An intense 6 mile (9.6 km) hike leading to the top of one of the most prominent peaks in the Salt Lake Valley. Spectacular views while hiking, but not for the faint of heart.
From I-15, take the I-215 interchange East toward Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Take exit 6 (6200 South) and take a right (east) for about .7 of a mile. Turn left at Wasatch Blvd. and go north for about 1.6 miles. The turn off to the trailhead will sneak up on you as you round a bend in the road, but there is a turning lane into the parking lot.
Mount Olympus has been an iconic peak in the Salk Lake Valley for generations and can easily be seen as you travel through. The south face of Mount Olympus is famous for having some of the best tasting water in the Western United States; however, this isn’t the best way to summit, having sheer cliffs and other big obstacles. The best way to summit is by using the north face. This hike can be separated into 4 segments: Trailhead to Shoreline, Shoreline to Tolcats Canyon, Tolcats Canyon to Saddle, Saddle to Summit.
Trailhead to Shoreline: From the parking lot, the trail takes a sharp left going up some dirt steps to Pete’s Rock (a popular bouldering rock) and will go about 110 feet in elevation in less than a tenth of a mile. From here the trail turns to the southeast and you will hike through the two shorelines of the ancient Lake Bonneville (about 15,000 years old). The trail will meander southwest up the foothill of Mt. Olympus with a moderate gain in elevation. Depending on how early you start, you will get great views from here of downtown Salt Lake City and Kennecott copper mine as the sun breaks over the Wasatch Range and shines onto the Oquirrh Range and the rest of the Valley. The trail will start to turn back to the north and climb again right at the Bonneville shoreline and have one big switchback as you climb the last hill before you start heading for Tolcats Canyon.
Shoreline to Tolcats Canyon: As you leave the open field of the foothill you will find yourself near the top of the north side of the canyon. You will go over two switchbacks which will put you above two cliffs that would have been in your way otherwise. You will follow the cliff ridge for about a 1/10 of a mile which will then take you to an additional set of 5 switchbacks through a grove of scrub oak. From here the trail will straighten out and wrap around the canyon side for a quarter mile until you get to the creek bed. Most of the year this creek is dry, but during the spring run off, there will be water flowing which you may have to jump over or get wet as you walk through.
Tolcats Canyon to Saddle: This segment is going to be the longest part and the most frustrating due to the steepness and the number of false summits that will fool you. After crossing the creek bed, you will cross over to the south side of the canyon and start up a number of switchbacks (around 15 or so). In a couple places, the trail will be washed out and may loose it for a few feet, but it is easily found again. During this first portion you will climb about 700 feet of elevation in half a mile. The trail will cross over a flat portion and will then start to follow the south fork of Tolcats Canyon. There trail here has a grade that doesn’t quite warrant many switchbacks so you will just be going straight up. By now the sun will have started to warm up the air but you will be in a shade from the surrounding trees and vegetation. The next .6 of a mile will be like this with at least 3 or 4 false summits. Eventually, to great relief, you will see the trail level off and see the horizon at the Saddle. This is a great spot to rest before you push for the summit as it is relatively flat and even has a couple places to camp up here. There are a number of good photo ops as you look across the back side of Mt. Olympus. You will also see more wild life here than at any point of your hike. The last time I hiked it I even saw a big fat rattler, so tread lightly.
Saddle to Summit: At the saddle, the trail will circle around to what looks like a sheer cliff and you will start to wonder if there is really any way to get up this. To give you some perspective, the trail will climb about 500 feet in about .8 of a mile. Most of the way you will be rock shelf hopping and at a few points you will actually have to use your rock climbing skills to get up, Most of these aren’t very technical, but as always, there is a chance of falling (most of the drops will be less than 5 feet). The top portion of the peak is just a jumble of rocks, but once you get to this point the summit is easily accessible. Before you get to the top, you will want to head over to the west side of the peak where the best unobstructed view of the Salt Lake Valley is. After you rock hop for a couple hundren yards, you will get to the summit with a summit register. Looking around you will see Hobbs peak to the east, Twin Peaks and Lone Peak to the South, the Oquirrh Range and Great Salt Lake to the west, and Salt lake City to the north.
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