Hike Mount Olympus (Utah)

You know that one hike, that everyone “seems” to have done, but is still on your bucket list? Well, Mt. Olympus was that one for me.  Mount Olympus, like many other mountain peaks, looms over the Salt Lake Valley below. It’s an intimidating mountain to look at when driving down I-215 South. And even though it’s only 9,030′ tall, it’s legendary status to those who live here. It is just one of those peaks, that no matter where you’re standing in Salt Lake, you can look up and see it towering above. And finally, on June 16th, Court, Gregor, and I reached the summit on a sunny Sunday in June.

After spending the previous day climbing in Parleys Canyon, we drove back down to the valley on Sunday to spend the day hiking this trail. The AllTrails report said it would take, on average, 4-7hrs to ascend the 4,800′ to the summit over the 6miles. We hopped out of the jeep, started our Suunto watches, and headed up the trail. Word to the wise, this trail will make you sweat right out the gate. The cool morning had transitioned into a hot sun rather quickly, and the makeshift stairs to climb the trail from the parking lot were a doozy. But as the three of us made our way up, the trail began to get steeper and rockier. It never got any easier.

We hiked along the southern flank of Mt. Olympus, baking in the morning sun as we trotted on the dusty trail. Still far from the summit, excitement was close by. Gregor ran off the trail to inspect some smell, which is a normal thing he does on hikes. But when we saw what he was approaching to investigate, we nearly turned white and began to freak out. He was walking over to a Rattle Snake! We called him back as authoritatively as we could, and he eventually returned. Luckily, the snake was dead, and no harm could have come to Gregor. But it still did not leave us any calmer; nevertheless, we kept on heading up the trail in hopes we wouldn’t run into anymore snakes. We would be wrong on that one too.

After passing the much appreciated waterfall at mile 1.9, we began heading up the switchbacks that had us climbing higher and higher towards the shoulder of the mountain. It got rockier and steeper the further we went, with no signs of letting up. Fortunately, we stayed in tree cover which saved us from the scorching summer rays. After a few breaks to catch our breathes, we made it to the shoulder at mile 3.4. It was an incredible view into Heughs Canyon and further into Big Cottonwood Canyon. But after relaxing for just a few moments, we realized we had the hardest part of the hike still ahead of us. The scramble to the summit.

We were almost there, only 600 more feet to climb. We headed up the trail until we reached the slab scramble. By ourselves, not much of a technical climbing issue; but with Gregor, it was bound to get interesting. We had to help him up the first big step that stumped the party in front of us who had 2 dogs. But once he was up there, he cruised through the rest of the 100ft of the scramble. Soon enough, we were looking back down the slab and off at the snow capped peaks across the canyon.

After a bit of route finding, deciding between a few options, we scrambled up a tiny boulder field until we reached ridge! We had finally made our way up, and only a 100yds separated us from the true summit of Mt. Olympus. Unfortunately, that 100yds was a massive slab boulder field that looked difficult to cross on our own, let alone with a small dog like Gregor. Carefully, we moved from rock to rock, with Court out in front seeing which rocks were stable and and easy place for Gregor to land. One by one, we made our way finally to the last few boulders before reaching the summit!

We had made it! After 2 hours and 45 minutes of hiking, and 4,186ft later, we reached the summit. We signed our names in the summit book that was tucked away in the mailbox on the summit rock pile, got a picture of the 3 of us by another hiker, and then sat down for a well deserved lunch. Gregor, as per usual, wanted to play with another dog that had also reached the summit. So much for thinking he was tired at all from this half of the hike.

After a relaxing summit session, we headed back down for the knee pounding descent to the trailhead. We talked about how excited we were to have accomplished this goal, and how we couldn’t wait until we washed down our thirst with some beer and a greasy hamburger. Stoke was high, as was our exhaustion, when we finally reached the road where we had parked the Jeep. Then, the last thing we ever expected happened. Court’s Jeep was broken into. Some low-life broke her back, passenger window and stole a shopping bag we had sitting there. Luckily, they didn’t take anything important like her purse, and they only got Gregor’s water dish, flip flops, and some sun screen. But still, the headache Court had to deal with after that was just as bad. So moral of the story, don’t keep anything of value in your car if you’re parking at the Mt. Olympus Trailhead (or anywhere in Salt Lake for that matter).

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