PROXIMITY: Cross Country Skiing

Strap on the skinnies and head
out to myriad trails near Salt Lake City

You love hiking in the mountains and leisurely biking around Salt Lake City during the summer and fall. These serene, inexpensive hobbies come with free cardio highs. But in the winter, traditional skiing feels too extreme (and pricey). Classic cross-country skiing will change your life—guaranteed.
The sport is easy to learn, the boots feel like cozy house slippers and there are tons of places to go near Salt Lake City.

x1Mill Creek Canyon
Snow-frosted pines and a gurgling trailside stream accompany you on this straightforward jaunt up Mill Creek Canyon, located off Wasatch Boulevard in Salt Lake City. Park at the gate and start skiing up the unplowed canyon road. This spot offers a nice, consistent workout to the top and a fun cruise back down.
What You Need to Know
On the weekends, Mill Creek draws tons of winter hikers, snowshoers and skiers—and, it’s dog-friendly (off-leash allowance on odd-numbered days). This makes for a lively, sociable experience, but it also means the tracks can get a bit hammered. If you head up on a weekday, things are much more serene.
Millcreek is best for people who: a. have skis with edges, b. are accustomed to going downhill on edgeless skis, or c. aren’t afraid of a little wipeout while they learn. The grade is forgiving, but you’ll pick up some speed on your way back, and you may need to dodge an oblivious hiker.

x2 Mountain Dell
Mountain Dell Golf Course is a great place to learn cross-country skiing basics. Located off of I-80 in Parley’s Canyon, the Utah Nordic Alliance grooms the trails and sets the tracks daily (in very snowy weather, twice daily). The terrain consists of a combination of flat and gently rolling sections, and you can set your own route around the network of trails. Start with the entry-level Main or Mitten Loop, and work your way up to the advanced Big Loop.
What You Need to Know
Mountain Dell is especially popular with skate skiers. Don’t feel bad if they blaze past you—skate skiing is to trail running as cross-country skiing is to hiking. They’re two different disciplines with two different aims.
Since Mountain Dell is a golf course, it’s more manicured and less naturally scenic than some of the other areas on this list, but the easy access and excellent maintenance make it ideal for frequent visits to get some fresh air and exercise and for honing one’s technique.

x3 Round Valley
Park City’s Round Valley offers approximately 13 miles of groomed trail through a wide-open, rolling landscape smattered with sagebrush and scrub oak. This is an excellent place to learn, as the grades are typically mild and the trails groomed regularly. That said, Round Valley attracts skiers of all levels, from first-timers to serious speedsters.

Accessed at multiple points in Park City, Round Valley is most conveniently accessed at Quinn’s Trailhead by the National Ability Center. It welcomes on-leash dogs. In addition to Nordic and skate skiers, you’ll see snowshoers, winter runners and the occasional snow biker. It’s undoubtedly a popular spot, but the open setting and abundance of trail prevent it from feeling crowded.
The proximity of Round Valley to Park City’s Old Town means there are plenty of options for après-ski grub and drinks.

x4 Solitude Nordic Center
While many cross-country skiers prefer to pay minimally (or not at all) for their fun, Solitude Nordic Center is often worth the cost. When lower-elevation Nordic areas lack adequate snow cover, Solitude is usually good to go—in fact, located atop Big Cottonwood Canyon, it’s one of the most reliable cross-country ski areas near Salt Lake City.
What You Need to Know
Newbs will want to stick to the Little and Mid Redman and Silver Lake loops. Experienced skiers looking for a more intense workout should ski the Cornucopia Trail from the Village at Solitude to the Nordic Center; it’s a steep climb and a quick zip back down.
With the higher price come a few perks: a shuttle between the Nordic Center and the Village; optional gear rentals and lessons; and separate snowshoe trails to help keep the tracks pristine.
x5Beaver Creek
Located in the Uinta Mountains on Mirror Lake Highway, this is arguably the most scenic spot on the list, while also being a super fun place to ski. The snow is soft, grooming is done regularly on the beginner-friendly Beaver Creek Trail and Pine Valley Loop and several unmaintained trails add adventurous options. Dogs are allowed on odd-numbered days.
What You Need to Know
Sticking to the 6.5-mile Beaver Creek Trail will take you through a beautiful forest setting, past a stream and eventually onto a big open meadow, which you’ll loop around before heading back the way you came. If you venture onto Yellow Pine, Mine, Taylor Fork or another connecting trail, expect steeper and deeper conditions.
Watch for moose, and if you encounter one, give it space. If you’re lucky, you might even see (or hear) an elk or two.

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