If you’re looking for a moderate hike close to downtown Salt Lake City with outstanding views, Little Black Mountain is tough to beat. A high point of a prominent ridge that separates City Creek Canyon from Red Butte Canyon, Little Black Mountain rises to just over 8,000 feet, making a dramatic backdrop behind Salt Lake City’s Avenues neighborhood. The modest elevation compared to some other Wasatch peaks doesn’t detract from the views in all directions and helps make this one of the better winter hikes around. While packed snow may cover most of the trail and snowshoes are often needed on the upper reaches, this area is relatively free of avalanche danger. With almost no shade and a western exposure, hot summer days are not an appealing time to hike this trail. Abundant wildflowers make this an attractive destination in spring.
To get to Little Black Mountain, hikers can start from one of several trailheads in the well-traveled foothills: Dry Creek from the University Medical Center, Hilltop Avenue, or Terrace Hills Drive, which may be the shortest option. From Terrace Hills Drive, the route begins on an old gravel road, passing several side trails as it climbs steadily to the northeast. Reaching a five-way intersection after about 1 mile, continue uphill and northeast. The next section follows an old jeep road along the crest of a ridge through open, grassy terrain. A short side trail leads to Avenues Twin Peaks. From this point, the trail continues another 2 miles to the summit of Little Black Mountain. The last section steepens considerably, and in winter it often holds enough snow to require snowshoes.
In dry conditions, the last half-mile is a narrow limestone ridge requiring a bit of scrambling and a benchmark called the Rock, which marks the high point where most hikers stop. If that doesn’t seem to be the top, your eyes don’t deceive you: The true high point of this ridge is actually 2 miles farther east, and rarely visited.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.