Mount Aire in Mill Creek Canyon is one of the best short hikes near Salt Lake City. Not quite visible from the city, this little peak is a true hidden gem. For the very fit, this hike can be done after work and get you back to the car before dark. For novice hikers, the steady grade and manageable distance (just shy of 2 miles one-way) makes it a nice training route with the payoff of impressive views of surrounding peaks.
The route begins at Elbow Fork Trailhead. In summer, parking here puts you just 1.9 miles from Mount Aire’s summit. This trail is also great for a snowshoe outing that is not too long, moderately steep, and with no avalanche danger. During the winter you’ll have a slightly longer approach because the gate at Maple Grove will be closed. This adds 1.5 miles of walking or skiing to Elbow Fork along Mill Creek Canyon Road, a pleasant, shady stretch that doesn’t detract from the hike. This trailhead also accesses the Pipeline Trail, the Lambs Canyon Trail, and the Great Western Trail.
Just a tenth of a mile up the trail you’ll arrive at a marked junction where the Mount Aire Trail takes the left fork and crosses a footbridge. The trail follows the Elbow Fork stream for another 0.8 miles through a forest of Douglas fir, quaking aspen, and bigtooth maple. The route then steepens as it climbs a series of short switchbacks that quickly lead to a saddle on the ridge. From here an unmaintained track follows the ridge west to Grandeur Peak. To the right the trail continues to Mount Aire’s summit, winding its way up the western and southern side of the mountain through sagebrush and scrubby stands of Gambel oak.
The summit is a rugged outcrop of red sandstone that might look out of character for the Wasatch, but it’s the same rock formation that makes up Grandeur Peak and much of the Mill Creek ridge. At the top, enjoy the views across Mill Creek Canyon to the south, Parley’s Canyon to the east, and a bit of the Great Salt Lake to the west.