Author: Brandon

32: The Deer Fence

December 30, 2023: 7.9 miles official BST. Trailforks hike log

Almost done with this whole endeavor! We had actually planned to finish off by the end of the year by doing the last two hikes in two days (we stayed in Logan overnight), but the first day was killed when my car was broken into at the Trailhead while we were driving to the other end to start :-(, so we did the first hike on the second day. It turned out okay, because the trail segment where we are planning our grand finale is a muddy mess at the moment. Stay tuned…

So, today’s hike was the southern segment that is official BST in Cache County, from Blacksmith Fork in Hyrum to Dry Canyon in Logan. We were joined by Landis Wegner, who has been the trails coordinator for Cache County for about a year. While the county government does not actually own or maintain any trail of its own, they actually have set up a good structure here. Landis’ office is co-funded by the county and several cities, so he can help them develop a county-wide trails network, without each of the small towns having to hire their own trail expert. He also partners with the Cache Trails Alliance, a non-profit organization that represents the wide variety of trail users across the valley. Together with government land owners such as the Forest Service and the state Division of Wildlife Resources, they have been quite successful at building and designating new trail, but more importantly, in fostering a strong sense of trail stewardship in this community. In fact, designating this segment of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail was one of the first major successes of this partnership back in 2009. We talked about a lot of projects that Landis is working on to develop new trails across the valley, including several segments of the BST.

This segment of the trail is called the “Deer Fence” for good reason. Almost the entire length is next to an eight foot high fence built to keep big game (mostly deer and elk) in the Providence-Millville Wildlife Management Area and out of the farms and homes below. The fence maintenance road made a very convenient existing route to designate as the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. By and large, the trail is at a good elevation and is in great shape. Unfortunately, the fence diminishes the view of the valley; we were mostly done before I realized that I had hardly ever looked out over the valley. It also cuts a straight line down and up every drainage, rather than a modern trail that would traverse it horizontally. All told, we climbed about 1,700 feet, even though the end trailhead is only 400 feet higher than the beginning.

That said, it is not a bad “Version 1” trail; perhaps it could eventually be rerouted into a better Version 2, which would only require detours of 100 feet or so. One stretch might need this sooner than the rest, as the fence runs through the back of several subdivision lots in Providence. Although the approval for the fence and the BST predates the subdivision, but the new residents want the trail moved to a better location; so do many of the local trail users. However, it is not at all clear who is responsible for building a new trail here, and who should pay for it (IMHO, it should have been the developer), so for now, the status quo remains.

A major highlight of the hike was the Utah Field Station, commonly known as the “Coyote Farm.” This is a cooperative research facility of the US Department of Agriculture and Utah State University, where they have been studying wild predators (especially coyotes and wolves) since 1972. It looks a little like a zoo from above. While we were filming, a couple started to howl and the entire population joined in, creating an amazing wave of noise (apparently this happens several times a day). It probably drives nearby residents crazy, but we thought it was awesome, and I hope it turns out well on the final episode.

Just one more hike to go! Spencer is getting married in February (yay!), so it is now looking like we will be back in Logan to film the finale sometime in the Spring.

30: Brigham City

14 November 2023, 7.5 miles, 6.3 miles unofficial BST: our map. Trailforks hike log.

It looks like we’re getting another one of the later winters we’ve had recently, so Spencer and I were able to take advantage to hike another section of the BST in Box Elder County. The primary challenge here is getting across Box Elder Canyon (NOT Sardine Canyon), yet another busy canyon with a major highway. Due to the gravel pits blocking the mouth of the canyon, the most likely solution this time is to go up the canyon to Mantua and back down the other side. Fortunately, good (unofficial) trails already exist to do this, even including a pedestrian underpass built under the highway.

The trail going up the south side of the canyon follows an old pipeline (buried), which means that most of it is very level, on a nice wide bench, with lots of maple trees for shade; a beautiful trail (except for a few muddy spring crossings). However, at the upper end, is a 100 yard section that gives the trail its name, “The Boardwalk.” Forced into a very steep, unstable talus and cliffy slope by the highway, riders have placed plywood on the rocks that are barely held in place by the steel fence posts. It’s just as sketchy as it sounds (but not as sketchy as it looks), and we could not see an easy solution for building an official trail here when the time comes. Perhaps they could build something directly on the highway retaining wall.

The Boardwalk from the other side of the Canyon

The north side is not nearly as pretty, but is a much more level, easier, more safe trail, as it is a utility road following the main water pipeline from Mantua Reservoir to Brigham City. Here we were joined by Brittany Alfau, a planner with the Bear River Association of Governments (BRAG), an intergovernmental organization for the three northernmost counties of the state. While BRAG provides a wide variety of services that require the cooperation of the local towns and counties (especially services that the smaller towns can’t provide for themselves), one of their core services is transportation planning, including trails. Organizations like BRAG are especially important for longer urban trails like the BST that cross through many jurisdictions, requiring a high degree of coordination and cooperation. While Box Elder County is still trying to get its portion of the BST off the starting block, Brittany is one of the main people working to get everybody on the same page to move forward.

Some shade near the “B”

Across the face of the mountain above Brigham City, there are three options for an initial BST along existing utility roads, basically a low, middle, and high route. This land is a mix of City, Forest Service, and private property, so there are probably opportunities to get something done. As the pipeline emerged from the canyon at the upper route (following the narrow Bonneville-level bench at 5,100ft), we decided to stay high. The terrain was level, the trail was in good condition, and the views were amazing (and there are actually some shady spots), but we were 700 feet above the highest homes in town, so it probably wouldn’t be a very popular option for the BST. Also, the trail clearly ended at the base of the “B.”

The middle trail, which follows a gas pipeline, is probably the best combination of accessibility, view, and trail quality that would make a good Bonneville Shoreline Trail. So we picked our way down the steep slope (with the aid of a really rough path) to that level, and followed it north. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go very far before being blocked by fenced private property, an obvious spot to end. As we dropped down into town, we checked out Easter Falls, but unfortunately, it isn’t Easter, and there isn’t much flow outside of the spring season.

29: Perry

26 October 2023: 5.8 miles (3.8 miles unofficial BST). Trailforks Hike Log.

After being blocked north of Willard, we skipped ahead a bit to explore the trail above Perry. Today was supposed to be wet and wintry, but fortunately it turned into a very nice day for a hike! Joining me today was Robert Barnhill, the city administrator for Perry who (among his myriad other responsibilities) is leading this small city’s efforts to establish trails for their growing outdoor recreation community. The section we were hiking could possibly be the most likely segment to become the first official BST in Box Elder County, so Rob wanted to explore it with us to see what the trail looked like and what the prospects for designating it might be.

His first task came upon us at the very beginning, at the mouth of Perry Canyon. Geneva Rock owns the entire mouth of the canyon, and has pits on both sides. Fortunately, several years ago when they wanted to expand, they reached an agreement with the city to leave the creek bottom area alone, and allow permanent public motorized and non-motorized access through their property into the canyon. Currently, Robert is working to make this access more secure, including improving the trailhead and signing the trail we followed along the creek. It was surprisingly pretty and shaded, mostly shielded from the gravel operations.

Soon we reached the Brigham Face Wildlife Management Area, through which most of our hike would pass. We talked a lot about the prospects for working with the Division of Wildlife Resources, who own and manage this land. On the good side, they have less regulations governing what they can and can’t do, or requiring a lengthy permitting process. Unfortunately (as we discussed at length in Episode 6 above Orem), outdoor recreation is not part of their mission, except for hunters (given that the land was bought and is managed through funds raised by hunting licenses). It appears that the route we took has been designated a public road, so motorized and non-motorized access is officially allowed, making the job easier. However, he believes it may still take some convincing to designate it as BST and allow for things like signage.

There are a couple options for climbing from the canyon up to the Bonneville Bench. We chose the wrong one, a very steep double track going almost straight up. Apparently, if we had been patient and gone up the canyon a little further, a social trail climbs at a much nicer grade with a lot of switchbacks. Robert said he’ll come back and check that out. Once on the bench, most of our route followed the fire break/utility road, which would make a fine “Version 1” BST. One exception is where we crossed Evans Canyon, the deepest on this segment. The road went down quite a bit to cross, but a single track path has been cut into the side of the canyon that stays almost level, and passes through some nice shady woodland. The only issue is that it is quite narrow in places, and DWR may not like the idea of widening it.

We soon passed right under the iconic “I” on the mountain, which had almost disappeared in the decades the closure of the Intermountain Indian School in 1984, but appears to be freshly whitewashed now by some residents. We could look down on the ongoing effort by Brigham City to redevelop the school property, featuring a golf course, offices, townhomes, and a brand new satellite campus of Utah State University.

28a: South Willard

23 September 2023: 8 miles (0.9 miles official BST, 6.2 miles unofficial BST). Trailforks hike log

Oops! Looks like I forgot to report on this one. This was a beautiful early autumn day, as we left Weber County and crossed into Box Elder County. I was joined by two guests this time; Clyde Westley and Brad Noles are neighbors in Willard who hike this segment of trail a lot and are working to make it permanent.

Our first task was finding a way from the Pleasant View Trailhead out of the county. The official trail continues a little further along the powerline we followed in the previous episode, but then we hit a fence. North of there, the Pole Patch neighborhood blocks the way with solid private homes and private streets. We were able to find a path that avoided any fences or no trespassing signs, but I wouldn’t advise it, so I don’t show our route on the map. I believe the Trails Foundation of Northern Utah, Pleasant View City, and the neighborhood have been negotiating a way through there, so we’ll wait to see what they figure out.

Once we crossed the ridge into Box Elder County, the trail turned into a single track built many years ago by a Willard resident. It was a beautiful trail through a dense oak grove, with occasional views down to Willard Bay State Park (which Clyde’s father helped build when he was a boy). By and large, the trail is well designed and well built, with good grades. We crossed the mouths of several canyons, most of which had seen a lot of flooding this spring and summer, washing out parts of the trail. One of them was Maguire Canyon, named for Don Maguire, a mining engineer in the late 1800s who set up a couple of silver mines in the mountains above us. One of them had an aerial tram from the valley below that carried ore down the mountain in suspended buckets. Little remains of this except some bits of cable and one or two of the buckets, like the one Brad showed us (see photo).

Holmes Canyon above South Willard and Cook Canyon above Willard were especially washed out, with the current creek beds at least 8-10 feet below where the trail crossing had been. Just north of Cook Canyon, the trail ends abruptly anyway when it crosses into the property of a gravel pit. As we discussed it, we thought that if this segment is ever designated, it may be better to reroute this northern part down below these canyons and the gravel pits to their north, connecting to the canal road to continue north to Perry.

There will be challenges to making this trail official and improving it. The main issue, as we have seen many times before, is the “patchwork quilt” of property owners. The trail passed through parts of the National Forest and a state Wildlife Management Area, which may be a good possibility. However, other parts of the trail go through large private parcels, including land owned by sand and gravel companies. It seems like the foothills of Box Elder County have more gravel property than anywhere else we’ve passed through. Clyde, Brad, and other Willard trail enthusiasts have their work cut out for them, but I look forward to seeing what they can do!

28b: Willard Interrupted

12 Sep 2023: 3.5 miles, 1.5 miles unofficial BST. Trailforks Hike Log.

For our first hike in Box Elder County (ever!), we planned on traversing from Willard Canyon to Perry Canyon. Yes, we skipped ahead a bit for scheduling reasons. The large gravel pits have made the high bench inaccessible (and mostly gone), so we began by following the Ogden & Brigham Canal road. It’s not the same character as other parts of the BST, but it is easy, open, and still had great views.

Someone has put in a nice if faint path crossing the mouth of Willard Canyon, where the canal goes through a siphon with no parallel road. Making it part of the official BST would require a lot of improvement, though.

This was a good place to discuss the laws governing recreation access private property in Utah. I’m no lawyer, and the Utah trails community could use a good lawyer or two to clarify how the relationship between trail users and land owners works. However, here is a nutshell:

  • Of course, if you enter property when the owner has made it clear that they do not want you there (i.e., fences, “no trespassing” signs, talking to the owner), it is criminal and civil trespassing under Utah Code 76-6-206, with a punishment of at least fines. Cutting fences incurs further penalty.
  • If the property is not marked or posted, then trespassing laws do not apply and it is essentially open to the public (but please don’t do something that makes the owner post it!). That said, if you cause any damage to the property at all, including vandalism or building new trails, then you are liable for trespassing under Utah Code 76-6-206.
  • Even if it is not posted, cities and other agencies cannot officially designate trails through private property without the permission of the owner, as this would constitute Eminent Domain, which is specifically banned for trails in Utah Code 78B-6-501-3-b (see Episode 3 for the back story of this law).
  • If a land owner allows public recreational access (whether signed or not marked at all), they are indemnified, meaning that they are not liable for any damage the user incurs, according to Utah Code 57-14-2-1. For example, if you are riding your bike across private property, and you crash and break your arm and the bike, you cannot sue the land owner for having an unsafe trail.
  • Easements (where a government purchases a formal right of public access along a mapped corridor) are the most permanent way of ensuring access. An alternative option would be convincing the land owner to declare the entire property as a conservation easement under Utah Code 57-18.
  • A “highway” across private property that has been continuously used by the public without restriction for 10 years should automatically be dedicated as a public road (Utah Code 72-5-104-2). This is called a prescriptive easement, but it has not yet been tested in court whether it is applicable to recreational trails.

By sheer coincidence, just after discussing this, we reached a property line just north of the gravel pits that was clearly posted with multiple No Trespassing signs! Although it was a great disappointment to not get all the way to Perry, we followed our standards for trail stewardship, and turned around and headed back to Willard. I’ve marked the gap on our map, and we strongly encourage all users to respect the land owner’s rights by not using this section of trail.

27: North Ogden (Version 2)

July 8, 2023. 4.5 miles official BST. Trailforks hike log

Today’s hike was a bit shorter as we (almost) finished Weber County. Although this county has less total shoreline length than the other 5 (or 6) counties the BST will pass through, it is the only one that is largely complete (with a bit left at the very northern and southern end). In my opinion, this community has clearly produced the best overall trail of any of them, thanks in large part to the Trails Foundation of Northern Utah. If only they could pass some of their secret sauce on to the rest of us…

This segment, which we would call the “Ben Lomond Segment” if we adopted my idea of naming each after the mountain it traverses the base of, was a lot of fun. It felt different than the rest of the county, for several reasons:

  1. It crosses a sloping alluvial fan rather than a flat bench. These were also caused by stream sediment during the Ice Age, but smaller streams that don’t have enough power to carry their sediment all the way into the lake dump it as soon as they exit their canyon. As the sediment piles up, it forms a broad sloping fan above the lake shore rather than a flat delta at the lake shore. In fact, there is a place here in North Ogden with a steep scarp where the lake waves eroded into the alluvial fan from the bottom. It’s actually very similar to Alpine in Utah County.
  2. It follows a powerline corridor, which made it easier to get permission from a single land owner (Rocky Mountain Power). This makes the trail feel a little more like some of the segments in Utah County.
  3. It is probably the best example of a “Version 1” and “Version 2” BST anywhere along its length. When the trail was originally designated (2008, I think), they just used the existing access/fire break road along the powerline. Fairly easy to get a lot of miles, but it is a double-track road with almost no shade, that is excessively steep in places. So several years later (2012?), they constructed a whole new singletrack route along the same corridor, which weaves in and out of the clearing to give some shade in the oaks, and has several switchbacks to reduce the climbing grade.

We hiked a little of both versions; overall, the new one is a great improvement, especially while climbing. Going downhill, though, it was certainly easier to use the straight road. I’m happy that they have kept both open. The views of the whole Weber Valley were awesome. Now, on to Box Elder County, where there is a lot of work still to be done to just get the BST started!

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.

2023 Utah Outdoor Recreation Grants

Helping close the gaps in the BST

The Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation has announced the 2023 round of Outdoor Recreation Grants! This was a record year for this important program, totaling over $16 million in 90 projects. Among these are several that are directly related to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail:

  • Provo City: $750,000 for improving the Rock Canyon Trailhead Park, a crucial access point for the BST
  • Lehi City: $175,000 for building more trails on Traverse Mountain, which could include a shorter BST connection than the current Sensei-Momentum-Traverse Traverse
  • Trails Foundation of Northern Utah: $200,000 for building a bridge over the Weber River near I-84 and connecting trails that will do double duty as the BST and the Weber River Parkway
  • Springville City: $200,000 for building a new bike park in Spring Canyon that will include a new trailhead and access trails for the BST
  • Farmington City: $1,000,000 for reconstructing the trail along Farmington Creek, and oh by the way, connecting it to the BST

These are important projects that will improve the BST and its accessibility, and we look forward to seeing them under construction over the next couple years!