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Millcreek Canyon's Desolation Overlook

Trail Guide

Hike Name: Desolation Overlook

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance and elevation gain: 4.4 miles, 1,437 feet

Trail type: Out and back, singletrack

Trail uses: Hiking, trail running

Dogs: Allowed on-leash on even-numbered calendar days, off-leash on odd-numbered days

Fees: $3.25 to access Millcreek Canyon. Pay when you leave the canyon.

Seasonality: Ideally hiked in spring through fall, this hike is also accessible year-round. In winter, traction assistance (Yak-Trax, Ice Trekkers), trekking poles with powder baskets and and/or snowshoes are recommended.

Bathroom: At trailhead.

Pro Tip: Pair your hike with a meal at Log Haven, one of Salt Lake’s most beloved and famed dining spots. The restaurant is just a few additional miles up Millcreek Canyon Road from the Desolation Overlook trailhead. 

Not every hike has a payoff — a scenic conclusion to reward your exertions — but we think the best ones do. Desolation Overlook, with its view down Millcreek Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley, earns this distinction. The 4.4 mile, out-and-back hike is a typical hike in this narrow and popular urban canyon that follows the ridgeline into and out of a series of draws and concludes on a saddle overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. 

Next to City Creek, Millcreek is Salt Lake’s most well-trafficked urban canyon, entrance requires a small fee but the canyon accesses some of Salt Lake’s best trails and is a lovely scenic drive in and of itself. The Desolation Overlook trailhead is easy to find — just .75 miles past the entrance station (you pay the $3.25 fee when you exit) in a turnout right after the Millcreek Inn, a popular wedding and reception site. There are bathrooms at the trailhead and you’ll most likely encounter a lot of folks with their dogs. Millcreek is open to four-legged friends (unlike Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, which are protected watershed areas) and many Salt Lakers use the canyon to exercise Fido, Rover and Mr. Snuffles. 

Starting out, the trail is quite steep but it levels out and offers recent level or low-grade spots throughout, before and after each stretch of climbing. The trail will take you back into a shady pine forest and much of the route is under tree cover, making this a good summer hike, but it’s nice year-round. Once you reach the overlook you’ll see some freelance trails that access some of the rocky outcrops that make for excellent spots for a snack and selfies of you and the gorgeous view below. The view is ideal at sunset (provided you bring flashlights and headlamps for the hike down). Another option from the trailhead is to stay left at the only fork early in the hike (it’s signed) and take the hike up Thayne’s Canyon instead. This hike, however, is charitably labeled “strenuous” and is a very steep climb. But you’ll end up on a ridge line with gorgeous views into the Central Wasatch Range and plentiful wildflowers during the early- to mid-summer season. 

Find It

Nearest destination: Log Haven Restaurant, REI Coop.

Trailhead parking: Enter Millcreek Canyon at 3900 South the trail head is East of Millcreek Inn .75 miles from canyon entrance

Trailhead GPS coordinates: 40.6976615,-111.7400174

Contributed by Jeremy Pugh