Winter Hikes: Donut Falls

It’s been a minute! The last several months have been hard. I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and while I’ve been in consistent therapy for a year now, the anxiety grew and grew during 2019. Now I’ve been on an SSRI for two full months, and I cannot believe how much better I feel. My thoughts aren’t racing, anxiety lasts during predictable moments but doesn’t extend to anticipatory anxiety or latent anxiety, and I’m sleeping so well. I’m so excited to see how 2020 goes with this shift in mental health.

So, Donut Falls! I posted about hiking it here during the warmer seasons, and recently we went up with friends in January. It was lovely and not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. My kids are now just about 8 and 5, and both did it with just a bit of whining. Here’s a review of this hike from a snowy perspective.


Where: Big Cottonwood Canyon, SLC. About halfway up.

Grown up difficulty: easy

Five year old difficulty: medium due to hiking in snow and starting out at the road

Length and elevation: AllTrails says 3.3 miles round trip, 550 ft gain

To see: foliage, river, waterfall, snow covered evergreens, animal tracks

Busyness: busy at the beginning, but thins out quite a bit



In winter, this hike begins by the road where you’ll see a lot of people sledding, taking pictures, and playing around. The road is pretty icy past the gate, and the signs indicate that sledding and skiing on the actual road is prohibited. Wearing spikes isn’t a bad idea. The road is on an incline, and after a turn climbs through beautiful tall trees. Make sure you and your littles have appropriate cold weather clothes on. If you need a reminder, I’ve got a post here and here to help. We also bring hand warmers along.


You’ll pass some cozy (sometimes huge) cabins tucked away on side roads as you approach the true trailhead. You’ll see the trailhead at the small bathroom and signs. We didnt need snowshoes up to this point, and for the most part we did fine without them. In the snow sound carries well, so you’ll hear if there are others around the trail. You’ll walk across a bridge and turn toward the end of the hike. At the climb down to the river, we had the kids sit down again. I had spikes on and did okay. The river was fully frozen over, but we still kept close eyes on the kids and had them stick to where others had hiked.

We got to the white placard and my husband climbed to the donut, while the rest of us stayed down. Our friends had microspikes for their whole family and made it up to the donut and back safely. I’m just too cautious for that type of thing. We saw a small fraction of the amount of people we normally see on this hike and it was lovely.


We had a blast exploring this area during the winter. Usually we stay near the road sledding, and venturing back was rewarding. Check for avalanche danger before you go, too.

Faves: waterfall, identifying animal tracks, snow covered evergreens

Hardest: climbing down to the river

Gear: for winter, carry spikes and/or snowshoes, hiking poles, and wear full winter gear


This winter is lasting a long time! We’ve had quite a bit of avalanche danger the last few months, and because I have small kids and minimal avalanche preparedness training, we’ve been avoiding hiking in the mountains to keep safe. We homeschool and hiking is a pretty integral part of our weekly routine, so we’ve had to make adjustments. Here are some ideas if you’re going through similar frustrations.

Paved Trail Walks

I have a list here of different valley trails we really like around Utah County. If you search my “accessible” tag, you’ll find some more paved trails. My kids have really enjoyed riding their bikes along the Utah Parkway Trail, which connects travels fairly close to Utah Lake. While the lake is really quite gross, it looks beautiful from a small distance. Other options are the Jordan River Parkway which has many different locations you can drop in from, and parts of the Provo River Trail. The Cedar Hills Parkway Trail is gorgeous as well.


A year or so ago we bought IKEA’s watercolor palettes and cardstock paper. These non expensive products work quite well for my kids! We’ve been following YouTube tutorials by Let’s Make Art and my 7 and 4 year olds have been able to follow along. My 4 year old has a bit of a harder time but is definitely engaged and interested for the first 15-20 minutes. I started watercoloring last year with Michael’s Artist Loft brand of watercolors, brushes, and paper. Sarah Cray of Let’s Make Art has done a phenomenal job of making watercoloring accessible to many of us. Try it out!


My son LOVES Art for Kids Hub, also on YouTube. The supplies list is small, too! Permanent markers, paper, and colored pencils are all you need. The host is so kind and encouraging and really great with kids. He’s a father who draws with his kids, and he gives kids a lot of confidence in their skills. My son has loved displaying his artwork in our living spaces and talking about drawing them.


We play at our neighborhood park most days, even in the snow. It’s right outside our house, so we put on our snow clothes when we need to and head out. I walk around the perimeter for my own exercise and my kids get to play. As long as the wind isn’t strong and it’s at least 15 degrees, we’ve played at this park. Use Google Maps to find new parks near you and check them out. My kids like to build snowmen at parks.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

YouTube again, for the win! Cosmic Kids Yoga practices are so kid friendly. She’s engaging and expressive and fun. My daughter requests Cosmic Kids several times a week and she has dozens to choose from, with time frames of 15-45 minutes. It’s a great way to get exercise in as well as work on breathing, mindfulness, and strength.


We have a couple of spots that we love sledding at. Well, my kids and husband enjoy sledding at. I’m not huge into sledding, so I prefer to snowshoe around while they play. Win win, right? One spot is right off of Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, near the Jordan Pines campground. We also like sledding at the Stewart Falls trailhead. There are decent hills and sometimes there are no other people around.

Today we went on a walk and saw leaf buds on trees, so spring is so close. What tips do you have for getting through the last bit of winter?

5 Trails for When the Weather is Sketchy

This winter has had such weird weather. We’ve had a mostly mild one, but then the last couple of months the snow has dumped and melted, dumped and melted. The ups and downs have made for a high avalanche risk in the backcountry, and above certain elevations.

I’m not trained whatsoever in avalanche safety, so we’ve stuck to foothills and west/south facing trails, as well as paved ones. We have still been able to get outside for the most part, but have been playing it very safe. Here are some of our favorites! I’ll do individual, more detailed posts later, but this is a primer.

  1. Jordan River Trail. This paved trail is very close to our home, meanders along the river, and passes a remote control airplane park at the southernmost end. We’ve seen pelicans, cows, grass taller than us. I’ve heard there is a small set of hot springs at the very beginning of the trail, but we haven’t checked them out. We often start at Inlet Park in Saratoga Springs. 
  2. Utah Lake Parkway Trail. This  paved trail connects to the Jordan River Trail. It starts at North Lake Park in Lehi, in a small neighborhood. It passes fields, dense copses of trees, and abandoned structures. The hidden treasure though is the Utah Lake access trail. It’s short, unpaved, and super muddy. The mud is worth it (to me) to get down to the lake shore and get a nearly panoramic view of our valley. Bring something to deal with the muddy shoes after!
  3. Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Lake Bonneville existed until about 14,500 years ago. It covered the entire Salt Lake Valley and was about a third of the size of modern Utah. Because the lake existed for so long (it was formed around 500 million years ago!), significant deposits were left at various shorelines. The Bonneville Shoreline trail follows one of those. It has trailheads in most canyons throughout Utah County (I’ve started from Slate Canyon, Rock Canyon, east of Dry Creek Canyon). Use Google Maps to find a trailhead you want to use-the red pins are some options.
  4. Murdock Canal Trail. Another paved trail, this one sits atop the Murdock Canal. It’s pretty flat and open. Great for bikes, strollers, roller blades, wheelchairs, etc. There are trailheads from 800 N Orem to Highland Glen Park. Another one to use Google Maps for!
  5. Provo River Trail, of course. This busy busy paved trail is a favorite of many Utahns. It looks to start at the north east end of Deer Creek, go downhill through Provo Canyon, and follow the river all the way to Utah Lake. We usually use the portions around Bridal Veil Falls, the mouth of Provo Canyon, and near Fort Utah Park on Geneva Road. It’s usually well shaded, and it’s fun to watch the river change through the seasons.

What are your favorite places when getting up into the mountains isn’t an option?

Adult Winter Gear


It’s cold! Winter can be a deterring time to get outside, but good layers make a huge difference. I’ve got your basics here, with lots of jacket options because I love them.




-Baselayers (wool or silk or synthetic)

-Insulating layers (I use fleece)

-Windproof/waterproof shell

-Wool socks




-Baby carrier

-Water bottle or hydration pack

-Fanny pack


Start with good base layers! I have loved the Paradox base layer tights, which are a wool blend. I found mine at Costco a couple of years ago, and then bought more on eBay. 32degrees is a great brand as well, with synthetic base layers and awesome and affordable packable down jackets. With these tights, I layer two together as one alone is see through (found out the hard way!).


As above, on top of my baselayer shirt, I use fleece pullovers or jackets. Both my Columbia fleece and my The North Face fleece work great. The North Face one seems to hold on to stink more easily, but both keep me very warm. If you feel like treating yourself, try this Patagonia pullover-I wish all of my clothes were made of this material!


Rain/wind jacket on top

When it’s a windy day but not too cold, I’ll put a shell on top-I like this, and it works for rain too. If it’s pretty cold and windy, I’ll put an insulated jacket on. Usually, since we don’t ski or snowboard and I have a kid strapped to me, I don’t need a true snow shell to keep warm. But I have this in case I do, like when we sled together. 

In this picture above, it was 45-50 degrees and windy. I had doubled up Paradox baselayer wool blend tights, 32 Degrees baselayer long sleeved shirt, Columbia fleece, hiking boots, and Kinderpack. All day I was toasty, and a little too warm at points with the baby on my back. I love my wool socks from Costco (no longer available), and use snowboots from there too by Khombu. I can’t find the exact ones, but these look similar.

KP for life

My favorite baby carrier is the Kinderpack. While pricier than some options, they are worth every penny if you can swing it. I’ve tried other carriers (Tula, Ergo, stretchy wraps, woven wraps) and for hiking, the KP is bomb. It’s extremely comfortable, has well padded straps, and a great knee to knee seat. I’ve had mine for almost 2 years and it is still in great condition, after hundreds of miles of hiking and day to day use.

^ Me, all geared up.

What are your favorite things for winter?

Kids’ Winter Gear

I really believe that appropriate gear makes all the difference. Since we’re in winter, I’m going to start with cold weather gear.

4 year old in winter gear

Kid Winter Gear Basics


-Insulating layers

-Windproof/waterproof shell

-Wool socks




-Hydration pack


We have had fantastic results with Costco’s selection of baselayers, snowsuit and hat combos, and gloves for our kids. The brand of baselayers is 32 Degrees, and the snowsuit, hat, and gloves are Gerry. I’m not finding a specific website, but Amazon sells this brand.  We got four years out of one snowsuit between our two kids, and passed it to a friend because it has years left. I’ve tried an Old Navy bib and snow jacket on my oldest, but the bib had a hole in the knee in one winter of use. The Costco one held up much better.

My five year old loves his baselayers, by the way. Pro tip: put on baselayer bottoms, then put wool socks over the bottom of the pants, and then pull on the fleece or whatever type pants you’re putting on top. The socks keep the baselayers from rolling up.

We’ve loved these wool socks off Amazon, and have found snowboots second hand at Kid to Kid. I also like having fleece pants on hand to go on top of the baselayers. These have worked well, though they run small (especially if you cloth diaper!). I’ve used fleece pajamas as an alternative as well. Cutting off the feet can help the socks fit into boots.

My son has had this hydration pack for almost a year now. It holds enough snacks for him and his sister, and enough water. I love the whistle on the buckle (well, in theory) and the magnet that keeps the tube in place.

Hiking mama and kids (and fleece)

What am I missing? What are your favorites?