Foothills Trail System Master Plan

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The Council recently adopted the Foothills Trail System Master Plan.

This is the first master plan for the Foothills Natural Area, running from the North Salt Lake boundary, south to Emigration Canyon. The plan aims to improve and create trails that are environmentally sustainable, enjoyable, accessible, safe, and low-maintenance.


In response to concerns and questions raised at the February 18 public hearing, Council Member Chris Wharton made a special note to reassure the public that this plan will help guide implementation and there will be future discussions and funding decisions, with opportunities for the public to continue providing feedback. This includes a future plan update to address the area between Emigration and Parleys Canyons. See responses to the February 18 public hearing questions below


The Mayor's Administration created the plan after a public input process that began in the summer of 2016 and continued through 2018. Feedback gathered during that time helped guide plan development and will influence trail development projects, including layouts and timing of individual improvements, for the next 10 years.

February 18 Public Hearing Outcomes

During the February 18 public hearing, the Council heard from nearly 30 individuals about the draft master plan.


There were three issues brought up during the hearing that some Council Members agreed should be addressed:


  1. protection of watershed and dog considerations
  2. accessibility and adaptability
  3. access through private properties

The Council closed the hearing and asked staff to work with the Mayor’s Administration to find possible solutions to these comments. Responses from the Parks and Public Lands Division can be found below.


Potential off-trail use by bikers in the Mount Wire and Mount Van Cott area

Sustainably-constructed trails, like those proposed for Mt. Wire and Mt. Van Cott, contour across the hillside instead of climbing directly up it. These types of contour trails are much less visible than the many existing ‘fall-line’ social trails on these mountains. It is probable that for the first 1-2 years following trail construction, the excavated dirt on the downhill side of the new trails will be visible from the valley. After that, grass will grow back and these trails will be very hard to discern, blending into the landscape. Wherever possible in constructing trails, we will avoid the use of tight switchbacks, and instead use broad contours across and around the sides of these mountains. This will help to minimize the visual impact of the trails on the landscape, and will reduce trail users’ (including mountain bikers) inclination to shortcut and create new social trails. We expect that as trail users begin to predominantly utilize the new system trails, many of the steep and eroding social trails on Mt. Wire & Van Cott will revegetate and gradually disappear. As this occurs, visible trails on the faces of these mountains should decrease, benefiting scenic views from the valley.
One of the best ways to deter off-trail riding by mountain bikes is to provide an official, well-designed downhill route, which the trails plan does for both Mt. Wire and Mt. Van Cott. The sides of these peaks are steep, and there are no obvious off-trail descent routes down that would entice large numbers of cyclists. Inevitably, a small number of cyclists will choose to go off-trail, as will a small number of hikers and trail runners. Regardless of the user group, off-trail travel can be best managed and discouraged through consistent signage, the presence of a trail ranger or rangers, and trail user education that works to create a culture of trail users with strong leave-no-trace principles.

Protection of watershed and dog considerations
Dog waste that is not picked up and appropriately discarded by dog owners can – and does – impact water quality, presents a health concern to wildlife, and is unsightly and unpleasant for trail users. Pick-up-after-your-pet signs are already commonplace at trail access points throughout the foothills, as are city-maintained dog bag dispensers. Continued efforts to encourage trail users to practice leave-no-trace principles, combined with direct education and enforcement by a trail ranger or rangers, will help create a culture of trail etiquette that includes diligent bagging and packing-out of dog waste. It is unlikely that the construction of the proposed “Lithograph Fork Trail” up the south side of Mt. Wire would create a measurable increase in water quality impairments for residential wells in Emigration Canyon; this trail stays high above residences, and much further away than the existing social trail along the Questar Gas Pipeline. Efforts to encourage trail users to bag and pack out dog waste through consistent education and enforcement are expected to be more impactful than building – or not building – any particular trail segment.

Popperton Park Trailhead

The City Council has already provided CIP (Capital Improvement Process) funding for design and construction documents for improvements to Foothill trailheads, including the one at Popperton Park. This design process will address the parking and safety concerns, and SLC Trails & Natural Lands will involve the Federal Pointe HOA in the design process to ensure that potential issues are identified and addressed. With regard to the visibility of the proposed trail system at the Popperton Park & Preserve, the trails will be visible from various viewpoints, including from residences bordering the preserve. However, unlike the user-built and user-maintained bike jump park above 18th Avenue, the proposed trail system at Popperton will be formalized and once constructed, additional trail building will not be permitted. The proposed trails will include beginner, intermediate and adaptive bike trails, walking/jogging paths, and an interpretive nature trail.

Adaptive Accessibility

One of the overarching goals for the foothills trail system is accessibility. The Foothill Trails Master Plan seeks to make the trail system more accessible for a broad user-base including trail users with special needs, novice trail users, families, seniors, and visitors. The plan addresses accessibility generally through system-wide improvements in trail design, layout and construction, trailhead location and design, connectivity with alternative transportation options, wayfinding signage and trailhead information kiosks.
Due to the terrain of the Foothills Natural Area and constraints imposed by property boundaries, many proposed trails may be constructed at grades higher – and widths narrower – than can comfortably accommodate wheelchairs or adaptive cycles. However, this is not the case everywhere, and the plan recommends constructing adaptive-friendly trails at specific locations in each of the three ‘sub-areas’ (North, Central & South), where the terrain makes adaptive-friendly trails more feasible. In developing the plan, the City and consultant met with the Mayor’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and solicited advice from stakeholders including the National Ability Center, the University of Utah Hospital and Primary Children’s Hospital, and national adaptive trail experts with the US Forest Service and the Professional Trail Builder’s Association. There are many ways that trail system access can be improved for people with disabilities, including trails that are designed to accommodate use by hand-cycles (such as the Porcu-Climb and Down Dog trails at Round Valley), accessible parking stalls and street-to-trail transitions at trailheads, relevant information on trailhead signage, and web-based trail accessibility information for potential trail users. Implementation of the Foothill Trails Master Plan will help reduce barriers to access through a variety of integrated approaches, and the Trails & Natural Lands Division will engage adaptive recreation stakeholders during all phases of trail construction. Trail users with special needs and adaptive recreation stakeholders are encouraged to reach out to the Trails & Natural Lands Division to share their ideas and feedback.


There is still time to share your thoughts on the draft plan in the feedback form below, by email at council.comments@slcgov.com, or call the 24 hour comment line at 801-535-7654.


master plan noun

mas·​ter | \ ˈma-stər \

\ ˈplan \

: a plan giving overall guidance


A Master Plan is an official policy guide that outlines a vision of future growth and development over time.

Foothills Trail System Plan 2019
View of the salt lake valley looking south

Plan Vision

"The Foothills Natural Area will provide a variety of recreational trail experiences for all ages and abilities while managing the Foothills' environmental resources for future generations."

With user demand increasing, the Foothills Trail System Master Plan is a vision for sustainable recreation in the Foothills Natural Area. The plan aims to improve and expand current recreational trail experiences for people of all abilities.

Plan Goals


“Create a non-motorized, world-class recreational mountain trail system at the edge of Salt Lake City.”

  • Accessible
  • Safe
  • Enjoyable
  • Low maintenance
  • Environmentally sustainable

When fully constructed, the trail system will include:

  • 65 miles of proposed new trails and 41 miles of existing trails, for a total system length of 106 trail miles.
  • A mix of multi-directional and one-way trails, some with shared-uses and others dedicated to a single use, like walking or biking.
  • A growing network of improved trailheads with information kiosks.
  • Wayfinding signage located at every trail intersection.
  • Three 'Habitat Study Areas' where biological impact assessments will be conducted to inform trail alignments and mitigate disruption of native species.

To read more details and background on the plan, visit the Public Lands webpage.

Trail users overlooking Salt Lake valley

Council Meeting Videos & Summaries

March 3, 2020 Council Meeting

The Council adopted the Foothills Trail System Master Plan. Prior to adoption, the Council held a follow up discussion to address concerns and questions raised at the February 18 public hearing. Watch the follow up discussion.


During the formal meeting, Council Member Chris Wharton made a special note to reassure the public that this plan will help guide implementation and there will be future discussions and funding decisions, with opportunities for the public to continue providing feedback. This includes a future plan update to address the area between Emigration and Parleys Canyons.


Read the Council staff report or watch the meeting video to learn more.


February 18, 2020 Public Hearing

The Council heard from nearly 30 individuals about the draft Foothills Trail System Master Plan.


There were three issues brought up during the hearing that some Council Members agreed should be addressed:


  1. protection of watershed and dog considerations
  2. accessibility and adaptability
  3. access through private properties

The Council closed the hearing and asked staff to work with the Mayor’s Administration to find possible solutions to these comments. The Council may receive an update and discuss the adjustments prior to taking a vote on the ordinance at a future meeting.



Read the Council staff report or watch the public hearing to learn more.



January 7, 2020 Council discussion

The Council received an updated draft of the Foothills Trail System Master Plan. The Council initially received the draft plan in January 2019.


This will be the first master plan in the area and lays out the future of 106 miles of multi-use trails. Funding has already been secured for the highest-priority trails and the Council expects to hear detailed plans for trailhead improvements and budget requests for future phases of the trail system.


Read the Council staff report or watch the discussion to learn more.






January 8, 2019 Council discussion

The Council was briefed about the draft Salt Lake City Foothill Trail System Plan. The Plan is designed to serve as a vision for sustainable recreation in the Foothills natural area. The goals for the trail system are to be environmentally sustainable, enjoyable, accessible, safe and low-maintenance.


The Administration will come back to the Council with a final draft plan at a later date.


Read the Council staff report or watch the discussion to learn more.