Our fifth hike in the 52 Hike Challenge was also our last hike in January. We decided to try something that was a little more work, because the day was supposed to be clear and cold, with the temperature in the mid 20s.
Ensign Peak seemed about right, and we’d hiked it before. It is a relatively short hike, but quite steep. The trailhead is at an LDS chapel behind the State Capitol Building (directions here). This trail winds up a narrow draw for 1/2 mile to the back of the peak. Keep your eyes open, because in January we saw about a dozen deer foraging for grass through the deep snow on the high slope to our right as we ascended. The boys felt the strain of this hike as the hike is a continuous climb, and hiking in winter takes a lot more energy (at least it seems that way)!
Luckily, there are a few rest stops to read interpretive signs, which tell about Brigham Young’s first visit to the peak in 1847 just a few days after entering the valley. We took it nice and slow, and the constant moving kept us from getting cold. As you wind around the back of the peak, there is an overlook, and it was pretty windy, but not terribly unpleasant. Then we made the final ascent, which is less than a hundred yards to the monument at the top.
Salt Lake City is suffering from a bad air inversion right now, and the smog covered much of the view, but we could still make out downtown, the canyons coming from the east mountain, and the airport. We spent about 10 minutes resting and taking pictures at the summit.
Be careful on the way down the mountain. The hills were covered in nearly a foot of snow, and though the trail was well packed, it was slick. Our boys decided this would be a great place to take some running dives, and they really enjoyed sliding down much of the mountain though Mom and Dad were considerably more careful.
Ensign Peak was the busiest trail we have hiked in the winter. We had several people (college students) pass us on our way to the summit. The trail was packed down and easy to follow, so you can definitely hike it without snow shoes. Most people we passed were only wearing tennis shoes, which we thought was crazy.
If you’re interested in winter hiking, check out our post on How to Make Winter Hiking a Success or our other Easy Winter Hikes! Or if you’d like more info on hiking Ensign Peak in warmer weather, click here.