If you are looking for something to do close to downtown Salt Lake City, you can hike Ensign Peak. This hike is just behind the Utah Capitol building and is a quick way to see a great view of the city. Leash your dog if they are joining and enjoy this quick hike. You may encounter heavy traffic (crowds) on this popular trail!
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First, the trailhead for Ensign Peak is in a residential area, so street parking can be slim (or not allowed during the evening). Make sure to hide your valuables in your vehicle when parking on the street. Even though public transport does not reach this part of the neighborhood, this area receives a lot of traffic. Many online reviews say this hike is easy, but desk workers will struggle with the incline, so I rate this hike as intermediate for average people.
Protect Your Skin – Wear a Hat and Sunscreen on This Hike
Next, there is almost zero shade on this hike, so pack a hat and wear sunscreen during this hike. The first part of the hike is paved and is a great option for those with limited mobility (follow signs to Vista Mound for a scenic view of the valley.) The rest of the trail (when following the Ensign Peak signs) has a steep incline and is generally muddy in the late fall to spring. There are mountain bike trails nearby, so you may see people on bikes! The last section to the overlook is NOT bike friendly, especially with all the hikers.
The Summit’s History
Finally, there are plaques at the beginning of the hike where you can learn about the area’s white history. Ensign Peak is known as the spot where white pioneers surveyed the Salt Lake Valley. At the time of this writing, the monument rhetoric is problematic because it assumes that the Ute people do not exist anymore, when in fact they were forcibly relocated to reservations.
There is a long war history in the American West, and by ignoring this, the state is doing a disservice to visitors. It will be beneficial to acknowledge this history so tourists can better understand this area. Instead of saying that the Utes might have done something, the state should ask the Utes what this area was about before the Mormons arrived. Because, yes, Utes still exist and no, white men were not the first people to ascend this peak.
An even better option would be for the government to acknowledge the entire history and educate the public in a similar way it did at the memorial to southern Utah’s Mountain Meadows Massacre Site. The current plaque rhetoric creates a story where Native Americans are something in the past, instead of living breathing people & cultures that still exist. These plaques should be updated to teach the full history of this land to visitors.
Overall, this hike was a great option for a quick break from Salt Lake City, Utah. Avoid crowds by hiking during the day, or brave the crowds and hike at sunset for a spectacular view. Add this hike to your list of things to do in Salt Lake City for a fun trip to Utah.
Hike Ensign Peak – The Basics
Intermediate | Length: About 1 mile out and back (1.6km)
Best time to visit:
Summer or Fall at Sunset (Winter/Spring can be muddy)
How to Get There:
Behind the state capitol building in a residential area. Using maps, if the trailhead does not show up, get directions to Ensign Downs Park. Trailhead is at the “top” of the park (Northside).
If you do not have a vehicle, grab an Uber for easy access. Public transportation will take you a mile away from the trailhead. Check hotel rates in Salt Lake City.
What to Eat:
Celebrate your hike with dairy-free ice cream at Monkey Wrench.