Although Salt Lake City has a bustling downtown with skyscrapers, traffic, trains and plenty of pedestrians, there are also several parks, gardens and green open spaces to get away from the hectic city environment.
Take your kids for a lakeside picnic followed by a train ride. Burn some calories by hiking to a scenic lookout point. Spend your lunch break wandering through a sculpture garden. Barbecue with friends while playing horseshoes, volleyball or bocce. Whether you have all day or just a few minutes, an escape to nature is a great way to recharge.
The parks division of Salt Lake City Public Lands manages 735 acres of parks. Here are the 10 parks worth visiting in the area if you’re looking to spend some down time with family and friends, work up a sweat, or have fun with your kids.
Sugar House Park
Sugar House Park is the Central Park of Salt Lake City. Spanning 110.5 acres, it is the city’s largest public park. Visitors enjoy the large pond, which is often inhabited by ducks. Take a stroll around the pond, pack a picnic and take in the view, or bring binoculars to watch the wildlife. The park is a gathering place for the community. It has soccer and baseball fields, a basketball court, eight volleyball courts, and two playgrounds. A 16ft-wide scenic road that winds around the park accommodates walkers, runners and cyclists. The park is a favorite spot for outdoor activities in both the warm and cold months. When the snow falls, residents use the property for cross-country skiing and the kids have fun on the sleigh-riding hill.
With 80 acres to explore, Liberty Park is Salt Lake City’s second-largest public park. The highlight is Tracy Aviary and Botanical Garden, which is the largest and oldest of only two free-standing aviaries in the nation. In Tracy’s eight acres, visitors can see, hear, and touch a large variety of birds, including pelicans, condors, vultures, North American eagles, owls, cranes and flamingos. The serene park includes a pond, fountains, a gazebo and two playgrounds. Athletes enjoy the basketball and volleyball courts, swimming pool and jogging/walking path. For recreational sports, there are horseshoes, paddleboats and three bocce ball courts. Liberty Park also has the distinction of being home to the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts, which displays folk art made by the state’s Native American, rural, occupational and ethnic communities that share similar identities and values.
This Is The Place Heritage Park
This Is The Place Heritage Park is a state park with plenty of activities for all ages, from horseback rides and train rides to gold mining and museums. The name comes from Mormon pioneer Brigham Young who in 1847 declared “This is the place” when he arrived in the valley. Visit Heritage Village to see replicas of historical buildings that the Mormon pioneers lived and worked in, such as the Brigham Young Forest Farmhouse, Blacksmith Shop and Pine Valley Chapel. Enjoy an interactive experience at Treasure House that includes digging for gemstones, panning for gold and taking in views of the Coppermine. Stroll through a Native American Village to see a close-up look at the nation’s largest traditional teepee and learn about Utah’s Indigenous people. Kids will also enjoy other features of the park that include a splash pad, mercantile store and ice cream parlor.
Jordan Park has 16 acres of sprawling lawns and beautiful trees, like cottonwood, willow and elm, that provide shade as well as natural beauty. The open grassy areas are the perfect place for kids to run, visitors to play games like frisbee, and friends and families to gather over a picnic lunch. The park is also home to the International Peace Gardens. The gardens feature “native plantings and garden architecture and statues of world peace leaders typical of the homeland and its culture.” Jordan also has a popular skate park, as well as a pavilion with a fireplace and terraced amphitheater with a fire pit.
Miller Bird Refuge and Nature Park
Bird enthusiasts will love spending time in the Miller Bird Refuge and Nature Park. A project of the Trails and Natural Lands, the 8.75 acres of riparian habitat is in a suburban neighborhood. The area had been damaged from a crude oil spill in 2010, but it was recently repaired to restore the natural habitat and to draw wildlife back to the area. Native vegetation was replanted and a healthy ecosystem has returned. Along the trail, you will find relics from construction that took place during the Great Depression.
Utah Olympic Park
Winter sports fans will love experiencing what it’s like to be in the shoes of an Olympian at Utah Olympic Park. Built for the 2002 Winter Games, visitors can try things like bobsledding (with a professional pilot) or freestyle skiing and snowboarding (in winter and summer). The facility also has adventures like ziplining, airbag jumps, alpine slide and extreme tubing.
Brigham Young Historic Park
Learn about the history of the Brigham Young family, founders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, at the Brigham Young Historic Park in Temple Square. Dating back to the 1800s, the land was used for homesteading, farming and gardening. The park features memorial statues, a waterwheel, and a portion of a cobblestone wall that was where Brigham Young’s residence stood.
Fairmont Park is a great place to spend the day with friends or family. Enjoy a sunny afternoon splashing in the public pool, try your hand at a friendly game of horseshoes, or test your luck at catching fish in the pond (license required). Younger kids will be thrilled to run and play at the playgrounds, while older kids might enjoy showing off their skills at the skate park with bowls, ramps and rails. For something more competitive, hit the soccer fields, or the pickleball, basketball or volleyball courts. Bring the family dog to run around the off-leash fenced area.
The community comes together to enjoy outdoor sports and recreation in the green space of Pioneer Park. Meet friends for a game of basketball, hit the volleyball court, burn some calories playing tennis, get a cardio workout on the walking/running path, or let kids get their wiggles out on the playground or grassy fields. Bring your dog to socialize and exercise off-leash in the fenced dog park. Pioneer Park is also where the Farmers Market is held, where residents and visitors can pick up locally grown produce and artisan baked goods. Days and times vary depending on the time of year.
Gilgal Sculpture Garden
Meander through the free Gilgal Sculpture Garden with 12 sculptures and 70 large stones engraved with meaningful passages. The creator, Thomas Battersby Child Jr. worked on building the pieces of art on his property for 18 years, until he died in 1963. The garden is now a Salt Lake City park and is maintained by the Friends of Gilgal Garden and the Salt Lake City Master Gardener Association. It is an inspiring outing for all to enjoy.