15a: Herriman

June 20 2022: 8 miles, 3.8 miles official BST, 2.2 miles unofficial BST. Trailforks log

Today we had an oddly chilly Juneteenth holiday, so we decided to head over to Herriman to begin a detour episode to explore the progress on a “west side” Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Herriman and Salt Lake County have big plans to build the BST over here, and while it is a daunting task, there has been some progress.

Fortunately, I had a great chat with the Herriman Parks and Rec staff a week ago, so I had a pretty good idea of their plans. Currently, there is only a 1.5 mile stretch of trail actually called the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the west end, but there are several other existing official trails that will form part of the BST once it is complete. As in cities such as Draper, Lehi, and Salt Lake City, Herriman has a strong policy of acquiring undevelopable land from property owners hoping to build with higher density in the valley, now totaling over 2,500 acres. It doesn’t look like much on a map, but this city preserve is remarkably wild, a great place to hike or bike, if a little dryer than the other side of the valley.

The southeastern corner of Herriman is still undeveloped private property, so the trail will have to wait here until development expands. Eventually, the BST could extend from here to the Mountain View Highway, following it through Camp Williams to reach Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain (although neither of these cities have plans for a BST yet). Above the Juniper Ridge neighborhood is a good stretch of relatively level trail that is perfectly suited as BST.

However, west of this the residential development goes high into Hidden Canyon, forcing the trail to climb up several switchbacks. The residents of this gated community have complained about the possibility of a trail in their backyards (a common concern), but the city has a plan to build the trail along a high route that is out of their immediate view. We decided to go for an adventure and bushwhack along this planned corridor. Parts of it were an easy hike, but some patches of dense oak were pretty brutal; I would not suggest anyone trying to follow us! However, it is a very promising route for the trail, and I hope they can connect this gap soon.

The western half of our hike was along a complete, well-worn trail. To stay as close to the neighborhoods as possible while remaining on city property, the trail has some significant descents and climbs, but in general it was an enjoyable trail, if rather rocky. Good work Herriman!

12a: Bells Canyon Geology

June 11 2022: 3.3 miles, 1.5 miles unofficial BST. Trailforks log

Today’s hike was around Bell’s Canyon Reservoir in Sandy, one of my top two or three “backyard” trails along the entire Wasatch Front. Even though there is no sign of this currently, this trail is planned to become part of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, but challenging gaps to the east and south mean that it may take a while. The brand new (and not quite finished) Preservation Trailhead is a great addition, with a big parking lot that represents a significant investment by Sandy City to keep up with the astronomical increase in outdoor recreation. And yet, on a very hot June day, this and the other two trailhead lots were full and overflowing.

This area is unique from the rest of the Wasatch Mountains, a lot more like Switzerland than Utah, so this was a great place to talk about science rather than trails policy. Our guest today was Dr. Ron Harris, a geology professor at BYU. Dr. Harris and I had a great conversation about the unique geology here:

  • The huge granite intrusion (30 million years ago) that makes the canyons and Lone Peak white, and was used to build the Salt Lake Temple. This intrusion also formed the rich ore veins of Alta and Bingham Canyon.
  • The Ice Age glaciers (100,000-15,000 years ago) that came further down here than anywhere else, leaving the massive moraines of giant boulders that form the bowl in which the lake sits. In fact, the Little Cottonwood Glacier likely extended well into Lake Bonneville at its height.
  • The Wasatch Fault (20 million years ago to present), with its 30 meter-high exposed scarp here created by major earthquakes as little as 1,000 years ago (yes, that means we’re due).

Even though it was relatively short, this was a great hike on a great trail that should make for a great episode!

13 Big Cottonwood Canyon

June 4 2022: 6.1 miles, 1.6 miles official BST, 0.5 miles unofficial. Trailforks log

Today’s outing was much shorter than usual, but very productive. We hiked a brand new section of BST from Ferguson Canyon into Big Cottonwood Canyon; in fact, it isn’t quite done yet, but should be completed this year. By design, the Forest Service has completed the middle, which is very visible from the valley, but has not built the two ends yet, so it can be difficult to find. Probably best for us to leave it alone for a bit. It’s a well built trail though, with wooded sections and a cut across an exposed steep slope that was likely quite difficult to build by hand. Fortunately, the Forest Service has had help on this section from the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, which has a professional non-profit trail construction crew that does great work.

Our guest today actually got his start on that crew. Patrick Morrison is a project specialist at the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, a state department that supports trails and other outdoor activities across the state. This office does not manage trails directly, but provides support (including education, coordination, and funding) to cities, counties, and non-profit groups who build and manage trails. This year, thanks to the state legislature, their Outdoor Recreation Grant program funded $11 million for recreation infrastructure, including at least $2 million for projects related to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Thanks!

Patrick and I had a great conversation about the support our state government provides for the outdoors, and why it is so important. The state recognizes both the profound economic impact that recreation has statewide, and the need for wise stewardship of this resource. In fact, Utah had the first office in the country dedicated to outdoor recreation. In July, their role will be expanding as they move to the Department of Natural Resources to become the Division of Outdoor Recreation.

After we left Patrick, we explored an unofficial trail (one of the few stretches of unofficial BST candidate trail in Salt Lake County) on the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon. This is just a half mile dead end, so not yet worth designating, but it is probably the best general route for a future BST leading toward the current Mt. Olympus segment. On the plus side, it is all on public land (USFS and Salt Lake County). However, the current trail is rather steep, and varies from a nice, well-worn trail to an overgrown deer track that is hard to follow. The best part is at the top, where it follows the route of a historic pipeline that brought water to the valley. A few remnants of the wooden pipeline still exist (so leave them there!).