Distance: 1.8 miles, out and back
Elevation gain: 380 feet
Trail type: Singletrack, out and back
Multi-use: Hiking, running
Dogs: Allowed on-leash
Seasonality: Year round
Pro Tip: Hiking near sunset, with headlamps for the climb down, ups the wow factor with a killer sunset view followed by the twinkling city lights stretched out below.
There are two significant lookouts that mark the LDS settlers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The first (and most famous) is at the mouth of Emigration Canyon at This Is the Place Heritage Park in the foothills on Salt Lake City’s eastern edge, where LDS leader Brigham Young pronounced the words the gave the park its name. But this storied spot didn’t offer a commanding view of the valley and, as the settlers settled in, as it were, they found their way up to what would be afterward known as Ensign Peak, a small protuberance on the northern edge of the valley.
From Ensign Peak, Young and his advisors could rough out a plan for where to begin to execute his directive to “make the desert bloom like a rose.” You can see the peak from the Utah Capitol Building, which is almost directly below and the hike to its pinnacle is rewarded with a, literally, historic view of the valley.
The family-friendly hike is accessed from the neighborhood directly below the peak, or several blocks up the steep East Capitol Boulevard. The trailhead is marked with a small park and reflection space and memorial to the emigres who didn’t survive the Mormon trek to Utah from Nauvoo, Illinois. The trail is gradual, moderately steep in spots and winds up the mountain offering views throughout. There is no shade on Ensign Peak so wear sunscreen and a hat. The quick hike (great for a lunchtime break) will have you high above the city in about 20 minutes.
At the peak, you’ll find a pillar marking the spot as well as an interpretive set of signs that point out prominent mountain tops and features across the valley. Looking out across the land, it’s easy to see why this was the spot Brigham and his cohort chose to make their early plans. It is possible to see to the valley’s southern terminus, known as Point of the Mountain, and to where the Great Salt Lake and Oquirrh Mountain Range mark the western boundary. Way down below just to the west, on the road you can see that runs past the refineries, is an excellent little road house bar called The Garage featuring fried chicken and delectable local dishes on its menu. If your party is all over age 21, after you’re done admiring the view, head on down for a post hike meal and a beverage.
Nearest destination: Utah Capitol, City Creek Canyon
Trailhead parking: 1002 N. Ensign Vista Drive, Salt Lake City
Trailhead GPS coordinates: 40.7917533, -111.8880362
Contributed by Jeremy Pugh