Neff’s Canyon is located at the north side of Mount Olympus on the east bench of Salt Lake City. The actual Neff’s Canyon hike continues on uphill for three miles through the woods up to a few meadows. It is popular due to it’s proximity to Salt Lake, it’s shade and that people can bring their dogs. This time we just hiked the 1.2 mile loop. You can actually make it any length depending on how far up you go.
Right from the parking area there are pretty views!
This area has one gravel path that heads up the east side and then a bunch of trails through the trees to just to the west. If it’s a hot day, you will probably want to go both ways in the shade, but if not, the views are broader along the gravel. For much of the hike, the gravel road is about 15 feet higher than the rest of the area, so you can’t easily swap back and forth. I’ll explain this going up the gravel path first. Alltrails has the reverse, but the first time you go to this trail it is easiest way not to get lost.
It is beautiful in every season!
Make sure you look both ahead and behind as you walk. This photo is looking back toward the parking lot with views of the valley below.
Looking ahead you see the beautiful Mount Olympus.
This trail is uphill, but isn’t steep. It is mostly shaded and clear which way to go. There were a few beautiful wildflowers along the walkway and a view of the city that is somewhat obstructed by the foliage.
This pathway is situated above the return trip which goes down in the ravine near the stream. Here is a view looking down into the more wooded are below.
When you reach the top of that pathway, about a half a mile in, you enter the same beautiful woods that you could see below. Technically this is the time to head to the right to turn around, but you can keep going as long as you wish, just knowing that it will extend your return. The trail will begin to split. The left trail is the Neff’s Canyon Trail and the right trail is North Fork.
When you are ready to start your descent back down, return to the end of the gravel pathway and head west until you are on the far side of the stream. Even in the summer it isn’t deep.
Neff’s Canyon Loop can seem a little tricky because there are so many trails that run all over, but because of the canyon, you can’t really get too lost. Just know that the parking lot is north west of the end of this loop, so you will generally need to head that direction to return. here is a screenshot on the Alltrails map so you can see the shape of the loop.
There are many trails the head pack to the parking lot in the lower area and some are steeper than others, so if you get to a steep part, back track or side step a bit and you should find a more gradual one.
If you want to see the cave, head to the far west side of the canyon. Neff’s Cave is actually one of the deepest caves in the entire United States! It was naturally developed along a fissure in the earth and is 1,700 feet deep! It has rarely been entered and requires rope descents, but it closed off to the public for safety. Now you can only go in about 30 feet. I only had my cell phone, so the pictures aren’t great.
*Update, in fall 2022 they filled the entrance of the cave in with cement, so you can only go in two feet.
We came to the cave from the top, but if you are coming from down in the canyon, then there are two pathways. The right one is more direct, but it super steep. The left is way more gradual, but ends up just south of the cave. The longer one is probably fastest because the other one is so steep. If you take the slightly longer one, head right when you get to the top and you’ll see the cave. Here is a view of the two pathways from the bottom.
Because there are so many trails near the base of Neff’s Canyon, you can just take whichever one you want as long as you are generally headed northwest and downhill back towards to parking lot.
Just before you arrive at the parking lot, look towards the valley and appreciate the views!
Neff’s Canyon is perfect for families of any age and is great for toddlers. It’s also great for pet owners or for a quick, beautiful hike close to the city. There were plenty of people there and many unleashed dogs, so you probably won’t have it to yourself. Remember, if it’s a hot day, just explore more through the canyon part and bypass the original east trail.
Stats: Distance – 1.2 mile loop (very adjustable)
Approximate hiking time – 30-90 minutes
Elevation gain – 426 feet
Difficulty – Easy
Trail – well maintained trail of dirt and rocks
Bathrooms – None
Seasons to hike – Year Round
Permits needed – None
Pets allowed – Yes