Updated: Mar 2, 2021
At the top of Little Mountain is a monument and placard that marks Emigration Canyon as the “Road to Zion.” While this canyon was traveled more than 160 years ago by oxen, handcarts and hardy pioneers, it is now a great ride for cyclists looking for just a little bit of climbing and a whole lot of beautiful scenenary!
Emigration canyon is located on the northeast side of the Salt Lake Valley, and is just east of the Hogle Zoo. The easiest way to get there is to take Foothill Blvd and then turn east on Sunnyside Avenue. If you are driving to the mouth of the canyon you can park at the public park just wast of the Zoo, or for a little more challenging ride you can start from anywhere down in the valley.
If you ride from downtown Salt Lake to the top of Little Mountain and back, it turns out to be about a 30 mile ride round trip with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, depending where you start from. If you are going to ride from the valley I recommend using some of the back roads like Arapeen drive to avoid Foothill, as there is not a lot of shoulder room on foothill in some places.
The ride itself from the mouth of the canyon to the summit of Little Mountain is about 7.5 miles long and climbs about 1300 feet. The elevation gain is spread pretty evenly throughout the ride with just a little bit more gain at the end, making for an average grade of about 3.1% For a longer more challenging ride you can ride past the summit of Little Mountain and continue on to Big Mountain – look for more details about Big Mountain ride on a later post.
For a majority of the ride there is plenty of shoulder to stay out of the way of cars, and traffic compared to the other canyons in the area is light, giving this ride a little bit more of a country feel. Homes are sparesly located along the road up the canyon and mature trees provide some welcome shade during hot summer months.
This is a great starter ride for those who are looking to become a king of the mountain cyclist. It is a little more challenging than city creek but not as challenging as the canyons to the south like Millcreek and Big and Little Cottonwood canyon. The road is in pretty good shape, it seems like the majority of it has been resurfaced in the last 5-10 years. There are no major pot holes or obstacles to be concerned about that I saw on the way up or down the canyon.
It is not unusual to see wildlife in the canyon, especially in the morning or evening hours. Possible sightings include big game like moose, elk and deer, as well as smaller animals like rabbits and squirrels. Just something to keep in the back of your mind before you choose to bomb down the canyon.
Emigration is a great ride to catch some beautiful scenery, escape the busy city traffic or get a mild workout on climbing some gentle hills. You’ll definitely want to pack a water bottle or two and a little bit of food on this ride as you head for the top.
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