Remembering my vow to get an earlier start, I had laid out my gear and, thusly organized, was out the door before 7 a.m. There were lots of road cyclists out at that time, folks taking advantage of the cooler temperatures and lighter traffic. As I drove up Millcreek Canyon, there were lots of cars parked at the Pipeline Trail trail head and also along the road for the Church Fork trail head, but the other parking areas weren't yet full. I took a spot in the small lot across the canyon road from the Terraces trail head/group site, grabbed my pack and hiking poles and headed out.
My plan was to go up the road to the Terraces trail head, then turn left onto the Terraces/Elbow Fork ridge trail, then take the Pipeline trail back down the canyon to make a loop. The Terraces/Elbow Fork trail is really lovely footing-wise, smooth packed dirt, but it doesn't spend a whole lot of time on the level. It seems like it's either steadily climbing or steadily descending, and where it does flatten out, there's a bit of a side hill tilt to it. None of it is too steep, however, and most of it is shaded, being on the north-facing slope, with thick green groundcover carpeting the hillside under the tall pines. The wildflowers are starting to really get going too: whereas last weekend we mostly saw blue ones (bluebells, penstemon and low larkspur, , now the yellows and pinks are coming out in force, including wild roses, geranium and sunflowers.
After coming down through Elbow Fork, I crossed the canyon road and headed down canyon on the Pipeline trail. It was brighter, being on the south-facing slope, but it was still early enough that it wasn't hot. The Pipeline trail, which runs all the way from the bottom of Millcreek Canyon, is a very easy trail to walk on: flat, even footing, rocky only in spots and really only hilly coming out of the Burch Hollow entry. I exited the trail at Burch Hollow and turned left to walk just a short ways up the canyon road to get back to my car.
The most amazing thing about this hike (which is probably under seven miles and which took me 2 hours and 20 minutes - because you can walk quickly when it's so flat), is how few people I saw: 20 walkers (all but one on the Pipeline trail), nine MTBers (all on Pipeline), six trail runners (three on Terraces/Elbow Fork) and three dogs (all on Pipeline). Given how close to downtown SLC/popular Millcreek Canyon is, to have more than half of my hike all to myself was a real treat. You do get rewarded for getting up early.
I didn't get a photo myself but I did spot a western tanager,
chirping to himself on the side of the trail. Gorgeous bird!
Photo from Montana Field Guides, by Nathan DeBoer