Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hiking Mt. Van Cott

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Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Hiking Mt. Van Cott (6,351 ft) is the knoll behind, and above in the foothills of the University of Utah. It's low elevation makes is a safe and fun hike to do year-round. My favorite time to hike this trial is in late Spring through Fall when the trail is dry. Hike here in early spring or a warm day during winter, and this trail is sure to be a mud slide. This trail is short but sweet, but short and steep, which makes for a great quick, post-work hike.

There are several routes to get to Mt. Van Cott. In my initial blog post, I started from a completely different trailhead than this one described below. Sometime in 2016 they no longer allowed people accessing the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST) to park behind the Jewish Community Center - they placed several signs, and only left 2-3 parking spots. This made it very challenging to find parking for this TH. I've completly updated the trail guide for Mt. Van Cott, with my route starting from near Red Butte Gardens. There is ample, free parking and the distance and elevation gain is almost identical to the previous trail guide.

Fact: Mt. Van Cott is named after Lucy May Van Cott, the first dean of women (1907-1931) at the University of Utah.

Head north on Foothill Drive. Turn right on Wakara Way, then left on Chippeta Way. As Chippeta Way turns right, it turns into Red Butte Canyon Rd. Drive to the end of the road, where it turns into dirt. Park near the yellow gate. The trail starts in the North side of the dirt parking lot. There are no restrooms.

Here is a driving map.

Distance: 2.2 miles RT
Elevation gain: 1,200 ft
Time: 1-2 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, but it may be steep for them
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Once you are on Red Butte Canyon Rd, drive to the very end where the pavement turns to dirt and there is a large parking area just before a yellow gate and TH. Many of the U students use this area to park for free as well, so it can still get crowded especially during school hours. The white arrow shows where the TH starts.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Hike up a short hill to meet the BST. See that bigger hill ahead? You'll end up hiking up that ridge.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 At the BST, turn right and follow the trail towards the rocky area straight ahead (above the biker and just to the right of the electric pole).
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 This will be the steepest section of the hike, as you make your way up the rocky area. It's actually easier to just hike up over the rocks than to stay on the trail because of the dirt is loose.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 The dogs explore the rock face.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Looking back down to the girls hiking up. It's really steep! Hiking poles are helpful.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Continue following the ridge trail.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Late afternoon is perfect for photos!
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 A cloud came and blocked our sun! Looking back to the valley - the smog has been really bad lately.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Keep going...
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Charlie and Cooper pose for a photo. You can clearly see where the trail goes from here.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Getting closer to the summit.

As you get close to another rocky section, you know you're close to the summit.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Reach Mt. VanCott in 1.2 miles!

Our new pack record for getting dogs to pose for a photo is 6! We used treats and a lot of STAY!!!
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Best hiking girlfriends!

From here you can hike back down the same way, or explore another trail to create a loop. You can't really get lost since you can always see the city from any of the trails in this area.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
What the valley looks without smog (October 2016).
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
People always ask me, "How often do you see snakes while hiking around SLC or in the Wasatch?" I have lived in Utah for 3 1/2 years now, and have come across two snakes total, both on this trail. I saw one rattlesnake, and this one, a gopher snake. The next question is usually, "Well, what do you do with Charlie?" Honestly, Charlie doesn't seem to notice. He's too busy sniffing vegetation or following me on my heels. I saw this snake first, and just grabbed him and walked a safe distance around the snake. However, if you have a dog that is very inquisitive, then I recommend taking a local Rattlesnake Avoidance Dog Training class. You'll know you are too close to a snake when they start to coil or rattle a noise or hissing sound. Otherwise, as long as you hike around them by 3-4 feet you will be fine.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Puppy Hydration! 
Dogs need to drink frequently on trails, just like humans. The amount of water a dog should drink depends on activity level, size, age, and weather, but in general should drink between 8-17oz of water per 10 lbs. Charlie is 70 lbs, so he needs ruffly 70 oz. I don't carry a water bowel for him - all I do is fill my camelbak up full, and squirt water from my bite valve to his mouth. He has learned to drink from that, and it works great! No fussing with bowels. In summer, when it's really hot, I will make him carry his backpack and two extra water bottles.  Be sure to check out my post on Backpacking with Dogs.

Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Mt. Van Cott - October 2016
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Perfect timing with the sunset and alpenglow along the Wasatch Front.
Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Heading back down, I had the most amazing light for photos! Evening is definitely my favorite time to hike in the foothills.

Trail map starting near Red Butte.


My original trail map, starting behind the Jewish Community Center, which no longer allows BST access parking. You could hike up from Red Butte, then descend this trail, then hike back along the BST, making a 3 mile loop.


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Hiking Mt. Van Cott, Hiking in Utah with Dogs

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the directions! Is Mt. Van Cott the highest point on that hike? I kept following the trail until I got to a point where there was no where else to go to keep going up so I went back down and my watch had the hike as a little over 3 miles round trip, whereas your info has it as 2.6 miles. I couldn't have passed Mt. Van Cott and continued to another knoll in that area, right?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, its the highest point on the small ridge. Could just be that mine/your GPS tracker was off a little.

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