March 20, 2024

Millcreek Upper Canyon Environmental Assessment (EA)

The Upper Millcreek Canyon Road Improvement project aims to improve safety and access in the upper canyon, from the Winter Gate to Big Water Trailhead. Proposed changes include widening Millcreek Canyon Road, adding an uphill bicycle lane from Winter Gate to Elbow Fork, formalizing roadside parking into parking areas, improving drainage, and adding other safety features like striping and guardrails. 

We wholeheartedly support the improvements to drainage and closing of user-created parking but are concerned about accommodating parking elsewhere in the canyon because it isn’t sustainable. If our collective goal is to continue to have a car-based system in the canyon, then we should identify how many cars we want to accommodate rather than converting user-created sites into formalized spots, or enlarging other parking areas. We also believe that safety goals can be better achieved by reducing the number of personal cars in the canyon rather than investing in additional infrastructure for cars, when transit improvements are recommended by recent plans. 

In 2021, this project was awarded funding through the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP), with $15 million in federal funds and $4 million in local contributions. Check out Salt Lake County’s project website here

The current proposal is to widen the road to three different widths: 

    • 24-feet from Winter Gate to Elbow Fork, including two 10-feet lanes and a 4-foot uphill bike lane (currently varies from 16-24 feet)
    • 20-feet from Elbow Fork to Upper Big Water (currently varies from 13-20 feet) 
    • 18-feet in certain areas with sensitive environment 

While a wider road would increase visibility for drivers, a lane width that is constantly changing may confuse drivers and cause difficulty when sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. Above Elbow Fork, there are certain sections for a narrower 18-foot road to reduce impacts on slopes and adjacent streams and wetlands. We suggest keeping the minimum width consistent in the upper canyon at 18 feet, which would also reduce the need for unnecessarily cutting into the hillsides. 

Over the span of this project, a majority of the community spoke in favor of a shuttle service, with a vision of more people arriving by shuttle, walking, hiking, or biking. Instead, the current project focuses on accommodating personal vehicles, introducing bigger parking lots and wider roads. This could make it more dangerous and difficult for pedestrians to safely and freely enjoy the upper canyon, altering people’s relationship with the canyon. Whether you like to hike, bike, ski, or picnic in Millcreek Canyon, your voice is important in shaping this project.

What’s next: 

The decision will be released in April 2024, and the final design will be released this summer. The upper canyon road will be closed during construction (spanning two construction seasons, likely summer and fall, in 2025 and 2026). More details on closure can be found on page 15 of the environmental assessment. 

After the upper canyon project is underway, project partners will prepare another FLAP application for road improvements to the lower canyon between the Toll Booth and Winter Gate. 

We want to thank you for your strong engagement and for taking the time to leave a comment during the Upper Millcreek Canyon Environmental Assessment (EA) comment period! Your voices rang loud and clear - in just one week, 318 public comments were submitted from our community, more than doubling the previous total. If you have questions or thoughts to share with Save Our Canyons, feel free to email us at

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