07 October 2021

Salt Lake City's Gravity Hill

Gravity Hill, City Creek Canyon.
Looking "up" but downstream. 2021.
City Creek Canyon abounds with urban legends of hauntings and mysterious phenomena, one of these places of mystery is Gravity Hill.

Gravity Hill is a stretch of road on Bonneville Blvd in City Creek Canyon where it appears that things, including cars, defy gravity and roll uphill. This is an optical illusion caused by an obscured view of the horizon. Gravity Hills are actually quite common and have been documented all over the world.

Some of the many stories involving SLC’s Gravity Hill involve a woman in a white dress haunting the canyon, magnets in the state capitol pulling cars upward, and a ghost of a farmer who was killed when his tractor overturned. 

The story of Gravity Hill begins with the creation of Bonneville Blvd, which today forms a loop within the City Creek Natural Area. It can be accessed by vehicle from B Street and 11th Ave and exited on the northeast side of the State Capitol building. It was proposed in 1913 and by the 1920s the loop that we know today had been cut into the hillside and was a decent dirt road popular with motorists. The road was widened and improved in 1938.

There is no evidence that Gravity Hill was a defined location of interest during the 1920s or 1930s. My hypothesis is that the lack of trees during this time did not obscure the horizon along the roadway preventing the optical illusion.

By the 1940s the phenomenon at Gravity Hill was well-known by local Salt Lakers but it really seemed to gain popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, especially among teenagers seeking thrills and secluded spots for romantic encounters.

The flood of 1983 caused extensive damage to City Creek Canyon and after repairs and stabilization efforts were completed Bonneville Blvd was made into a one-way street for vehicles. As such, it is no longer possible to drive the south/downstream to experience the optical illusion. But cyclists and hikers can still enjoy it, simply travel downstream along the east side of Bonneville Blvd near the intersection with North Canyon Road.

SL Herald 1916-01-06; Des News 1938-04-15; SL Trib 1945-07-17; SL Trib 1965-08-23; Des News 1991-02-18

Bonneville Blvd, 1970s. From UDSH.

A tire rolling “uphill” 1965. From SL Trib 1965-08-23

Oldsmobile at 11th Ave & B St, 1919. From UDSH.

Map showing SLC's Gravity Hill. From Google Maps.

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