Mt. Wire via the Living Room Trail is a locally popular seasonal option for intermediately-skilled peak-baggers in training and those looking to stretch their legs on something short of a day hike. Since the Utah Museum of Natural History sits at the beginning of the route and welcomes hikers into its beautiful, climate-controlled entrance and café, Mt. Wire via the Living Room Trail boasts perhaps the snazziest trailhead outside Wasatch Mountains’ ski resorts. Hikers are discouraged, however, from parking at the museum, directing them instead to Colorow Dr. just downhill from the museum's lot. Visitors can see Mt. Wire looming to the north above the mouth of Emigration Canyon, and This Is the Place Heritage Park with its tell-tale decommissioned radio tower easily visible from the valley floor.
While hikers will find a shorter route to the top of Mt. Wire along its southern aspect, the route that takes in part of the famous Living Room Trail presents an easier grade, more scenic ascent, and more consolidated trail surface. Trail runners pack down the Living Room Trail in the winter, making it a medium-spicy option for those looking for a cold weather challenge. In the spring and fall, hikers looking to pass a few hours should look no further, while summer hikers might want to limit their time on the trail to dusk and dawn. Because most of the serious climbing takes place within a narrow drainage, much of the trail is shaded, though the gambol oak grows shorter and shorter the closer you approach to the summit, exposing you to the full force of Utah’s famously harsh sun. The views from the saddle overlooking Red Butte Canyon and from the peak of Mt. Wire, which takes in Emigration Canyon to the south and Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake below to the west, are worth the time it takes to put on the needed sunblock.
Mt. Wire via the Living Room can thrill even the most seasoned mountaineers, as long as they attempt it at the right time. Best attempted in the fall or spring, or during the morning or evening hours in summer, the hike up to Mt. Wire is steep and loose in places but never truly technical. Good for adolescents and older, the hike is long but not grueling, exposed but not utterly so. Runners often use Mt. Wire for early season training since snowshoers, hikers, runners, and the odd paraglider pack the trail down sufficiently to make the hike possible even in the winter. In late-season snow, the trail remains hard enough that climbers caught in the weather won’t get bogged down.
Your first challenge when you arrive will be parking. While getting ticketed by the Museum of Natural History – which is the trailhead for this version of the Mt. Wire climb – is rare, they encourage parking on the street below the museum and walking up along any of several approach trails cut into the scrub oak and sagebrush. The museum presents your last chance to tank up on water and food, though at 4.8 miles out-and-back, the trail will probably only test your supplies of the former. Follow the double-track Bonneville Shoreline Trail east past the museum. You will not be able to miss it. After a quarter mile, you will find a trail junction at which point you will turn uphill to the left and toward the drainage. There are two trails; the trail on the right, slightly higher, is the Living Room Trail. Thanks to its popularity, if you are completely stuck on which trail to take, you can watch the other hikers to figure out which it is. But it’s the one on the right.
Once on the trail, things get simple: go straight. You will climb a fairly well-shaded trail surrounded by scrub oak and wildflowers -- mainly sunflowers, sego lilies, and lavender, depending on the time of year. You will need to watch your footing, as the trail here is rocky and loose in places and can be fairly steep. Coyotes, rattlesnakes, and (weirdly enough) badgers tend to dominate this section of trail. Ascending the initial drainage, the trail is narrow and mainly shale and exposed bedrock. After the trail switches back to the left, you’ll come to a very nice little rest area covered in sagebrush and sunflowers overlooking the museum and valley beyond. The Living Room trail kicks upward behind you and gets looser before falling below the ridgeline and traversing to the drainage. Follow the drainage upward instead of continuing to the left toward the Living Room.
You’ll pass into a low canopy of scrub oak and juniper which will provide blessed, blessed shade. The trail is steep here and follows the natural drainage, so on wet days or early in the season, the trail becomes a literal stream for most of the distance to the saddle. You’ll need to watch your step because the trail also gets loose as it follows the flow of water, with larger rocks waiting to turn your ankle if your mind wanders or if you spend too much time watching the mountain jays and various finches. You’ll eventually climb above the canopy and slightly above you lies the saddle below Mt. Wire, half a mile beyond the fork with the Living Room Trail. The saddle, an extension of Red Butte just to your west, overlooks Red Butte Canyon to the north below you and the valley to the west. This is a good place to take in the Navajo paintbrush and blue bells and to look for raptors before the final push to the summit. Above you looms a false summit that is exactly as steep and loose as it looks.
A half mile of exposed trail stands between you and the summit of Mt. Wire now. The climbing from Red Butte is loose and steep, more so than the drainage on the way up. Once on top of that summit, the trail is fairly gentle but with steep drop-offs on the right. You’ll clamber over pinyon roots and tiptoe over sunning lizards and low flowers. Just below Mt. Wire itself is another saddle with another slightly-switchbacked trail leading up its – you guessed it! – steep, loose western face. Once you’ve reached the fenced-in defunct radar tower, you’re there. Local tradition is to climb the tower for the extra twenty feet of vert. This is probably a bad idea but it is pretty cool. It will definitely feel like a structurally unsound idea on a windy day. The view, from either height, is pretty spectacular. You can just peak over Little Mountain Summit to the east and Emigration Canyon winds below you in glorious panorama. Of course, the Wasatch Front and Salt Lake City sit below you to the west and on clear days, you can see nearly to Idaho across the lake. Being so close to the larger faces of the Central Wasatch Mountains gives you a great view of the peaks of the Cottonwood Canyons to the south. The peak of Mt. Wire is bald, which makes it a great place to take a sit and pat yourself on the back before descending. From here, you have the option of returning the way you came or of navigating the slalom run down the steeper south face. The double-track leading northeast toward Lookout Peak is tempting but dives down into Emigration Canyon -- a long way from your car.
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