Desolation Trail

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah

Elevation Gain8,653ft
Trailhead Elevation5,763ft
Elevation Min/Max5763/9425ft
Elevation Start/End5763/5763ft

Desolation Trail

Desolation Trail is a hiking trail in Salt Lake County, Utah. It is within Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and Mount Olympus Wilderness Area. It is 7.8 miles long and begins at 5,763 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 16.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 8,653 feet. The South Box Elder picnic site and the Millcreek Inn restaurant are near the trailhead. There are also restrooms and a parking. This trail connects with the following: Mill B North, Porter Fork Trail, Wildcat Ridge, Thayne Peak, Slc Overlook and Thayne Canyon.

Desolation Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

100 Classic Hikes Utah (The Mountaineers Books)
Julie K. Trevelyan
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"A picturesque mountain lake with rippling or smooth blue-green waters, tucked into a bowl surrounded by a blanket of pine trees, Desolation Lake (referred to as Lake Desolation on the USGS map but known locally as Desolation Lake) is a well-traveled hike in the Wasatch, despite the elevation gain."
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City (Menasha Ridge Press)
Greg Witt
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"Hiking through a dense forest scented with spruce and fir is just one of the many delights on the Desolation Trail. Climbing over fallen trees and rocky outcrops leads to a direct view of Salt Lake with peaks rising to the north and south."
"Long, winding, and shaded, the Desolation Trail makes its way up to an overlook complete with rocks for sitting back to enjoy the view of the Salt Lake Valley or to take in the sunset and have a picnic on an evening foray. The trail sits just minutes from Salt Lake City, and though it seems to wind on indefinitely, the shallow climb (due to long switchbacks) makes it easy for children to tackle the trail. Mostly shady, the trail cuts through a forested mountainside as it winds up and out the top of Thayne’s Canyon. Make it a romantic evening hike or a midday trail run; this hike is great for both."
Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails (Rincon Publishing)
David Day
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"Desolation Lake is a popular destination for mountain bikers, so you are bound to see a few of them on this hike. But don’t expect all of them to be riding-there is a 2,000-foot elevation gain from the trailhead to the lake, and riding a bike uphill is much harder than walking. The lake itself is located at the bottom of what, at first glance, looks like an old volcanic crater. The 550-foot-deep crater is actually a large bowl that was scooped out at the head of Mill D North Fork Canyon by a glacier during the last ice age. The view from the crater rim can be quite spectacular, especially in early September when the aspen trees on the northwest side of the lake are displaying their fall colors. On weekends one can often see fifteen or twenty mountain bikers parked on the trail above the lake, pausing to enjoy the view before their long downhill ride back to Big Cottonwood Canyon."

Desolation Trail Trip Reports

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Trail Information

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Nearby City
Mount Olympus Wilderness Area
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Skill Level
Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, (385) 468-1800; Salt Lake Ranger District, 6944 South 3000 East, Salt Lake City 84121.
Local Contacts
USGS Mount Aire; Trails Illustrated Wasatch Front (709).
Local Maps

Trail Log