The Mormon Pioneer Trail technically runs for 1300 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah. It is an official National Historic Trail, and there are many spots along the way where you can hike on the Mormon Pioneer Trail.
We hiked a section in Little Emigration Canyon in Utah. This trail begins at the Mormon Flats Campground where you can camp if you’d like. There is a large open field with picnic tables and a fire pit, as well as pit toilets, but no shade. There is a sign that explains that the Donner Reed Party first climbed through this canyon, but the pioneers and other emigrants, pony express riders, freighters and many more used this same trail.
You begin the trail by crossing the creek that runs next to the campground. The first part of the hike walks through the bushes and reeds near the creek. It’s shady and cool, but watch out for thistles–we had to keep an eye out so our little ones didn’t get poked.
After about 1/2 mile, you come out into the open and there’s a sign that marks the trail as part of the Mormon Pioneer National Historical Trail, as well as the California National Historic Trail and the Pony Express National Historic Trail. After a few minutes in the hot sun, you will come into the canyon. The quaking aspens flank the trail and you walk next to the dry creek bed. The trail is very flat and is mostly in the shade.
This trail continues on for about 4.5 miles up to Big Mountain (elevation gain 1200 feet), but we only walked about 1 mile on the trail before we turned around. We told pioneer stories since it was Pioneer Day and talked about what life would have been like during the time of the Pioneers. When our phone told us we had reached a mile, we turned around since we were walking with little ones. You can walk as far as you’d like, but the first mile that we walked was completely flat and easy. Our 3 year-old walked the whole trail, which was 2 miles round trip.
This is a great historic trail to give your families a bit of Utah history, and you can adapt based on your families abilities. We have also heard it’s beautiful in the fall as the trail is surrounded by trees. In addition, there is a high potential to see animals along the trail. We didn’t see much, but we saw evidence of moose and deer, and elk could easily be seen here.
To find the Mormon Pioneer Trail in Emigration Canyon, travel along State Road 65 north Watch for a sign that says Jeremy Ranch and Mormon Flats Campground at mile marker 14. Turn onto this dirt road and follow for 3 miles to Mormon Flat Campground.