Mueller Park to Elephant Rock Trail
Overview: Mueller Park is popular and used by mountain bikers, families, dog walkers, and trail runners as well as hikers. Elephant Rock has a bench perfectly situated for watching the sunset over the Great Salt Lake.
Start: Mueller Park picnic grounds and trailhead
Distance: 7.0 miles out and back
Hiking time: About 3 hours
Elevation gain: 900 feet
Trail surface: Packed dirt and rock, bridge
Best season: Year-round; snowshoes required in winter
Other trail users: Bikers, horses
Canine compatibility: Dogs permitted
Land status: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Nearest town: Bountiful
Fees and permits: No fees or permits required for hiking; day-use fee for the picnic area
Maps: USGS Fort Douglas
Trail contacts: Salt Lake Ranger District, 6944 South 3000 East, Salt Lake City 84121; (801) 236-3400
Special considerations: This trail is popular with mountain bikers. Beware of bikers, and share the trail. The trail lies at a lower elevation than many Wasatch trails, so it one of the first to clear of snow in the spring.
Finding the trailhead: From Salt Lake City head north on I-15. Take the Woods Cross exit (2600 South) and go east 0.9 mile. The road becomes Orchard Drive. Continue straight to 1800 South. Turn right onto 1800 South and follow the road east to its end at the mountain and Mueller Park picnic area and trailhead. The trailhead has parking for eight cars and additional parking down the side of the road.
Trailhead GPS: N40 51.83', W111 50.205'
The Mueller Park Trail begins at a shaded bridge that crosses Mill Creek as it runs out of the Sessions Mountains. The trail begins on the far side of the bridge (Trail 141) and begins with a set of switchbacks that climb beneath the shade of pine and fir on a packed-dirt trail. Most of the elevation gain is made in the first 1.0 mile of the trail as it climbs up the mountain face. The last 2.5 miles then head east as the trail hugs the curves of the mountain and heads deeper into the hills amidst scrubby Gambel oak and bigtooth maple interspersed with sections of evergreens.
Patches of shade and sun fluctuate along the trail. There is less elevation gain from here to the giant gray rock jutting out from the surrounding green of the forest—Elephant Rock.
At 1.7 miles the trail breaks through the taller trees and the view opens to the north side of the canyon where you can see a pipeline swath down the opposing mountain face. The “pipeline” is a wide treeless strip that looks like a ski run and is cleared to the top of the mountain. This swath is what remains of the placement of a 900-mile-long gas pipe that was built to carry natural gas from southwestern Wyoming to southern California.
The trail quickly heads back into the trees as it cruises deeper into the hills toward Elephant Rock. The occasional wooden bridge helps you cross any watery sections. Just before reaching Elephant Rock, you will hit a T in the trail. Look closely for this, as it appears to be a sharp right turn up the mountain. Take the left leg, which sweeps around the corner to a set of benches and Elephant Rock below. The right fork, which is a sharp turn to the south, continues on to Rudy’s Flat and North Canyon if you wish to continue with either option.
From the benches above Elephant Rock, Mueller Park stretches below, as do Bountiful, the foothills, the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island, and everything between. A steep footpath leads down to Elephant Rock if you wish to climb onto the rock itself. Enjoy the view before returning the way you came.