Looking for a way to ease in to the hiking scene with rewarding views just minutes away from downtown Salt Lake City?
Grab your sunscreen and a sack lunch and head towards Mount Van Cott, a 6,348-foot mountain that sits above the University of Utah.
With little to no shade for the duration of the hike, spring is the perfect time to climb the roughly 1,450 feet from your car to the summit (shorter if you can find a spot in the parking lot). Depending on how much time you plan on enjoying the views of the Salt Lake Valley at the top, plan on about two hours for this adventure.
To get to Mount Van Cott, take 100 South and head east towards the University of Utah until it turns into North Campus Drive. Continue on that road and take a left into the Jewish Community Center (across from University Hospital). If you are lucky you will find a non-permit required stall in the northeast part of the lot (next to the power substation). If you are unlucky, like me, head back down North Campus Drive and park in the neighborhood off to the right (Federal Heights Drive).
The trail begins as you pass through the chain-link entrance next to the power substation. Follow the dirt road until you reach a steep trail on the right that connects you to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Follow the trail up as you begin your ascent, and take a left when you reach the junction at the base of the mountain (right keeps you on the Shoreline Trail towards Red Butte).
Follow the single track up as it winds across the face of the mountain until you reach the next junction on the south side. Take a left and you'll walk along the ridgeline; continuing straight on the trail will take you to the same spot, but will provide you an easier path with a gradual increase in elevation (just be sure to take a left at your next opportunity to rejoin the trail to the summit).
You'll notice the incredible views of the Salt Lake Valley and of Dry Creek Canyon below as you continue up the ridgeline. Before you know it, you'll have reached the summit through the exposed rock and short scrub brush, providing sweeping panoramic views that stretch into Davis County. The summit is a perfect spot to enjoy a sack lunch and catch your breath before you begin the trek back to the car.