17: Where it all began

27 August 2022: 7.5 miles, 7.0 miles official BST. Trailforks hike log

Yes, we’re still a little out of order as we schedule our guests, but we forge ahead. Today was an extra special hike, as we explored the very first segment of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail ever built. We had a great conversation a couple months ago with Jim Byrne, one of the original developers of the trail, at an event memorializing his friend and fellow BST pioneer Rick Reese, who recently passed away. This event dedicated a new interpretive kiosk at the trailhead at the mouth of Emigration Canyon that honors Rick and the immense work he, Jim, and others did to get this endeavor going.

It all started with a discussion in 1989 about preserving the unofficial social trails in the area, but by 1992, they had secured permission from This is the Place State Park, the University of Utah, and Red Butte Gardens to allow an official trail through their properties. This first segment mostly followed existing double track that has existed as a fire break and utility access for decades, but by the end of 1993, volunteers had improved and signed it, and the BST was officially born.

The second half of our hike, north of the University, took a little more work. Most of the land is owned by Salt Lake City, which was supportive of the idea, but a pre-existing connected trail was not there. Thanks to a grant from the Steiner Foundation, the trail was built and opened in 1999; it is still called the “Steiner Centennial Segment.”

Most of this section was clearly designed as a multi-use trail, with easy grades and good tread, except for Dry Canyon and one steep hill, both old social trails that were used. In 2020, Salt Lake City released a new Foothill Trails System Plan; the many miles of trail improvements in this area includes rerouting these two short sections to more sustainable alignments. Unfortunately, after the first phase of construction, the plan has been tied up in some dispute with local residents, but there seems to be progress on that front, so perhaps these reroutes will be started soon.

16a: Parley’s Canyon

August 13, 6.9 miles official trail. Trailforks hike log

We haven’t been out as much as we had hoped, because July and early August has been HOT. We have been busy, especially with Spencer trying to finish up some of the episodes we filmed in May and June. So it was wonderful to get back on the trail and make some progress. Today’s hike covered two very different segments of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Our first section crossed the I-80/I-215 interchange that encompasses the mouth of Parley’s Canyon. Few of us notice that the freeways and ramps here are almost 200 feet above the bottom of the canyon, which is preserved in their midst. This Parley’s Crossing segment of the trail was completed in August 1999 at a cost of over $2 million, making it almost certainly the most expensive section of the BST ever. The 1.5 mile long paved pathway included two freeway overpasses, to which a third was later added as part of the Parley’s Trail. Parley’s Canyon got its name as early as 1850, when LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt oversaw the construction of a toll road up through the Park City area (then called Parley’s Park) to Echo Canyon as an easier alternative to the pioneer trail down Emigration Canyon.

Along the way, we got a good view of Suicide Rock, a massive outcrop of sandstone now covered in graffiti. It is unimpressive from the freeways that look down on it, but it loomed over 150 feet above the original road into the valley. The rather unfortunate name is not based on some recent event, but dates back to pioneer times, when travelers along the road told the fictional but romantic story of an Indian princess who fell to her death when the husband she was waiting for never returned from a journey up the canyon.

After crossing I-80, the trail briefly goes up the canyon along the decaying pavement of US-40, the main east-west highway through Utah from the early 1930s until I-80 was completed in the late 1960s. This was part of the Victory Highway, the successor to the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road, which followed the original road in the bottom of the canyon. It is remarkable to think of this major highway being built into this ledge high up on the side of the canyon (to make it easier to reach Parley’s Way on the bench, where the highway continued into town), but the views of the valley were great.

Most of our hike was along the brand new Parley’s Pointe segment of the BST, completed in 2021. This is a perfect example of the challenging gaps that we are now trying to fill in the trail. It crosses a large block of private property that the owner wanted to develop into luxury homes. After years of negotiation (and court battles) with Salt Lake City, an agreement was finally reached to allow the owner to put in one street of 13 lots, in exchange for dedicating the remaining 290 acres as public open space. The Bonneville Shoreline Committee and Trails Utah were then able to secure funding to professionally build this four mile trail in one summer! The trail has to climb 700 feet to get around the houses (and reach a spectacular viewpoint), but it was designed well with reasonable grades and still have over a mile of mostly level trail in the middle. Good work! If only there were a bit more shade…

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