Skimo Co

5/14/2021 Early Season Central Wasatch Peaks

Come late spring, weather in the Salt Lake Valley can be just about perfect for trail running. Up high, however, the alpine is still buried in a fat blanket of snow. Unless you enjoy slushy post holing or running with spikes, most runners are relegated to the lowlands until the great melt off.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun peaks to get on. In fact, several notable peaks in the area are especially suitable for running due to their ease of access and interesting trails. Lap these enough and by the time higher elevations open up, you’ll be ready to go.

Like any peak right next to a city, there’s bound to be a dozen different trails leading to the same summit - main trails, game trails, game trails turned main trails, undefined rocky routes, etc. We’ve picked our personal favorites but choose your own adventure if another option looks fun too. Try to avoid trails that are intentionally closed or blocked off for a reason.

Mount Van Cott - 2.7 miles 1,322' vertical

Straightforward and to the point, Mount Van Cott is the best option when you’re short on time. Start next to Red Butte Gardens and head east, looking for a well-worn trail that takes you to the summit. At the summit, enjoy the views and then descend a moderately steep, loose trail back to the trailhead.

Mt Wire - 4.5 miles 2,136’ vertical

Red Butte Ridge, as seen from the main trail.

Mt Wire is perhaps the most popular of the bunch and for good reason - easy access and a pretty consistent steep grade gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Our personal favorite route - which is a deviation from the normal trail - gets on the ridge that goes up and passes the Living Room en route to the summit of Red Butte. With occasional rock outcroppings, it’s more exciting and makes for easy scrambling. From there, turn south and punch it to the summit of Mt. Wire. The return route descends down the gut of the drainage and back to the trailhead.

West Face of Grandeur - 4.4 miles 3,320’ vertical

A lot can be said about this legendary slog. It has a cult following due to its abrupt and unrelenting steepness. Some love it, some hate it, and some love it because they hate it. Regardless, it is the go-to hill for steep training and a few laps in the early season will do wonders for your fitness - once the soreness wears off, that is. No beta required other than go up until you can’t anymore - whether it’s because you reached the summit or your legs are roasted - and then turn around back the way you came.

Black Mountain - 9.1 miles 2,907’ vertical

Follow the (perfect) singletrack to the summit of Black Mountain.

Tucked back in the distance on the south City Creek ridge, Black Mountain is the high point of the beloved Wahsatch Steeplechase. It can be accessed from several Bonneville Shoreline Trailheads but Terrace Hills is a great option. Follow the trail up and trend east until you get to the obvious trail that leads to the base of the peak. Once you get there, a very steep trail heads to the summit ridge and false summit. At the top, the vert is behind you but an interesting yet not-too-technical ridgeline scramble lies between you and the true summit.

Mt. Olympus - 6.5 miles 4,154’ vert

Poles help to save your legs on Olympus

Generally known as a hiking trail, Olympus is definitely a steep trail to consistently run. Run or walk, it’s a great way to burn your quads and get a lot of vert under your belt. On top of that, it finishes with a fun scramble. It doesn’t offer much in the way of shade so if it’s going to be a hot day, start early!


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