Areas to hike, camp and explore with small children within 3 hours of Salt Lake.

Eric O

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Apr 12, 2014
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My wife and I have a 4 month old and a 21 month old and have several friends with children in the 2 year to eight year range. I'm looking for suggestions on day hikes, camping areas and areas to explore within a few hours of Salt Lake that are fairly kid friendly.

The most important factor besides a scenic and enjoyable area is probably one with fairly little elevation gain. As much as I love trails that climb steeply into the mountains lugging a 45Lbs+ pack up the mountain kills me off, especially since I'm a 5' 6" 155lbs guy. The trail doesn't have to be 100% flat but anything more than 1000ft elevation gain in 3 miles or so is pretty taxing on me while trying to keep up with families with older kids that move quicker.

What are some of your favorite spots to take your young families? I'm open to suggestions of all types, including tips on making trips enjoyable.

Thanks guys!
 

HomerJ

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Jan 19, 2012
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Little bit of a drive, but White Pine Lake in the Bear River Range (between Logan and Bear Lake) might just fit the bill! It's 3.8 miles in and very gradual elevation gain with a short steeper drop down to the lake at the end. Everyone complains about the "steep switchbacks" when hiking out, but I've never thought it's bad at all. Plus you get it done first thing when hiking out and then it's all down hill from there to the car! It's a very popular area, especially on Friday/Saturday. If you go during the week you should have it mostly to yourselves. I'm sure there are areas closer to SLC that are just as good/better though...
 

Nick

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I second Homer's recommendation. Tony Grove Lake and the Naomi Peak Trail are good right there too. But if you're in SLC, I'd probably shoot for Uintas if you're looking for mountain stuff. Tons of really short hikes there with great bang for the buck. Ruth Lake is only .8 miles in with a half dozen lakes within a mile of that.

Further south, the Swell in and around Goblin Valley is kid heaven. Little Wild Horse, Wild Horse Window, etc.

But with that said, all of my kids have four legs and fur, so take it for what it's worth. :)
 

andyjaggy

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I'm taking my 2 1/2 year old and 1 year old into the Uintas in July. I don't know how much hiking we are going to try, but I may trek down the notch trail a bit. That trail starts at the summit highway and goes gently downhill down to Notch Lake ~3 miles. I don't think we will make it to the lake, but we might go for a mile or so. We are cheating though and staying the night at the cabins at the Bear River.
 

jonmessina

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Sep 26, 2012
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I have 4 kids, 9-2. They are decent hikers if you have lots of treats. As Nick Mentioned Goblin Valley is their favorite place, depending on the day its better than Disneyland. Arches is also on the edge of your range, but my kids love that. Sand Dune arch is a must.

My kids have gotten into finding rock art. There is tons in the Swell that is usually an easy hike with a big payout at the end. There is some within an hour of Salt Lake that we have gotten to.

Closer to home, Mueller Park above Bountiful is a favorite just because its 5 minutes away and well shaded. We probably do this 5 or 6 times a summer just on weeknights. We also do other trails above Bountiful/Centerville, but the shade in Mueller Park is nice.

Mary's Lake up at Brighton is a great one. Cecret Lake at Alta.

Last year I took 2 of my kids backpacking for the first time to Wall Lake in the Uintas. Easy Flat. They had fun.
 
Last edited:

uintahiker

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I've done lots of stuff in the area, most of it documented on my blog, with young kids age 4 and younger.
Take your kids to Maple Canyon east of Nephi. A day trip (on a car day) at the top of City Creek Canyon is worthwhile.
Nick's trail guides he did for IHC are another resource. He shows the Great Salt Lake Shorelands preserve that's flat and fun.
Star Lake in the Uintas is a short hike that's nice.
Rocky Mouth Falls in Sandy is another fun after-work type get away.
There's no shortage of stuff to do and see.

There's another thread on here as well giving ideas for hiking with kids.
 

andyjaggy

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I was just thinking about this some more. I've noticed that with my small kids anything with water and rocks is a huge hit. My girls are small enough they can't really appreciate scenic beauty, but they sure like to throw rocks into water and splash. Taking them up Provo Canyon and hiking up to a couple of the small waterfalls has been a hit with them, and they are only about 1/2 mile to a mile depending on which fall you are hiking to.
 

steve

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There are lots of short fun hikes up the cottonwood canyons, as well as AF and Provo canyons.
 

Eric O

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There are lots of short fun hikes up the cottonwood canyons, as well as AF and Provo canyons.

Yeah, the problem with most of the hikes in big and little cottonwood that I know of is they are steep, most of which are at least 500ft a mile elevation gain. It's good exercise but I tend to slow everyone down since I'm carrying close to a third my body weight with my son and all the supplies for my wife, daughter, son and I. 500 ft/mile is about the limit of what I can handle, especially at elevation.

I don't know all the trails up there though so hopefully some of you more experienced and knowledgeable guys can point me in the right direction.
 

steve

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There are some cool lakes to explore right by the bottom of Brighton, no elevation gain. You can hike over into Solitude. Another fun day trip is to take the tram up Solitude or Sundance and hike your way down. I've never done it, but the moonlight tram rides at Sundance sound awesome as well.

Donut falls doesn't have much elevation either.
 

Nick

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Nick's trail guides he did for IHC are another resource. He shows the Great Salt Lake Shorelands preserve that's flat and fun.
Star Lake in the Uintas is a short hike that's nice.
Rocky Mouth Falls in Sandy is another fun after-work type get away.

^^^^ This! I sometimes forget I have hiked a bunch of kid-friendly stuff in the last few months. :facepalm: I just did Rocky Mouth Falls this week as well as the paved Temple Quarry Trail in Little Cottonwood. I have another 60 trail guides that should start popping up on the Intermountain Healthy Hikes site very soon (120 total will be there). The new batch will be even more kid-friendly than the first. All up and down the Wasatch and around St. George.

http://intermountainhealthcare.org/live-well/move-well/healthy-hikes
 

Eric O

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Apr 12, 2014
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AWESOME! This site rocks! I'll check them out and start planning things out with my wife.
 
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