Little Black Mountain sits above the Avenues neighborhood in SLC, and although it seems close, it's looks are deceiving. This trail offers great views of the SLC valley and the BST (Bonneville Shoreline Trails), but get ready to give your hips and calves a work out. Most of the trail is along the BST ridgeline, but gains 900 ft in last 1/2 mile!
I decided to hike here on Saturday to try and escape the horrible valley inversion and clear my head. The best description of what happens in SLC during winter, is best described by the City of Salt Lake:
"Inversions occur during the winter months when normal atmospheric consitions (cool air above, warm air below) become inverted. Inversions trap a dense layer of cold air under a layer of warm air. The warm layer acts much like a lid, trapping pollutants in the cold air near the valley floor. The Wasatch Front valley and their surrounding mountains act like a bowl, keeping this cold air in the valley. The snow covered valley floors reflect rather than absorb the heat from the sun, preventing the normal vertical mixing of warm and cold air. Fog exacerbates the problem, facilitating chemical reactions that create even more particles and higher pollutant concentrations. The longer the inversion lasts the higher the levels of pollution trapped under it. The warm inversion air layer is usually displaced by a strong storm system which restores air quality to healthy levels. In SLC inversions typically occur following a snowstorm. the new snow pack enhances colder temperatures near the surface. At the same time, clear skies lead to warmer temperatures above."
Hiking above this layer (above 8,000ft or so), or on the East side of the Wasatch Front can help you escape it. People with breathing problems or asthma, should try to avoid hiking in the inversion layer.
Let's move on to the trail & photos...
In SLC, head north on 7th Ave. Take a slight left, then right and continue on I St. in the Avenues. Turn right on 13th Ave, then veer left onto Northcrest Drive. Turn left on Terrace Hills drive, and park at the very end of this street, in the cul-de-sac.
Distance: 7 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 2,250 ft
Time: 3-5 hours
Dog friendly? Yes. There is a sign that says dogs must be leashed, but nobody does.
Kid friendly? Yes
Here is the Trail head area. It starts off to the East side in the cul-de-sac. There is another trail on the West side, but that will lead you the wrong way.
Starting out, this first section of the trail is shaded, and in winter will usually have snow.
At the first 4 way intersection, keep going straight. You will see the Avenue's Twin Peaks ahead, which is a great, short hike, and can be hiked year-round.
The trail will turn North. You will want to take the trail that heads for this small saddle.
On the ridge! For the next 1.5 miles or so, the trail follows the rolling hills and ridgeline. Little Black Mountain is the peak to the right, by the clouds.
Selfie time with Charlie!
At 1.6 miles, you will see the trail turn off for the BST Twin Peaks. I recommend to stop and take in the view from here, then continue along the ridge. This was our view from the trail turning off to Twin Peaks, with Little Black Mountain above Charlie.
Making our way up higher!
This is where I consider the "base" of Little Black Mountain to be. From here, the trail gets very steep, gaining 900 ft in just 1/2 mile. Take your time. Poles may help, and depending on snow level, you may need to put microspikes on. Surprisingly, this is where you start to see trees, after hiking the whole ridgeline in direct sun.
Charlie making his way up the steep, snowy section. Almost there!
Finally on top. Once you reach the summit area, you can walk along the ridge again for awhile. I decided I was ready to turn around from this point, and drank hot tea before heading down. Again, here is what the inversion looks like in winter. I think I was able to hike out and above it, but you can never be sure. I was just glad I got to enjoy the sunny day with Charlie.
Here are two map views to help guide you.