Situated on the northern boundary of Salt Lake City, Ensign Peak provides an unsurpassed vista of the Salt Lake Valley. The hike to the peak has now been enhanced by some $460,000 worth of improvements in the form of the new Ensign Peak Historic Site and Nature Park.
A citizens group, the Ensign Peak Foundation, began in 1989 to raise the funds for the park, and its continued goal is to establish a $200,000 trust fund that will ensure proper maintenance of the park. The facility has been turned over to Salt Lake City.The hike from the new entrance plaza to the monument at the top is about a half-mile and is easy enough for most people in good health. President Brigham Young was probably still suffering the effects of mountain fever when he made it on July 26, 1847.
Ensign Peak may be reached by driving north on State Street, then following the road that curves east around the State Capitol and heads north to the park entrance at 147 Ensign Vista Drive.
The park includes these components:
- Entrance plaza. It is situated 47 feet from the street (symbolizing the year 1847 when the valley was settled) and is reached by stairs or ramp. Nine pedestals surround the plaza, symbolizing the nine men who explored the peak, and on the perimeter are nine trees. The concrete is made of rough aggregate that suggests the rock formations of the peak. Ten informational plaques tell of the people involved in its history. The paving depicts the continents of the world, and as the visitor stands on the location of Salt Lake City on the paving and looks to the north, he gazes at the peak through a cleft in the plaza wall. As he looks to the south, he observes that the temple is built on the valley floor at the foot of a slope leading to the face of Ensign Peak and that the city is oriented toward it. Three flags are flown: the United States, Utah State and the old pioneer "Flag of Many Nations," or flag of Ensign Peak, with its 12 blue and white stripes and circular formation of stars.
- Vista Mound. This is reached by a short hike and provides an excellent view of the Salt Lake Valley for those who do not want to make the complete hike to the top. A plaque identifies visible points below, including Emigration Canyon, the University of Utah, City Creek Canyon, Temple Square, the State Capitol, the Kennecott mine and the Great Salt Lake.
- Trail. Stations along the way provide pedestals to rest on and plaques that explain the peak's geology, natural history of the Salt Lake Valley, the Great Salt Lake, and plants and animals native to the area. The trail climbs 498 feet to a height of 5,416 feet above sea level and 1,085 feet above the southeast corner of Temple Square, the Salt Lake baseline and meridian.
- Monument and plaza at the top. The monument is a column built in 1934 by the Ensign Peak Stake. Church units in North America were invited to send blocks to be used in its construction. The monument has been refurbished and its base area improved. The bronze plaque on the monument was stolen years ago by vandals, but was recovered in 1992 by a scrap metal dealer. It has been replaced at the entrance plaza.
- Amphitheater. This is situated near the trail but hidden from the view of passing hikers. Groups may gather here. According to the Ensign Peak Foundation, "the seats are as soft as a rock."
The project includes $75,000 worth of reclamation work and reseeding. Informal trails of the past have been barricaded to allow the vegetation to grow, and visitors are asked to stay on the established trail.