Review of Millcreek for Cross Country Skiing
John Byers, February 4, 2018
I skied Millcreek Canyon for the second weekend in a row, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to ski around Salt Lake City. The trail starts toward the top of Millcreek Canyon and goes up a little over four miles. It is slightly uphill the whole time, but you won't notice the climb much, it is pretty gradual, and the scenery is great. You are surrounded by the canyon walls and paralleling a creek (I'm guessing the Mill-creek) the whole way up the trail. Both times I've skied it so far, there have been many dogs running along the trail, playing and having a great time. They are a good distraction from the climb too. When you are done with the climb, you get a nice long downhill, all the way back to your car. This is my review.
Getting there: Drive as far as you can up Millcreek Canyon. You will pass a number of other trails and parking areas, but this one is all the way at the top. You'll reach a closed gate. Park here if you can, the trail starts at the gate. You may also see signs for skiing a little earlier, you can park there too and just head up-hill.
The trail: It starts right past the gate. It is nice and wide. The trail seems very popular with hikers, snowshoe-ers, backcountry skiers, and people with dogs. I think more dogs use the trail than people do. They are everywhere. As a skier, you will glide past them, they have all seemed well behaved and friendly. About a mile up the trail is a bend called "Elbow Fork". The trail becomes much less-used here, most of the hikers don't seem to go beyond it. It is really nice, and the ski tracks appear again. The lower part of the trail is so busy, that the ski tracks get trampled, so you just have to ski without them. But after "Elbow Fork", it is nice to have the tracks. I'm not entirely sure who grooms them, I think it might be The Utah Nordic Alliance. I found out about the trail from their website in the first place here. They leave a grooming report on their website too, which is nice for checking when it was last groomed.
Once you are past "Elbow Fork", things seem a lot quieter. There are still people around, but you are mostly on your own among the trees. It is really nice. It is never totally quiet though, as the mill creek is loud enough to hear flowing adjacent to the trail. Update: Sometimes it is totally quiet, it just depends on how fast the creek is flowing. I recently went on a cold day after a huge snowstorm, and it was totally quiet. After about the second or third mile, the snow gets much deeper along the sides of the trail. It is nice to be out in the woods getting a great workout. When you are tired, you can turn around and have a long downhill back to the car. So far, I have tired out around mile three. I look forward to more snow, and going all the way to the top.
Update: I finally made it all the way to the top. We had a big week of snowstorms and rather than fight the traffic to go snowboarding, I went to Millcreek Canyon again. It was PERFECT. I got there at about 8:00 AM and there was hardly anyone there, just myself and a few other cross country skiers. It was cold, but I didn't notice after getting moving. Previously, I had never gone past the three-mile mark. I went all the way this time, and am glad I did. The trail levels out for a while after the three-mile marker, and goes past "Thousand Springs", a bunch of springs the come out of the side of the mountain. There was also something that looked like a beaver lodge, covered in snow, but I don't know for sure and haven't been able to find out if beavers live in the Wasatch mountains. Anyway, I think the trail gets better, the farther you go. It ends about 4.5 miles up at an elevation of 7600 feet. Here is a panorama from the top:Things to note:
- The fee to use the canyon is $3 per vehicle
- The trail isn't as smooth as some of the others around, but it doesn't stop classic or skate skiers
- Great trail, with a fun downhill
- Great atmosphere
- The trail is crowded, especially the first mile
- Lots of dogs. This is a pro and a con, as the dogs are great, but there is the occasional bad owner, who doesn't pick up their poop, that is gross.
I HIGHLY recommend Mill Creek. It is a lot of fun, and a great way to get out and enjoy the mountains