Salt Lake City

Public Lands Department

Trails & Natural Lands Frequently Asked Questions

What are natural lands?

The lands within a city and beyond that are preserved in their natural, native state. Natural lands provide habitat, help increase water quality, and provide a unique experience to visitors. Land in a predominantly open and undeveloped condition that is suitable for any of the following:

  • Aquifer recharge areas
  • Floodplains
  • River, stream and riparian corridors
  • Water bodies
  • Wetlands
  • Great Salt Lake wetlands, shore lands and uplands
  • Geologically unique or sensitive areas
  • Foothill, buffers and the urban and wild land interface area
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Native plant communities
  • Natural areas
  • Conservation areas
  • Nature preserves
  • Non-motorized trail and greenway corridors in natural areas
  • Non-motorized trail heads

Where are Salt Lake City’s natural lands?

Salt Lake City’s natural lands are located in all parts of the city. The majority of these lands are located along river and stream corridors, and the Wasatch foothills above the city. No matter where you live, these natural areas are nearby and available for you to discover!

Why are natural lands important?

Natural lands offer citizens and communities the opportunity to interact with the natural world close to their own back yards. They also provide habitat for wild plants and animals that share our city with us. Migrating birds, fish, small mammals, insects, and the plants on which they depend rely on the existence of these areas in order to survive in our valley. Natural areas may also protect unique features of special environmental or historical significance, and safeguard our irreplaceable natural heritage. Natural areas frequently protect streams, rivers, wetlands, and springs that are both rare and extremely valuable for sustaining biodiversity within the city. And many natural areas also help hold and clean storm water runoff from paved surfaces, reducing the spread of pollutants and helping to preserve clean water and the health of the Great Salt Lake.

Are people allowed to use Salt Lake City’s natural lands?

Yes! All of our lands are open to the public from 5 am to 11 pm.

How much land does Trails & Natural Lands manage?

Trails & Natural Lands manages approximately 1,650 acres of land in and around Salt Lake City. That’s nearly 20 Liberty Parks! The program also manages over 30 miles of formal paved and unpaved trails within the city. The Trails & Natural Lands Program actively works to acquire new lands and build new trail corridors, so those number grow each year.

Where does the funding come from?

Funding for the department comes from an annual budget approved by Salt Lake City Council and the Salt Lake City Mayor. General maintenance and administration budgets are derived from tax revenues, while improvement projects are often funded with a combination of tax revenue dollars, grants, and private donations. The trails and natural lands come from a variety of places – acquisitions, gifting, easements, etc. Each land is addressed in the best way possible to serve the public in function and use.

How are the lands maintained?

Trails & Natural Lands has year-round maintenance and restoration crews, made up of full-time and seasonal staff. The program has over 100 acres for each staff person. Each natural area and trail is unique in its management needs. Maintenance and management plans and documents guide the stewardship of the city’s natural areas and trail corridors.

Why doesn’t the city mow the natural areas more often?

While spring and summertime mowing of natural areas is sometimes appropriate as part of a integrated vegetation improvement strategy following a native plant restoration project, regular mowing can have unintended consequences for the landscape, which are important to consider. First, spring and summertime mowing removes plant stalks and stems taller than about 6’’ and greatly accelerates drying and hardening of the ground surface. These conditions tend to favor low-growing invasive plants which can be extremely fire-prone, such as cheat grass, or which can cause injury to trail users and their pets, such as puncture vine. The proliferation of these species along numerous Salt Lake City trail corridors is often a symptom of repeated mowing. Mowed natural areas also quickly become “habitat deserts,” which support only a small fraction of the biodiversity that normally exists in the city’s nature parks and open spaces.

Is the Bonneville Shoreline Trail one of Trails & Natural Lands’ areas?

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail crosses lands owned and managed by many different government agencies, institutions, and private landowners. Trails & Natural Lands works collaboratively with a variety of public and private partners to manage and maintain the section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail between North Salt Lake and Parleys Canyon.

Trails and natural lands are important to me. How can I get involved?

There are many opportunities to become involved with Trails & Natural Lands. You can help by volunteering, attend our monthly Citizen Advisory Board Meetings, or even look for opportunities to join our team!

Are there educational programs available to me or my children?