It is hard to believe a wilderness area sits directly adjacent to a major city and its suburban sprawl, but that is the case with this unique piece of land in northern Utah. The 15,292-acre Mount Olympus Wilderness sits right up against the eastern half of Salt Lake City and makes it one of the easiest official wild areas in the United States to access. The area received its designation from Congress in 1984 along with nearby Twin Peaks and Mount Timpanogos Wilderness areas. Together with the earlier formed Lone Peak Wilderness (1978), these four areas straddle the central Wasatch Range and give the residents of Salt Lake and Utah County unmatched access to wild places. The closest of these wild areas to downtown Salt Lake is Mount Olympus and thus it receives many visitors along its northern border, by way of Millcreek Canyon. The 9,793-foot peak of Mount Olympus is a strenuous but very popular hike for local residents. It gives you the best view in the valley and looms over the city as its dominant frontage peak. Further up canyon, the mighty 10,241-foot Mount Raymond can be accessed from either Millcreek or Big Cottonwood Canyons, just like many of the hikes in this wilderness area.
During summer you might not find the open flower meadows of Alta or Mount Timpanogos, but this region does offer great pockets of a wide array of wildflowers. This area is known for its thick and healthy pine forests and plentiful moose and hummingbirds. Most of the hikes are relatively steep, like most others in the Wasatch, but the trails are generally well maintained. There are so many great ways to access this wilderness area from two major canyon roads to neighborhood trailheads along its western border. In lower Big Cottonwood Canyon you have Mule Hollow, Mill B North and Butler Fork trailheads to enter the the southern region. For a $3 fee you can access the area from Millcreek Canyon by way of Desolation Trail, Porter Fork, Thayne Canyon, Bowman Fork and the Terraces hikes, which all enter the wilderness area from the north. Along the western border you can enjoy the trails into Neff's Canyon, South Fork and Heugh's Canyon without even leaving the suburbs.
As the summer cools into autumn you will see these mountains erupt with some of the most spectacular fall colors in Utah. Once the snow starts falling, the area gets a large number of backcountry skiers and snowshoers in winter thanks to its close proximity to town, its fluffy powder, and the steep terrain. Whether you are there for the flowers in early summer, the amazing autumn colors, or the great winter recreation, you are sure to have an active and beautiful time outdoors when visiting the Mount Olympus Wilderness. Be sure to consult the regulations before doing any Leave No Trace backpacking here.