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Mill Creek Meadows

Mill Creek Meadows is a two-mile trail that links the Wasatch Crest to the Mill Creek Canyon trail. It's most often used as a downhill variation on the shuttled Wasatch Crest ride. Note that bikes are allowed on Mill Creek Meadows only on even-numbered days.

Rolling through a meadow studded with yellow flowers. Review by Bruce on July 8, 2022.

The Mill Creek Meadows trail is narrow singletrack with some very steep sections. It's best done downhill, unless you're a big fan of carrying your bike. The steepness, plus a couple of rock outcrops, make this an expert-level trail. Over 2 miles it drops from 9350 feet elevation on the Wasatch Crest to the big meadow on the Mill Creek Canyon trail at 8350 feet. The expected riding season is July through mid-October.

The ride alternates between forest and beautiful meadows.

Getting to the trail
You can ride Mill Creek Meadows as a lariat loop starting in Mill Creek Canyon if you're a tough climber. I recommend the lower Big Water trailhead as your starting point.

Most riders will pay for a shuttle to Guardsman and deviate onto Mill Creek Meadows once they reach Mill Creek Canyon on their Wasatch Crest ride. The Mill Creek Meadows trail is 6.6 miles from the Crest's starting point at the top of Guardsman Pass on Scott's Bypass trail.

The Big Water trail begins at the lower Big Water trailhead at the top of Mill Creek Canyon for the up-and-back lariat ride.

The trail forks away from the Wasatch Crest trail just north of the divide between Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek. The trail fork is unmarked. If you're climbing uphill from Mill Creek, you might ride right past it even if you're looking for it. It's 6.4 miles from the lower Big Water trailhead and 1.8 miles uphill from the Crest Connector trail fork. If you reach the "No Dogs" sign at the ridge, you went past it and need to backtrack 1/10th mile.

Here's what you're looking for: the unmarked beginning of the Mill Creek Meadows trail on the Mill Creek side of the Wasatch Crest trail.

When riding downhill on the Wasatch Crest, you'll find the trail fork on your left 0.5 mile past the Desolation Lake/Mill D North Fork intersection -- 0.75 miles from the top of "The Spine" and the view over Desolation Lake. (FYI the trail on your left at mile 0.4 from the Desolation Lake trail fork -- where you'll see the "No Dogs" sign -- is not the correct trail. It goes up to a viewpoint and stops. Continue downhill another 0.1 miles.)

Here's Dominic from over 20 years ago. A photo posed above Desolation Lake is a must-do. If you climbed up from Mill Creek, consider continuing a bit into Big Cottonwood for the photo-op before heading back to Mill Creek Meadows.

Mill Creek Meadows
However you get to Mill Creek Meadows, it will be a bit of work. So this trail is an option only for strong riders. For my review, I climbed up to the Wasatch Crest from Mill Creek Canyon.

Climbing uphill toward the top of the trail on the Wasatch Crest above Mill Creek.

The trail begins with by dropping downhill away from the Wasatch Crest. There isn't a lot of techy rock (unlike the Wasatch Crest north of the trail fork), but right away you'll get into some loose and dusty butt-over-the-tire descending. This area will have some very nice open views, so take a minute to look around.

Dropping away from the Wasatch Crest. We'll soon be riding on top of the ridge you can see ahead.

The trail then turns to the west to follow a ridgeline. Again, more awesome views. You can see all the way across the Salt Lake Valley to the Oquirrhs.

Ridgeline cruising. We can see the tops of quite a few mountains from here.

As it turns back east to drop off the ridge, you'll hit 0.2 miles of continuous steep narrow singletrack in pine forest. It's 15% slope here but the trail is straight and smooth. So just hang on and go.

Descending off the ridge. Way steeper than it looks.

Mill Creek Meadows, as you might guess, passes through several beautiful meadows. There are also nice views of the canyons. That's the attraction of this trail. And while Mill Creek Meadows is an expert-level descent, the alternative -- continuing down the Wasatch Crest -- has some intermittent techy rock to contend with, so it's not the "easy way down" either.

Rolling into one of several pretty meadows.

At two miles, Mill Creek Meadows is exactly one mile shorter than the combination of the lower Crest and upper Mill Creek that you'll bypass if you ride it. The steepest stretch drops 150 vertical feet in 0.2 miles (15%) slope. Overall, you'll drop 1000 vertical feet at 500 per mile average, but with some easy cruising in the meadow areas.

A bit of aspen forest between meadows.

You can do Mill Creek Meadows as a lariat-loop ride starting from Big Water. Use the northern Wasatch Crest to reach the Mill Creek Meadows trail to descend. Although only 10.6 miles, there's 2000 feet of climbing with some techy steep uphill stretches on the Wasatch Crest.

Another ride option is to pedal to Dog Lake from Mill Creek, take the Dog Lake to Desolation Connector to Mill D North Fork. Now climb to the Crest then descend 1/2 mile to Mill Creek Meadows and return via the Mill Creek Canyon trail.

Another big meadow before we head into the trees and begin descending again.

Mill Creek Meadows ends on the Mill Creek Canyon trail in the big meadow, just uphill from the bridge. This lower end of the trail is also unmarked. The trail fork is 0.2 miles below the fork for the Red Pine Road trail. To do a figure-eight, you can climb uphill from the end of Mill Creek Meadows to the Red Pine trail fork and descend the Red Pine Road trail.

On the main Mill Creek Canyon trail, just downhill from the bottom of the Mill Creek Meadows trail.

Getting there:

Get to Foothill Blvd on the east bench of Salt Lake City. If you're coming via I-215, exit at 39th South. Take 3800 South eastbound into the Canyon. Drive all the way to the top of Mill Creek Canyon to the lower Big Water trailhead. 

Note: Mill Creek user fee is $5 per car as of 2022, payable by credit card as you leave the canyon. The gate to upper Mill Creek Canyon is open to cars July 1 to November 1. Mountain bikes are only allowed on upper Mill Creek trails on EVEN numbered days!



On the shuttled ride, most riders will start at the Scott's Bypass trail at the top of Guardsman Pass. From this starting point, it's 6.6 miles to the top of Mill Creek Meadows.

After completing Mill Creek Meadows, most riders will continue down to Big Water then catch the Upper Pipeline to continue the trip downhill to Rattlesnake Gulch.

Reserving a spot on a commercial shuttle is the most practical and environmentally-friendly way to do the shuttled ride.

Riding resources for this trail:
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
      Area multi-track file
Lodging, camping, shops:
       Links to northern SLC resources
       Links to southern SLC resources

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