This hike follows the Desolation Trail to a rock outcropping along a ridge in Millcreek Canyon offering hikers fantastic views of the Salt Lake Valley and beyond. The trail climbs gradually up a long series of switchbacks as it gains nearly 1300 feet in about 2.5 miles one way. This hike is suitable for most healthy adults and kids; however younger children may find it a bit long.


The Salt Lake Overlook hike begins at the South Box Elder Picnic Area and Trailhead in Millcreek Canyon (40.697541, -111.740042). The parking area is located immediately up canyon (east) of Millcreek Inn.

  1. Exit I-215 on Exit 3 for 3300 South (Northbound traffic should exit at Exit 4 for 3300/3900 South and travel north on Wasatch Blvd to 3800 S).
  2. From the off ramp, turn left and then immediately right onto Wasatch Blvd.
  3. Continue south on Wasatch Blvd for about 0.8 miles to 3800 South/Millcreek Canyon Road.
  4. Turn east onto Millcreek Canyon Road and drive 3.3 miles to the signed. Desolation Trail/South Box Elder trailhead on the south side of the road.

There is a $3 per vehicle fee to enter Millcreek Canyon. Restroom and picnic facilities are available at the trailhead.

The Route

From the parking area, begin hiking up the trail marked as the Desolation Trail. After a few hundred yards, the first of two junctions is encountered. Stay right, following the sign for Desolation Trail.

Continue hiking up the gradual, well-maintained trail as it climbs a long series of switchbacks. Much of the trail is shaded in a beautiful pine forest, offering numerous shady spots to stop and rest along the way.

After about a mile, a second junction is encountered. Be sure not to miss this one as it is on a switchback turn. Continuing straight leads to Thayne’s Canyon. Turn right again here, climbing over a short rocky section, to continue on the Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake Valley Overlook.

Beyond the second junction, follow the trail as it occasionally meanders out of the deep forest and into areas of scrub oak, offering superb views of Millcreek Canyon. After 2.5 miles and nearly 1,300 feet of elevation gain, the trail crests over a ridge to the Salt Lake Valley Overlook (40.688901, -111.742753). There is no sign here, but it will be abundantly clear that you have arrived, as this is the first good view of the valley along the trail. There is plenty of open space where the trail arrives at the overlook to admire the view. On crowded days you can scramble out onto the rocky outcropping ahead to find a spot with a little more solitude.  

The views from the overlook are fantastic. On a clear day, you can see well out into the Great Salt Lake. In addition to the valley view, the overlook also offers a great vantage point of the surrounding terrain such as Green Canyon to the west and Grandeur Peak on the skyline across Millcreek Canyon. You will definitely want to spend a little time here taking in the sights.

Return the way you came. Round trip hiking distance is approximately 5 miles.

Rules and Regulations

  • There is a $3 per vehicle fee to enter Millcreek Canyon.
  • Dogs must be leashed except for odd-numbered days of the month. When off-leash, dogs must be under owner’s verbal control with a leash ready if needed.
  • Clean up after pets.
  • No littering.
  • Do not shortcut switchbacks.

Special Considerations

  • This hike is a good one during warm weather thanks to the plentiful shade along the way and relatively gradual climb. There is no water, though, so bring plenty, including some for pets.
  • Rattlesnakes are frequently seen along this trail, particularly during warm weather. Watch children and pets closely.


This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.