west from the summit of Mount Olympus
6.4 miles (round trip)
time: 6 hours
4,200 ft. gain/loss
Trailhead: 4,830 ft.
Mount Olympus: 9,026
This is a very popular hike. The trail is well used and
generally easy to follow. The last 0.1 mile below the
summit, however, is very steep and rocky and some scrambling
Summer through mid-fall. The upper parts of the trail
are usually covered with snow from mid-November to early
June. For current conditions call the Salt Lake Ranger
District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, at (801) 943-1794.
Near Murray and Salt Lake City
Olympus, the peak for which the Mount Olympus Wilderness
Area was named, forms a very prominent part of the Murray
skyline, and it has been a favorite hike of the nearby
residents for almost as long as Murray has been a city.
It is not unusual on weekends to see fifty hikers relaxing
together on the rocky summit.
The climb described here
leads to the south summit of Mount Olympus, but there
is also a north summit. The two are about 300 yards apart,
separated by the upper reaches of Tolcats Canyon. The
south summit is higher than the north summit by 67 feet.
It is also the only one with a good trail leading to it,
and the one most frequently visited by hikers. The north
face of the north summit, however, is a favorite among
more serious mountain climbers. Although it looks foreboding,
there is actually a route up the north face which requires
little or no technical rock climbing skill. (See Hiking
the Wasatch, by John Veranth.)
you start up the trail to Mount Olympus you can look down
and be thankful that in 1984, after a long and difficult
fight by concerned citizens, most of it was included in
the Mount Olympus Wilderness Area. The first half mile
of the trail, however, crosses private land, and there
is a real danger that some day it will be obliterated
by real estate developers. Hopefully when this land is
developed public access to the trail will be preserved.
Initially this is a desert
hike. The trail winds upward from the parking area on
Wasatch Boulevard through the dry grass lands that dominate
the foothills, finally coming to the first juniper trees
after a climb of about 500 feet. Then, as the trail enters
Tolcats Canyon, the dominant vegetation turns to Gambel
oak. The path crosses the bottom of Tolcats Canyon 1.7
miles from the trailhead, but, except in the spring, there
is seldom water in the canyon.
Continuing upward along
the south side of Tolcats Canyon, the trail never stops
climbing until it reaches a small saddle 0.2 mile from
the peak. As you approach the saddle the conditions change
dramatically. A very pretty grove of Douglas fir occupies
the ridge, and, for the first time since beginning the
hike, you are on level ground. The presence of a few campsites
indicates that hikers sometimes spend the night here,
although there is no water.
From the saddle the trail
turns directly north and soon encounters the rocky base
of the summit. From here you must ascend the last 500
feet in scarcely more than 0.1 mile, scrambling up the
Precambrian quartzite that caps most of the mountains
around Big Cottonwood Canyon. You will occasionally need
both hands, but if you stick to the trail the danger of
injury from a fall is not great. Pay attention to the
route. There is basically only one easy way up this side
of Mount Olympus, and if you take a wrong turn you will
soon be confronted with a much more difficult climb. If
that happens just stop and look around, and you will probably
find the trail just a few feet away. The greatest danger
is from falling rocks, so as you climb be careful not
to dislodge loose rocks onto other climbers below.
The summit is little more
than a giants rock pile of jagged boulders, but
the views are great. Much of Salt Lake City lies below,
and the full expanse of the Wasatch Mountains stretches
to the east. Lone Peak, Twin Peaks, and Dromedary Peak
are clearly visible to the south, across the Cottonwood
Canyons. To the north the summit drops off sharply into
the upper reaches of Tolcats Canyon, beyond which, less
than 300 yards away is the north summit of Mount Olympus.
provided by David
Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book
Favorite Hiking Trails.