Silver Lake in American Fork Canyon is a beautiful high alpine lake that sits just below the Little Cottonwood Canyon ridgeline on the south side. This moderate trail slowly gains elevation, so it's not super hard to reach this awesome destination. The trail passes by some boulders, crosses a stream, climbs up 3-4 long switchbacks, and finally reaches the lake after only 2.2 miles (one way).
The Horse Flat Trail in American Fork Canyon starts from the Summit Trailhead, and passes through several meadows, large Aspen groves, and shaded areas before finally reaching the Primrose Overlook. This trail is really well shaded, and is perfect during Fall when all the Aspen trees are changing colors. Temperatures are also cooler in Fall - when the valley can be in the 60s, the top of the Alpine Loop Road can be in the 40s. Keep in mind that the Alpine Loop Road is only open during from late June to the end of October, or whenever the first snow arrives. This trail is great for dogs off leash, and even kids can hike this route.
South Mountain (11,817 ft) is located on the very South end of the LaSal Mountains just outside of Moab, Utah. This is one of the easiest peaks to summit in the LaSals at only 7 miles RT. The LaSal Mountains are the 2nd highest mountain range in Utah, behind the Uinta Mountains. South Mountain is accessible by a trail half of the way, and then the second half is off trail but is easy hiking across the high alpine terrain. The trail itself is mostly exposed, with no water source. Start hiking early in the morning to beat the afternoon thunderstorms that occur almost daily in this mountain range. The best time to summit is Summer and Fall (typically late June to the first snowfall in October). Call the LaSal Ranger to make sure LaSal Pass is open before planning your hike here.
Mt.Moriah (12,073 ft) is located within Mount Moriah Wilderness in Nevada. This peak is often overlooked by its neighbor to the South, Wheeler Peak, in Great Basin National Park. But that is what I loved about this area - we passed very few people on the roads, and literally no one on the trail! Mt.Moriah is very remote and 4WD and high clearance is needed to reach the trailhead. The trail itself starts out by dropping into a small canyon, before hiking up many switchbacks to "The Table". From there, you leave the trail and need to use your topo and directional skills to make it up to the small saddle. Eventually you will pick up a light hikers/pack trail before reaching the summit. The best time of year to hike this is July - October when the road is dry and accessible, and there is no concern for avalanche danger. There is plenty of free camping all over the mountain, but just remember the closest gas station is on State Line near Baker, NV, so make sure you are self sufficient with water, food, and gas. Dogs will do well on this trail as long as they are used to rocky terrain.
Toll Canyon is located in Summit Park, Utah, starting behind the new Discovery Ridge neighborhood. This trail is surrounded by private property with limited parking, so starting at the Arclyon Trail is the best starting point for hikers. The trail, called a Toll New World, wraps around a small hill just South of I-80 before making very gradual switchbacks up to the Toll Road. The trail eventually turns South and you'll be following Toll Canyon, which is well shaded by both pine and Aspen trees. There is no specific destination, however, this can be nice as you can choose your distance. Dogs will appreciate the year-round stream to drink from in the upper section of this hike, but beware of bikes the first 1.5 miles. This trail is accessible year-round, but of course, always pay attention to avalanche danger in winter.
Ski Lake is located in between Victor, Idaho and Jackson Hole, WY, and sits at an elevation of 8,650 ft. Locals says this is the easiest alpine lake to hike to in the area at only 4 miles RT! The trail is very mellow and great for all ages, including dogs off leash. Along the way you'll have amazing views of mountains to the South and East for the first mile, cross a stream, and end with an amazing lake with clear blue water. Be sure to start early though - not only does parking fill up quickly on weekends but this trail is all on the East side of the slope making it all in the sun. There are a few sections of shade, but even by 10am we were all sweating - and it was only 65F! Pack a snack, and let the dogs enjoy taking a swim at Ski Lake!
The Darby Canyon Wind Caves are located near Alta, WY, within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness ("the backside" of the Tetons). This is a very popular trail, so don't expect to have any solitude - you'll constantly be pulling over to let others pass, even horses, and the parking lot is full by 10am on weekends. But don't let that stop you from visiting at least once! The Wind Caves are a really cool, local geological feature called the "Darby Formation" - a thick layer of 350 year old dolomite. Don't forget that this is still bear territory - even though this is a heavily used trail, always carry bear spray. The best time to visit is when the snow is gone so you can actually hike up into the cave, typically late June through September. Dogs are also allowed off leash, and older kids will enjoy this gradual trail.
Table Mountain (11,106 ft) is located within the Jedediah-Smith Wilderness of Wyoming, and features amazing views of the lesser-viewed side of the backside of the Tetons. The Grand Teton, South, and Middle Teton are the star of the show here, as they tower over Cascade Canyon.
Wyoming Peak (11, 383 ft) is the tallest mountain in the Wyoming Mountain Range, located in West-Central Wyoming. On the summit lies an old fire lookout in shambles, but don't let that distract from the rest of the breathtaking views! The trail itself is mostly long switchbacks, gaining 2,500 ft in just 4 miles. Sections of the trail are forested with some shade, other sections are fields of sagebrush. However, the last mile opens up and you will be hiking in alpine terrain. This trail has a wide diversity of ecosystems and plants. There is nothing technical with hiking to Wyoming Peak - just plan on it taking most the day, bring plenty of water and snacks, and sunblock! We started out hiking in 36F temps, but by the end of the day my quads were sunburned! Dogs will enjoy this trail too, but again, bring water for them as there is none along the route. The best time to hike this is in July, August, and September when the roads are completely dry to access the unofficial trailhead.
The Avenues Twin Peaks is another one of my go-to after work hikes. This hike is the most beautiful in Spring during Sunset, when the yellow flowers are blooming, the hills are green, and the temperature is just right; however this trail can be hiked year round. The Avenues Twin Peaks is almost always windy, so a light jacket is recommended. There is no water and no shade, and the trailhead is a popular spot for mountain bikers to depart on their ride.