26: Coldwater Canyon, North Ogden

24 June 2023, 6.5 miles, 6.1 miles official BST. Trailforks hike log.

Today’s hike was along the most recent major section of BST built in Weber County. Weber Pathways (now TFNU) built the Coldwater Canyon segment in 2015, mostly by hand I believe, and I had heard that it was a challenging build, so I was excited to see what they did. And I wasn’t disappointed.

This is one of those stretches that is far higher than the actual lake shore; we climbed about 1,200ft from from our starting point at Ogden Nature Center. If I remember correctly, Weber Pathways worked for years to negotiate a lower route through private property, but eventually resorted to this route that stays on Forest Service and State land. It may seem higher than it needs to be, but the private property goes fairly far up; there are a couple of the high spots that are literally a few feet behind the property line. Fortunately, it is a trail of modern design, with (mostly) very reasonable grades so that you hardly notice you’re climbing. Of course the downside of that is that it takes 6.5 miles to cover a distance of less than 3 miles as the crow flies.

Yet, what a beautiful 6.5 miles it is. Coldwater Canyon (pictured here) is amazing; the trail passes through a spruce-fir forest that is rare on the BST and probably more here than anywhere else we’ve been. The trail is perched above several cliffs, giving great views. In many ways, it didn’t seem very “BST-like,” but we didn’t mind. Unfortunately, Coldwater Creek is a bit of dud; the little spring along the trail a mile or two earlier was more interesting, and North Ogden Creek further north had a lot more water.

The superb trail engineering was evident in many places. Most notable were some crossings of talus boulder fields, and retaining walls built on very steep slopes. I’m impressed.

The only downside of this hike was that near the end, we got caught in some kind of bike race or riding activity. Of course, the bikes are just as welcome to the trail as I am, but our filming was frequently interrupted. That said, it was all in all a great day.

25: Northern (but not North) Ogden

June 17, 2023: 4.6 miles total, 4.3 miles official BST. Trailforks hike log.

Originally, I had planned on going all the way from Ogden Canyon to North Ogden Canyon, but 10 miles is a very long day for us (we go about half as fast as usual when are filming). Since it was only 4 miles from Ogden Canyon to the Ogden Nature Center Trailhead, I though it would be a great day to have our extra special guest be Molly! I have been wanting to bring my dog (a 1 1/2 year old golden doodle) along on these hikes, because she loves the outdoors. I was worried that she wouldn’t last 7 or 8 miles in a day, but today was worth a shot. Turns out it was about right for her, she loved it, but was pretty tired by the end.

This section of trail is a prime example of the “Version 2” BST we have encountered several times. The original route simply followed an existing utility road along a canal: easy but not that interesting. Then around 2010, Weber Pathways (now TFNU) worked with Ogden City and Weber County (the major landowners in the area) to construct a higher single track. It was a very scenic route, highlighted by a number of rock outcrops that are popular with climbers. TFNU has maintained the trail well, including a major volunteer project they did in Spring 2022 to build retaining walls in a steep erosion prone area. An example I’d like to follow in a couple of spots in Utah County.

24: Southern (and South) Ogden

June 2, 2023: 9 miles, 8.1 miles official BST. Trailforks Hike Log

[Oops, I didn’t write this up immediately!] We started Season 3 with a beautiful hike above Ogden. This is one of the oldest long stretches of the BST (early 2000s) that was actually designed and built, rather than just designating an existing utility road.

We started right where we finished Episode 23 at the Weber River (flowing very high but no longer flooding), the boundary between Davis and Weber County. There we met with Geoff Ellis, a landscape architect and past executive director of Trails Foundation Northern Utah (TFNU, formerly Weber Pathways), the very successful trails non-profit organization that has guided the construction of dozens of miles of trails in this county. Currently, Geoff is working with TFNU as the project manager for extending the Weber River Parkway into this area. Lately he has been successful at securing funding from several sources to build a bridge over the river and complete the parkway as a gravel trail to the mouth of the canyon. He showed us another project they’ve been working on in this area known as Blackner’s Bend, where they have purchased 40 acres of undevelopable land between the river and the freeway, and have re-naturalized the stream channel to make it less channelized, prettier, more resilient to flooding, and much better habitat for native fish. Their work here is ongoing, but with the record high water we’ve had this spring, it was clear that it was achieving at least one of its purposes.

In Episode 23, I discussed the unique challenges of crossing Weber Canyon that led TFNU to route the trail down here to the river and through the cities. Geoff (who was heavily involved in this process) and I further discussed this as we climbed the connector trail from the town of Uintah up to South Weber on the bench. After crossing under the railroad tracks, much of this trail follows the original dugway along which the pioneer-era wagon road, then Highway 89, climbed the bench until the current highway was built in the 1950s. Even though it is sandwiched between two cities, it is surprisingly natural and pretty; TFNU did a great job with this trail. At the top, the trailhead is in the parking lot of Washington Heights Church, who has graciously allowed the trail to pass through their property.

From their, the stopgap connection continues along a paved tunnel under Highway 89, then follows Skyline Drive up into the foothills. TFNU has worked with South Ogden City to make this street more friendly to bikes and pedestrians. At least a few stretches now have dedicated bike lanes. This connection is a priority for TFNU not only for the BST, but also because it forms a leg of the Centennial Loop, a loop trail connecting the BST, the Ogden River Parkway, and the Weber River Parkway that was the driving vision for Weber Pathways in the early years, and is now mostly complete.

The real BST starts again in Beus Canyon, climbing about 800 feet along (yet another) pretty creek. It was all downhill from there. Literally. From where we turned out of Beus Canyon (5,600ft elevation), we were almost always going downhill, to the Rainbow Gardens Trailhead 1,200 feet lower on the Ogden River. I’m glad we went north, and I feel for everyone who travels it going south. This trail passes through a mix of National Forest, city and private land, but it is consistently well-signed and well-built. A big surprise for me was that even though it was built in the early 2000s, none of it was old utility/firebreak road, like a lot of the BST from this era that we have traversed. Instead it was all singletrack, mostly conforming to modern trail standards. I was impressed. Deserving a shout-out is the TR Guest Ranch, who owns a large parcel in the middle of this segment, including the Waterfall Canyon Trail; they are a great example of not only allowing public access across their property, but making several trail improvements such as nice benches at viewpoints. They have also done a good job of hiding their commercial developments, such as zip lines and “via ferrata” climbing routes. Speaking of which, this stretch has a number of climbing and bouldering areas that you would never notice from the city below. And of course, several more pretty little creeks!

Another benefactor is Rainbow Gardens, who allows a trailhead on their property as well as much of the trail descending off the bench at the end of today’s travel. All in all, this was an amazing hike; if all of the BST can be brought up to these standards, we will have a wonderful treasure.