Utah is well known for its legendary skiing, but unfortunately, ski resorts (especially those in the Cottonwood Canyons) are not known for being dog friendly places. But don’t worry, if you want to hit the skis with your dog, we have the perfect option – cross-country skiing.
While it may not be the adrenaline rush of your typical downhill ski day, cross-country skiing is a great way for you and your dog to get some good exercise in some incredibly scenic areas (more on where to go cross-country skiing with your dog below). And another benefit of cross-country skiing is that it is much more controlled and safer for your dog to come along.
Most of the major ski areas near Salt Lake City are located in Big Cottonwood Canyon or Little Cottonwood Canyon which are off-limits to dogs because they are watersheds, meaning the water in those areas is used for drinking so dogs aren’t allowed anywhere in the canyons. Don’t worry though, cross-country skiing opens up a lot more dog friendly opportunities outside of those two canyons and you’ll avoid the INSANE weekend traffic that takes over the canyons every weekend.
Gear For XC Skiing With Your Dog
First off, bring a leash. You’ll need one for every trailhead and some of the trails listed below. If you are skiing in an on leash area or you just prefer to keep your dog on a leash we recommend getting a leash that is attached to a belt and has a bungee.
If your dog likes to pull you along on skis, you should also get them a specialized harness so they can be comfortable and reduce the risk of injuries.
It can also be a good idea to get your dog booties to wear if they tend to have sensitive feet or get snowballs between their paws. If booties aren’t an option (we’ve all seen the dogs on TikTok who just CANNOT handle them) try Musher’s Secret, it’s a wax you rub on your dog’s paws to help protect them.
Don’t forget poop bags and water! Some trails listed will have running water nearby, but it’s always best to be safe and ensure your dog stays hydrated. XC skiing will result in a very tired and very hungry pup.
And as for you, make sure to dress in layers because you’ll likely get pretty hot and sweaty on the uphill but it can get chilly going down so you will want to have options.
How Hard Is XC Skiing?
While cross-country skiing is more challenging than hiking or snowshoeing, it’s much easier for beginners to learn than alpine/downhill skiing. There are lots of ski shops that rent a cross-country ski set up for less than $75 a day. REI is a great spot to check for rentals.
If your dog has good recall, it would probably be easiest to go to an off leash place for your first time. That way you can focus on learning to ski without having to worry about your dog being attached to you with the leash.
Where To Go Cross-Country Skiing With Your Dog Near Salt Lake City
Now, let’s get to the fun part. Here are some of the best places to get outside and XC ski with your dog.
Millcreek Canyon Winter Road
Leash: Yes on even days, No on odd days
Distance: 5 miles to the end of the road (can be made shorter)
During the winter, about five miles up Millcreek Canyon the winter gate is closed and the road gets packed and groomed with snow, making it a great spot for cross-country skiing. From the gate to the end of the road is about five miles, so round trip it could be up to 10 miles, many people make it shorter by simply turning around when they meet their desired distance.
The parking situation at the gate can get pretty busy on the weekends but there are a few lots below the gate where you can park if you’re willing to walk a little ways. On even days dogs are required to be on a leash in the canyon but on odd days they can go without.
The snow-packed road is a gorgeous route with only a couple steep spots, which is why we ranked it as intermediate for cross-country skiers. You’ll find lots of other dogs and their owners using the road to hike, snowshoe and backcountry ski.
Round Valley In Park City
Leash: Not Required
Distance: 56 miles (choose your own distance)
Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
Boasting 56 miles of trails, the dog friendly Round Valley trail system near Park City is ideal for anyone looking to enjoy cross-country skiing with their dog. With a huge variety of trails, Round Valley is perfect for beginners but folks looking for more advanced cross-country skiing will also be able to find longer, harder and steeper trails. All-trails has a handy guide to the trails and the parking.
Round Valley has a few different access points and typically it is easy to find parking, even on weekends after snow storms. Our personal favorite access point is the Quinn’s Junction trailhead. The majority of the Round Valley area allows dogs off leash- keep an eye on signage to know when to leash up and where dogs are not allowed.
And after your XC ski trip, we know you’ll be hungry, so check out our map of dog friendly bars and restaurants in Park City.
Willow Creek Loop in Park City
Distance: 2 miles
The Willow Creek loop in picturesque Park City is perfect if you’re looking to try out cross-country skiing with your dog for the first time. The short, flat trail is a great cross-country trail for beginners. As an added bonus, Willow Creek Dog Park is nearby so if the skiing doesn’t work out, your dog can just play in the large fenced park.
All dogs on this trail should be leashed. If your dog is e-collar trained, know that Park City considers an e-collar a form of leashing. Because of the location of this trail, weather conditions may impact if it is skiable. You can check Park City nordic conditions here.
Beaver Creek Trail in the High Uintas
Leash: Required in some areas (check signage)
Distance: 5.3 miles
If you’re looking to take advantage of dog friendly cross-country skiing in the Uinta National Forest, consider Beaver Creek trail. Located about 6 miles outside of Kamas, you’ll find this 5+ mile trail before you hit the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway winter gate (which closes late October- early November).
Beaver Creek trail is a fairly flat, dog friendly cross-country skiing trail but, because the snow can be deeper up there and it’s not always groomed, you may be creating your own trail and even hitting some powder in some places.
Dogs are allowed off-leash in most areas of the Uintas, just make sure to always check the signage at the trailhead for up-to-date information. Parking and restrooms are available at the trailhead.
Bonus Dog Friendly Cross Country Skiing: Red Butte Road
Distance: About 2 miles
If you’re looking for dog friendly cross-country skiing in Salt Lake City, you may be able ski near Red Butte Amphitheater. On really good snow days in the Salt Lake Valley, you’ll find some avid XC skiiers on Red Butte Canyon Road where you can cross country ski for about a mile until you get to the gate.
Your pup can join you while skiing on Red Butte Canyon Road, but must be kept on a leash as it is part of the Bonneville Shoreline trail system.
Because you can only ski this trail when snow is plentiful in Salt Lake City, do not expect the trail to be groomed. Skiiers will often be cutting their own path through the snow. However, don’t let that deter you- it’s a rare gem when the conditions are right.
We would love to see photos of you and your dog out there enjoying all of the beautiful cross-country skiing Utah has to offer. Tag us in your Instagram pics @dogfriendlyslc.