Fall may not be the longest season in Park City, but it’s nothing short of spectacular. As the sunlight begins to wane, the trees begin to put on a show for us, and this special season presents itself in a display of color that one must revel in. A great way to immerse yourself in the beauty of these mountains in the fall is to head out on some of our most spectacular hikes.
What: Hiking Trails to See Park City's Fall Foliage
Where: Park City Area
When: Late September - October
Who: Great fun for the whole family
With this being my first fall living in Park City, I really wanted to immerse myself amongst those beautiful autumn colors. I’ve been told that fall is the shortest season here in Park City, so it’s imperative to get out on the trail to experiences the foliage as soon as they start popping. Early autumn reds and oranges pop up first on the slopes and then soon after the hillsides are covered in gold. I’ve noticed that the seasons DO change quickly here, as one day I was hiking in shorts and a t-shirt, and the next I was bundled up in a beanie and sweatshirt, so I’ve been trying to catch those sunny days in-between the rain showers (that will soon lead to snow!). Here are a few of my favorite trails that I’ve explored to take in the fall and all her glory in Park City.
- Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 465 feet
- Trail Use: Hiking Only
- Loop or Out and Back: Out and Back
- Dog-Friendly: No
- Parking: The new parking area is right before you get to the summit and the old lot, which now is drop off only, and shared by hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers who use it to access a variety of trails in the area, so parking can be scarce during peak times as there are only 40 spots. There is also a new restroom provided.
This summer, with the town of Park City purchasing the Bonanza Flat Conservation Area, approximately 1,350 acres of undeveloped backcountry majesty nestled in the upper elevations of the Wasatch Mountains, a new Bloods Lake Trailhead was created. Tucked on the side of a 10,000-foot mountain, Bloods Lake is a local favorite, you can’t beat a pristine high alpine lake perfect for swimming with peninsulas, rock features, and even a rope swing! The trail is fairly easy but it does have some moderately steep areas.
The new trail is more environmentally friendly as it helps visitors to leave less of an impact on this natural setting by creating a distinctive trail that helps alleviate the amount of erosion that has been happening to the hillside on the original trail.
To get to the Bloods Lake Trailhead I drove up Guardsman Pass, one of the 58 Scenic Backways designated by the State of Utah, where epic mountain views are abundant. It took me about 20 minutes to get from Main Street Park City to the parking lot which was on my right. Note: Guardsman Pass is only open from May to October
Once parked, I crossed the street and made my way over to a prominent sign marking the new Bloods Lake Trailhead. The new trail is beautiful as it meanders through meadows, with scenic views of the Wasatch, and dense Aspen groves, which are showing their true colors! As I made my way through the golden tunnels I found myself at the base of some switchbacks. This is where the trail gets pretty steep and a bit strenuous. Once I made my way up through the steep section, the trail flattens out and Bloods Lake comes into view. To catch my breath, I found a spot on the shore to grab a snack, hydrate, and to take in the views. I even hiked around the entire lake and took a mental note of where the pretty awesome rope swing was for next summer’s adventures.
- Distance: 5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1003 ft
- Trail Use: Hiking and Biking
- Loop or Out and Back: Out and Back (or Loop if you sync up with other trails)
- Dog-friendly: Yes on leash
- Parking: There’s parking at the trailhead on Bear Hollow Drive to your left. Please park your car at an angle, and there are no restrooms available.
Rob’s Trail is another local favorite, especially in the fall. Tucked in a neighborhood close to the Canyons side of Park City Mountain, Rob’s is a moderately strenuous, multi-use trail with plenty of opportunities for spectacular views and lots of leaf-peeping.
To get to the trailhead, I drove down Highway 224 from Kimball Junction, and in 2.1 miles, at the light, I turned right onto Bear Hollow Drive. Driving another 1.4 miles up the road I reached the Trailhead on my left.
Rob’s Trail is an out and back, but you can make it a loop by syncing up with the Ambush Trail, which will cross the slopes of The Canyons, and loop around to Rosebud’s Heaven where you can then reconnect with Rob’s. If you choose to do a loop you’re looking closer at a 7-mile hike. Rob’s is great for a mellow hike or an easy trail run, as it starts with a pretty consistent gentle climb, through lots of Aspen trees. I found the trail to be really well-marked with prominent signage when it runs into multi trail intersections. As I got closer to the top, aspens gave way to pine trees and I came across a nice bench for a rest. From that spot I had some amazing views of slopes lit up in gold. I could have continued on to the next intersection to link up with the Ambush trail but I decided to head back down to Rob’s trailhead and my car.
Iron Mountain Trail
- Distance: 2.35 miles
- Elevation Gain: 920 ft
- Trail Use: Hiking
- Out and Back or Loop: Out and Back
- Dog-Friendly: Yes
- Parking: There is no specific parking area at the trailhead, but parking is available along the road - make sure to read the signs carefully. The trailhead is at the end of Iron Canyon Court - a small cul-de-sac off of Iron Mountain Drive. There isn’t a trailhead marker so it is a little difficult to find.
Photo by, Andrew Merino
For a quick but moderately steep hike to peep some amazing colorful panoramic views, I headed up the Iron Canyon Trail, which starts at the top of Iron Mountain Court, and provides a wide view of the now colorful ski slopes of Park City Mountain.
To get there from Kimball Junction I followed Highway 224 for 3 miles to Meadows Drive, took a right, and headed to the stop sign. Then I took a left onto Aspen Springs Drive and followed it around to Delta Drive where I made another left. At the next stop sign, I turned right, and proceed straight through the next 4-way intersection until I finally came to Iron Canyon Court on the right. Keep in mind this is a neighborhood and the parking is very limited.
The vast overlook of Park City was my destination, and it is well worth the climb! Most of the trail is shaded by Aspens, so it’s like you are hiking along the yellow brick road as they shed their leaves. There are no switchbacks along this hike so it’s a pretty straight-up strenuous climb with 860 feet of elevation gain.
Once I got to the overlook, Park City Mountain reveals itself in all its fall glory, and I admired their beauty from the memorial bench with a snack and a couple of sips of water.
The trail does continue past this overlook to the ridge, where it merges with the Mid-Mountain Trail.
Park City Mountain - Jenni’s Trail
- Distance: 3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 195 ft
- Trail Use: Hiking and Biking
- Out and Back or Loop: Out and Back or Loop
- Dog-friendly: No
- Parking: Large lot at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, easy to find parking
Now that lift access is closed on Park City Mountain, the only option to get involved in some golden Aspens at the resort is to hike up! At the base area near the First Time Lift, I found signage for Jenni’s Trail, and followed the meandering, gentle uphill trail through gorgeous Aspen groves with smooth switchbacks that crossed numerous ski runs until it opened up to some beautiful views of Park City Mountain with the leaves going off. The trails are a bit of a choose your own hiking adventure, as you can go as long or as short as you want, try an out and back or a loop, by hooking up with a couple of other trails.
Partway up Jenni's Trail, there’s an intersection to head down the lower portion of Crescent Mine Grade (CMG) that will allow you to cut back to the base for a shorter loop hike. To complete Jenni's trail in its entirety, ignore the CMG turn off and keep going up until you get to Mid-Mountain trail, where you can turn around and head back down Jenni’s or for a longer hike head across Mid-Mountain Trail till it connects with CMG on the right to take you back down to the base. All along the way, you’ll be inspired by the autumn glow.
Silver Lake Trail
- Distance: 4.7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,433 feet
- Trail Use: Hiking/Running Only
- Out and Back or Loop: Out and Back
- Dog-friendly: No
- Parking: Visitors can park at the Silver Lake Village.
Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Trail is designated as a foot-traffic only trail, so you're guaranteed more tranquility as you hike through the peaceful landscape. The trail is nicely marked beginning at the base of the Silver Lake chairlift. This is an absolutely gorgeous hike that ends at Silver Lake with picturesque cliffs on one side and a bird’s eye view of the Heber Valley on the other.
As I started my hike up, I navigated through a narrow trail of dense trees that made me feel like I was in another world. Climbing higher I popped in and out of golden aspen groves, and as I crossed over ski runs and lift lines, the scenery was put on display as it opened up to panoramic views of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the surrounding foliage. The last 600 feet of elevation is a steep push, but once at the top, I continued to enjoy the views from the East Side of Bald Mountain wherein the distance, I could see the mist in the valleys of the Uinta Mountains.
- Set realistic goals and research the trail ahead of time - pay attention to the total distance and the total elevation gain. Have an idea in mind of how far you can comfortably hike in a day and how much elevation gain is too much, and get an idea of how long the hike will take so you don’t get stuck on the trail in the dark.
- Bring enough water and snacks for twice the time you think you’ll be on the trail.
- Tell a friend where you are headed in case of an emergency.
- Bring layers and rain gear - the weather can be fickle this time of year.
- Wear comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes.
- Keep in mind the altitude if you are coming from a lower elevation - stop as many times as you need to catch your breath, stretch your legs, and hydrate.
- Wear sunscreen - even on cloudy days, at our elevation, sun exposure is a year-round concern.
- Leave No Trace - Pack out all trash you, including dog waste, and stay on the trail.
- Make sure your phone and camera are charged to take all the photos of the beautiful foliage.
- Practice proper trail etiquette - downhill hikers always yield to uphill hikers. All hiker yield to horses.
- If you are on a shared multi-use trail, stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Mountain bikers should always yield to hikers.
This is truly an amazing time of year to be in Park City, with the transformation from Summer to Fall, the newly crisp chilly air, and the colorful foliage beauty all around us. It’s not too hot, and not too cold (yet), what a great excuse to get out on the trails for a couple more hikes before the days get shorter and the snow begins to fall.