We found the trail this time!
The plan was to head to Millcreek Canyon - at a lower elevation than its neighbors to the south, it's ideal for early and late season hiking when Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon are still choked with snow - and to do the Terraces/Elbow Fork loop, with Burch Hollow tacked on for an extra workout. We were sure we could find Burch Hollow this time. We parked a little further up the canyon, across from the still-gated Terraces trailhead, not wanting to deal with the crowds of people already at Church Fork. The climb to the ridge is pretty steep and we quickly started feeling it in our legs. Although we've been good about staying in shape over the winter, with the skiing, running (me) and cycling (H), those are all very different muscles than are required from hiking and our quads and calves let us know about it right away.
View of the Oquirrhs and the Salt Lake Valley
We got to the ridgeline and then started descending quickly. This trail is not super-heavily used (we just came across a couple of other hikers and trail-runners) and the ground underfoot is soft, packed dirt and pine needles, very comfortable to walk on. We came out onto the canyon road at Elbow Fork, crossed the tarmac and hopped on the Pipeline Trail for a little while, descending gradually in the warm May sunshine. There were more trail users here, MTBers, hikers, runners and dogs, but when we got to the Burch Hollow trail head (readily located, with a sign and everything), we knew we'd be going off the beaten path for a while.
Atop the saddle above Burch Hollow
Burch Hollow has got to be one of the least-used trails in Millcreek Canyon. This is mostly because the dang trail pretty much goes straight up the hollow, only bothering with six or eight switchbacks. The trail was dirt and rock, quite steep, but partly shaded at least for the first bit. We only saw two hikers and two dogs on our ascent to the ridge, and none on the return. As we climbed (and climbed and climbed, and dreaded the descent because it was so steep), we heard lots of bird song. Right before we reached the saddle, we went along under some decent limestone cliffs; we could see a bunch of climbing hardware hammered into the stone, twinkling in the sunshine.
Still some snow in the upper mountains
After pausing on the saddle to admire the views, including towards Parleys and Emigration Canyons, we headed back down the way we came. H, who is much more sure-footed than I, jogged much of the descent, but I picked my slow way down the steep trail, toes crunched into the front of my boots. When we got back to the Pipeline Trail, we continued down canyon until we could take a spur off the trail, then walked back up the canyon a little way to the car. All that was left to do was deboot, drink a couple of beers and devour the sandwiches in the cooler, all while people- and dog-watching. We did realize that we might have again -overdone it slightly for the first hike of the season (steep-wise this time, as opposed to length-wise last spring) when we realized how much we'd stiffened up just from sitting there while we ate.
Hike stats: 9.07 miles, 3 hours 59 minutes total time (3 hrs. 9 minutes moving time), total ascent 2,953 feet.