But, why not try something a little more creative? The Salt Lake City area has so many nooks and crannies with near-hidden parks, it’s hard to narrow them down to the best ones. So, try a few places that may be new to you. And, in the interest of avoiding the predictable, how about forgetting hot dogs and burgers? Nip into a deli like Tony Caputo’s or Granato’s and pick out gourmet cheeses and meats, get them sliced, grab a fresh loaf of crusty bread, and you’re ready for an alfresco picnic that will be a treat for your palate and maybe your work-wracked soul.
Temple Quarry Trail
Also known as the Pipeline Trail, this pocket park is hidden behind the big electric sign at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Mountain bikers fill the small parking lot, unload their bikes, and take off up the rutted four-mile trail. Meanwhile, the scenic beauty of the park area is largely ignored.
The narrow strip of park runs alongside Little Cottonwood Creek, now filled with photogenic rushing water that will keep frothing for at least another month. There are restrooms at the edge of the parking lot, with an entry to the park. The park is paved with a smooth concrete sidewalk, lined with benches and a few tables. It’s perfect for a picnic in stilettos or dress shoes. The creek, which is not peaceful water at this time of the year, drowns out any noise from cars in the parking lot, and the strip of trees between the lot and the park, along with the winding of the paved walkway, creates a sense of isolation. On the other side of the foaming water are dramatic sheer black cliffs, frequented by mountain goats. Bring binoculars.
Directions: Drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the big electric temperature/’no dogs allowed’ sign on the right. Turn right, then make an immediate left. Though the sign says the gate at the trailhead closes at 10 pm, the truth is that it is never closed.
Rotary Glen Park
Take off your shoes and soak your feet in Emigration Creek at this park next to Hogle Zoo. The creek runs through the park. You may hear exotic noises from caged wildlife as you relax under the trees. The park has a large grassy area, perfect for a game of Frisbee, and a playground for the younger set. Those who work on the east side drive there for a quick alfresco lunch break. For families, a pre-zoo picnic will save money that would otherwise be spent on sodas and snacks. As a note of interest, Hogle Zoo admission is $9 for adults, $7 for children 12-3, under three is free.
Directions: The park is on the other side of Hogle Zoo, off of 2600 East and 800 South. It turns into Sunnyside, at the bottom of Emigration Canyon, just before Foothill Drive. Pass the zoo and turn right on Crestview, road between the zoo and Rotary Glen Park.
Picnic with your pooch! Millrace Park is the crown jewel of Taylorsville with a large field for soccer and baseball teams, picnic pavilions, restrooms and a three acre off-leash dog park. The large and shady pavilions may be reserved for groups, but they are seldom used, making them a perfect spot for an offhand private picnic. You can even call for a pizza delivery. While you wait, watch your unleashed doggie play in the fenced park across from the pavilions. Hint: Do not plan to enjoy your food inside the dog park. Some pooch will purloin your pizza before you take the first bite.
Tags are required for the dog park—$10 annually for Taylorsville residents, $25 for nonresidents, but tag-checking is rare. Dogs outside the park must be leashed. For more info, phone 801-963-5400.
Directions: Millrace Park is on 5400 South, 1200 West, between Redwood Road and State Street.
Yeah, you know it’s a hangout for druggies and the homeless, but it’s still a good spot for a picnic right in the middle of the city. It’s also a lot cleaner than it used to be. Consider a picnic in Pioneer Park a way of taking back your right to eat lunch wherever you want. Even better, come foodless on a Saturday morning, buy your delectables at the Downtown Farmers Market or at the specialty deli and markets on 3rd South and 3rd West, head on over to a table and enjoy. It may not be exactly New York’s Central Park—but it does mark the site of the first pioneer campground in Salt Lake City.
Directions: Easy to find, Pioneer Park is at 300 South, 300 West, surrounded by parking spaces and gourmet eateries on both sides.
Silver Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon
This isn’t a quick grab of a picnic, but the more than 14-mile trip up Big Cottonwood Canyon is definitely worth it. A wellmaintained boardwalk passes over marshy wetlands and around the lake, dotted with picnic tables and benches. The well-stocked lake is large and beautiful, with groups of fishers casting their lines into the clear water. You can even purchase a fishing license at the Information Center, open between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Walk off the food with an easy hike around the lake.
If you don’t feel like driving that far, Big Cottonwood Canyon has picnic spots all the way up, including the Dogwood picnic area about a mile up from the parking lot at the base of the Canyon; Ledgemere, with a wooden bridge across the creek; Moss Ledge; and the biggest, Storm Mountain, with plenty of room to play. In fact, just drive up Big Cottonwood with your picnic basket and pull over at any spot that looks good.
Directions: Silver Lake is near the top of the Canyon, just before Brighton Ski Resort. It’s half a mile beyond the right turn onto Brighton Loop Road.