the beauty of seeing everything, but not the itchiness of the salt ... I like it because I don't like to swim." Green encourages potential kayakers not to worry about winged menaces: bugs hug the shoreline, she says, but they're not as prevalent farther out on the water.

    Rowing at the Great Salt Lake - JADE CLEMENT
    • Jade Clement
    • Rowing at the Great Salt Lake

    Dubbed the "polar opposite of kayaking" by Great Salt Lake Rowing president Irene Lysenko, rowing is a full-body workout in which participants face backward—not forward, as in kayaking—and use a combination of legwork and teamwork to glide through the water while taking in some breathtaking views. "It's incredibly beautiful," Lysenko says. "You just can't beat the sunsets. Beginners, head to the Great Salt Lake Marina on Saturday, June 2, for National Learn to Row Day, where you'll get free rowing education and experience. Those looking for a series of classes should check out the GSLR's lessons page. The best part? "It's low-impact," Lysenko says. "You can row forever. You never age out of it."

    Swimming, or, for the less ambitious, floating
    To get as close as humanly possible to Jesus' water-walking feat, just lie back. "You can float effortlessly," Shearer, the harbor master, says, thanks to the lake's high salt concentration. Prospective floaters should head to the lake's northern arm, since it's twice as salty as the arm to the south. Visit the popular Bridger Bay Beach to lie back, gaze at the sky and meditate to the sound of the birds as you float in the water's salty embrace. Or, if you're an open-water swimmer, brave the brine flies and shrimp and do some freestyle with a backdrop much prettier than your standard swimming pool or body of open water and soak it all it. This, my friends, is summer in Utah.


    Big Game Hunting
    An ode to selfie-worthy local sports mascots.
    By Ray Howze

    Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Front are home to a number of sports teams—professional or minor league—and most have their own furry, oversized, lovable mascot. Take a look at what creatures you might come across at your next sporting event

    Jazz Bear
    As Utah's most well-known mascot, the Utah Jazz Bear has performed stunts and entertained audiences since 1994, conveniently right before the Jazz went on their historic NBA Finals run. Whether he's standing atop a 20-foot ladder, sliding down the concourse steps in the arena or covering you in Silly String, the Bear will certainly leave his mark on you. The Bear was also selected to the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006, cementing his legacy in mascot lore.

    Minor League baseball has a long history in Salt Lake, but its current iteration of AAA ball started in 1994 with the Salt Lake Buzz. The team's name changed to the Stingers from 2001-05, but finally settled on the Bees. Since then, Bumble has brought smiles to kids and families, showing bees shouldn't be feared. Bumble's bio says he comes from Honeyville, Utah, but was kicked out for being too large of a bee. He seems to fit right in at Smith's Ballpark, though.

    The University of Utah's red-tailed hawk mascot first appeared in 1996 with the blessing of the Ute tribal council—the inspiration behind the school's team name, Utes—and hasn't stopped flying around since (in spirit, of course, because it's not a real bird). The hawk was chosen as the mascot because of its indigenous heritage to the state and is seen leading the football team onto the field on its motorcycle.

    Cosmo Cougar
    Brigham Young University's mascot, Cosmo, recently went viral for its dance moves with the school's cheer team and racked up more than four million views on YouTube. The mascot initially started out as a live cougar before Cosmo was introduced in 1953. The cougar harkens to the cats found in the hills around the Wasatch Front, but Cosmo at least only attacks you with fun. Incidentally, the 2015-18 iteration of Cosmo this year came out as gay.

    The mascot for Utah's minor league hockey team the Utah Grizzlies is a cartoon-ed version of an intimidating grizzly bear. But no one said all mascots have to be menacing. Give Grizzbee a hello next time you're at Maverik Center.

    Leo the Lion
    The mascot for Utah's Major League Soccer team, Real Salt Lake, is meant to pair with the organization's royal motif (real means royal in Spanish). Best known for his artistic works The Last Defender and The Mona Kreisa (an ode to former coach Jason Kreis and the Mona Lisa), according to the team's website, Leo romps around Rio Tinto Stadium throughout the year.

    As the newest mascot on the block, Cleo, the female counterpart to Leo, cheers on the Utah Royals FC, who are members of the National Women's Soccer League. Catch Cleo at one of the team's home games this year as its second season gets underway.


    Utah Jazz murals ranked
    By Enrique Limón

    • Enrique Limón

    1. Behold the pop wonder that is Trent Call's Jazz ode near the corner of 100 South and Main. "Hot Rod" Hundley, Rudy Gobert and Dr. Dunkenstein and more call the 3,400-square-foot piece home. Working mostly at night, the artist completed it in around a week's time. Chances are you'll spot new references every time you gaze at it, though Call says it's not necessarily Easter egg-laden. "It's more of a fun who's who and what's what for the fans to geek-out on," he says. "But I will say there are a few super secrets that only like three people know about."

    • Enrique Limón

    2. Not so much a mural, but a ghost sign reminiscent of the glory days of yesteryear, this weather-worn logo from the 1996-2004 era is holding strong at the old Packer Glass Co. HQ, near the corner of 400 South and 200 West. The purple-and-copper logo iteration marked a departure from the team's original musical note branding, which it would later revisit. Close your eyes hard enough and you can almost hear Jerry Sloan grinding his teeth during the '98 NBA Finals.

    • Enrique Limón

    3. Clocking in at 20-by-78-feet, Karabo Poppy's tribute to the home team on the west side of Valter's Osteria is monumental indeed. Influenced by signs at hair salons she's seen during her youth in South Africa, the piece also gives nods to hieroglyphics, the mighty Wasatch range and the team's New Orleans origins via a saxophone. "When I approach a new piece, I always look at it in a way that celebrates hybridity," Poppy told

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