From steep hikes to the best place to catch an outdoor concert, professional ski mountaineer and adventurer Caroline Gleich shares her top picks for the ultimate weekend in her hometown
Caroline Gleich started skiing when she was only 18 months old and hasn't stopped since. The 31-year-old has appeared in Warren Miller films and graced the covers of almost every major ski magazine. This past April, she finished her most ambitious project to date: completing all 90 lines in Andrew McClean's Chuting Gallery guidebook, the ski-mountaineering bible of Utah's Wasatch Mountains and the insider’s guide to the range’s steepest, narrowest, and spiciest ski lines. “What I loved about this project is that it’s in my backyard,” says Caroline. “I can see many of the lines on the peaks from my home in Salt Lake City, and it shows that you can find inspiration anywhere, even by looking in a book or outside your door.”
Luckily, outside her doorstep has always been exciting terrain for exploration. When she’s not skiing or training, the Minnesota native is often trail running, alpine climbing, ridge scrambling, biking, tending to her organic fruit and vegetable garden, or advocating for climate conservation. A graduate of the University of Utah, Caroline has made it her mission to inspire people to live a healthier lifestyle while protecting where she loves to play, and she uses her voice as an athlete to promote environmental missions. She works alongside nonprofits such as Protect Our Winters, HEAL Utah, TreeUtah, and Adventure Scientists for Conservation, and with like-minded brands such as KEEN, which shares her passion for preserving public lands (and also makes her favorite new boot: the Terradora). If you're heading to her stomping grounds, here's what you should do.
Hikes and Sights
“I love hiking in Salt Lake City because the mountains are really steep and you can access them right from the heart of the city,” she says. “The sunsets and sunrises are also incredible along the Wasatch Mountains, so try to time your hikes accordingly.”
Caroline recommends hiking Ensign Peak (1) to get started. “It’s a pretty quick one-mile hike overlooking all of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Front. The trailhead is near downtown in the back of a church parking lot, and it usually has a fair amount of people,” she says. Spring and fall are the best times to go, but if it’s summertime, you can plan for a sunset hike for the best light.
Grandeur Peak (2) is another one of her go-to hikes. “It's straight uphill, so you get a lot of bang for your buck and a pretty intense workout,” says Caroline, who recommends accessing the hike from the western ridge, which rises 3,000 vertical feet in just a few miles to an 8,000-foot summit. “It should take about four to five hours for the average person. The trailhead is right off the freeway, and you might see rattlesnakes or some wildflowers.” For both of these hikes, Caroline says, Keen'sTerradora would be the shoe to wear. "They've supportive enough for techy trails but are light and nimble so they won't slow you down.”
Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, a 20- to 30-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City, Donut Falls (3) is another favorite. “It’s three and a half miles out and back with beautiful wildflowers, and it’s great for summer because it’s high up and usually snow-covered in the winter and spring. It ends at a beautiful waterfall that comes through a circular doughnut-shaped hole in the rock—hence the name.”
For experienced climbers and hikers, Caroline recommends the technical climb up the South Ridge of Mount Superior (4) in between Alta Ski Resort and Snowbird that has a 3,000-foot elevation gain. “I usually park at Our Lady of the Snow, a church nearby, walk down the canyon about a mile, and start the route when I can see the ridge. I usually bring a small pack with food and water and free-solo the route, but first-timers might want to consider bringing a rope and rock protection.”
For mellower outing, Caroline will grab a few friends and head to Antelope Island (5) on the Great Salt Lake, about 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. The state park is laced with hiking and biking trails, as well as wildlife, including bison, mule deer, and bighorn sheep.
Prior to a big day in the mountains, Caroline likes to fuel up at Roots Café (6), about 15 minutes from the city on the way to slopes. “Everything is fresh, local, and super tasty,” says Caroline, who usually gets the Juice for Joints (carrot, kale, cucumber, apple, and spinach) and Roots of Your Day breakfast (a classic breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and a pancake).
For lunch, her favorite joint is Oh Mai (7), which has bánh mì sandwiches and other Vietnamese favorites, including pho soup and rice dishes. You’re just as likely to find her cruising around the Salt Lake Farmers Market (8) downtown, where Caroline says she gets a ton of vegetables that she’s not growing herself. “We honestly have some of the best peaches and shishito peppers in the world.”
For dinner, Caroline suggests The Rest, a speakeasy-inspired restaurant inside Bodega Bar (9). Grab a cocktail at Bodega while you wait for your table. “My favorite food is the mushroom appetizer and the fried chicken entrée. It’s a whole experience that is both trendy and timeless.” Caroline is also a big fan of Takashi sushi (10), in downtown Salt Lake City, which has creative rolls like Strawberry Fields, which is filled with escolar, chile peppers, and strawberries inside. Because it’s often crowded, she says to be prepared to wait or get there around 5:30 p.m. when they open. Handle (11) is another dinner favorite, with two locations: one in Park City and the other in Salt Lake City. The farm-to-table restaurant offers awesome appetizers like Caroline’s favorite, the General Tso’s-style cauliflower that comes with chiles and kohlrabi.
Shopping and Yoga
When it comes to shopping, Caroline prefers stores that outfit her adventures. “The Patagonia Outlet (12) in Sugar House is about 15 minutes from downtown with great discounted Patagonia gear and is a must,” she says. “You can also check out the shopping in 9th and 9th. It’s a trendy, hip part of town full of small, independent retailers, good coffee shops, yoga, and cafes.” You’re most likely to find her—after a hike, still in her Keens and tights—at Centered City Yoga (13), where she’s been going to relax and recover after big training days for the past decade. “My favorite classes right now are Ashtanga and kundalini.”
Salt Lake City is a great place to catch an outdoor concert in the summer. “The Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series (14) at the University of Utah has a gorgeous outdoor amphitheater and a great series of shows that I love taking picnics to with friends,” says Caroline. You can also check out the Salt Lake Twilight Concert Series (15) right downtown, with some of the cheapest concert tickets around. Lastly, Caroline says the Deer Valley Concert Series (16) has amazing free concerts on Wednesday nights with bigger-name performances you'd have to pay for other times. The venue offers incredible ambience in an outdoor amphitheater right on the slopes behind Snow Park Lodge.
What is TrailFit?
KEEN's TrailFit is a movement. It's about staying fit and finding your fit. It's about getting out, pushing yourself, and reaching new heights. It's about earning a better view, whether it be of the world or of yourself. TrailFit's best match yet? The new Terradora: a boot designed for those days you can't pick between walking in the city or hitting the trail. Cue the mid-city workout, the post-work hike, or a weekend of playing tourist on your home turf.