Category: Trip Reports

19: Finishing Salt Lake County

17 September 2022: 9 miles, 8.2 miles official BST. Trailforks hike log

Today’s hike wrapped up our travel through Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. I was fortunate to meet with Tyler Fonarow, the recreational trails manager for Salt Lake Public Lands, who is responsible for the care and improvement of all the trails up in this area. Tyler has been working very hard on the development and implementation of the Foothills Trail System Plan, and was able to show us some of the trails they have recently built, and give us some updates on the future of that plan.

Among the social trails that have been around for decades (many of which have become unsustainable as they often go straight up ridgelines or ravines), are segments of the BST that the city and volunteers built in the late 90s. Most of these are still in good shape, but as design standards have improved in recent years, there were some needs for remediation. We hiked one new segment above the Terrace Hills Trailhead that is greatly improved over the original route. Another segment that Tyler showed us descends from the Morris Meadows area to Bonneville Boulevard, the one-way road that crosses City Creek Canyon. The original trail zig-zags straight down to the road, but it is very steep in spots and they have re-designated it for downhill biking only. The new route is mostly good, with a couple spots where an ideal trail was difficult to build. This and other new trail cuts have raised some controversy among the residents, and Tyler and his colleagues have been working with them to revise parts of the plan.

Somewhere in this area, we reached the halfway point of our project, having covered about 125 miles so far. I’m not exactly sure on the accessibility of a couple segments up north (Box Elder County residents, I need your help!), but I think we have about that much left to hike. Fun!

After a short walk down (or is it up?) the road to the creek, the second half of our trip started with a steep 1,000ft climb out of City Creek Canyon along the trail built in 1999. Fortunately the day was cool and cloudy, but it made me wish for some of those newer trails with the occasional grade reversals. The level trail at the top provided more great views of downtown Salt Lake, with Ensign Peak overlooking it, and out to the Great Salt Lake (or at least, the dry bed of the eastern part of the lake). We then ended our hike along what was originally a utility access road, although it has re-naturalized somewhat into a trail. Here Salt Lake City and North Salt Lake have purchased a large area of the original Bonneville Shoreline bench to create a preserve, which has set a limit to both the massive gravel pit below and the expanding residential development to the north. It is a very pretty and serene grassland hidden from all the urban industry below.

And here comes Davis County!

16b: Grandeur Peak

3 September 2022: 4.5 miles, 3.1 miles official BST, 1.2 miles unofficial trail. Trailforks hike log

Today’s trip was a little shorter than usual, crossing the base of Grandeur Peak between Millcreek and Parley’s Canyons. Along the way, I had a great conversation with Sarah Bennett, the executive director of Trails Utah. Through her non-profit organization, Sarah has been one of Utah’s greatest trailblazers, who has helped to get hundreds miles of trail built across our state. Sarah and Trails Utah serve as a kind of facilitator, helping local trail enthusiasts and agencies to get organized, work with land owners, and get grants to build and improve trails in their communities.

High on her list of priorities is the BST here in her back yard. In 2020, she helped get the first part of today’s route built, a trial climbing up Rattlesnake Gulch in Millcreek Canyon. The old trail here went straight up the bottom of the streambed at a difficult grade. The new trail is long, over a mile with about 20 switchbacks, but it is a nice trail with an easy grade. After climbing almost 700 feet, we reached the Millcreek Pipeline Trail, a great level trail along the route of the old pipeline that carried water from several miles up the canyon to the city.

From the mouth of the canyon, we could see the next phase of this project, where the trail needs to drop off the ridge to the north. The current social trail is a steep, poorly graded social trail, but Sarah and John Knoblock (see Episode 14) have planned an alternative route that will be much better. Thanks to a generous appropriation from the state legislature for BST land acquisition, Salt Lake County was able to purchase two parcels here, consolidating a large area of open space here. Recently, they were able to acquire funding, including a Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant (see Episode 13), and construction is underway! They are hoping for this section to be open by the end of the year.

The final (northern) segment of the trail mostly follows old roads that led to limestone quarries that we passed. Parts are great and level, other parts could use some work. We ended with some great views up Parley’s Canyon. All told, this was a great hike!

18: 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.

17: 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…

15b Yellow Fork

2 July 2022: 5 miles (4.1 miles semi-official, 0.9 miles unofficial). Trailforks Log

Today we continued our exploration of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Near Herriman in the upper southwestern corner of the valley is the Rose Creek and Yellow Fork Recreation Area, a large nature area shared between Salt Lake County and the Bureau of Land Management. They acquired this property that had previously been part of Camp Williams during the 1980s and 1990s, and in 2011 began actively developing it into a county park. Most of the trails in this area have been worn in and used by ATVs, dirt bikes, and horses for several decades. Among these was a double-track high in the hills that the county designated as the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Recently the trails were renamed as development has continued, and the designation was removed because of the possibility of connecting to the Herriman Trail at a lower elevation.

If that happens, the main Yellow Fork Trail would be the best alignment for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, so we decided to follow that route. This is an enjoyable, shady trail that is popular with hikers, bikers, and equestrians; there were many of each on this early summer morning.

From Yellow Fork we climbed a trail that was a little steeper and rougher up to Rose Ridge, where we had a great front-row view of the Kennecott Mine (well, actually its massive overburden tailings pile). The trail that descends this ridge is an old ATV track that is not bad in some places, but steep and rocky in other spots. At the base is the mouth of Butterfield Canyon, where Salt Lake County recently acquired more property and plans to begin building a trailhead later this year.

When this happens, a complete BST segment can be designated, but some trail improvements will be a great idea.

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!).

11: North Draper

May 27 2022, 6.1 miles official BST. Trailforks Log

Today we’re back in order, picking up the trail in the Corner Canyon area where we finished Episode 10. This area has the largest city-owned trail network in the state, including at least 10 miles of BST, so it was a great place to learn more about what cities have done and can do to improve our trails with Greg Hilbig, the manager for Draper City Trails and Open Space. Greg has worked tirelessly to build over 150 miles of trail across the Traverse Mountain in Draper, and has also helped other cities (adjacent to Draper and around the state) conserve and develop their foothills open space.

Over the past 20 years, Draper has acquired over 5,000 acres of land on Traverse Mountain, both to conserve the land and water (Corner Canyon is one of the major sources of Draper’s drinking water) and to provide recreation opportunities through its trail system. When combined with neighboring Alpine and Lehi, there are about 11 square miles of city-preserved land, which would be one of the ten largest city parks in the United States if it were designated as an official park or preserve. A truly impressive effort!

Greg was very informative explaining how Draper has invested in building the Corner Canyon trail system and has continued to invest in maintaining it as it has become very popular, famous, and crowded. A highlight of that commitment is the Bear Canyon Bridge (2015), possibly the most impressive trail structure on the entire length of the BST (yes the I-80 bridge is bigger and more expensive, but not as downright cool). Fortunately, they were able to build an impressive sponsorship team, including a local contractor, that was able to build it at a reasonable cost. This allows us to get a great view of this beautiful perennial stream, while preserving it as a valuable culinary water source.

In addition to the bridge, this segment of the BST has several highlights, including crossing several small streams, ending with the Rocky Mouth Waterfall in Sandy, which is in my opinion, the most unique waterfall along the Wasatch Front (it has a very southern Utah feel). To reach it, we traversed the short section of the BST recently built by Sandy City, an impressive task considering that it is in the extreme corner of the city and they are still a ways off from being able to built the entire length of the trail in the city. So for now, we will spend the next few episodes bouncing to several isolated segments in Salt Lake County.

14 Mt. Olympus

May 21, 2022: 5.1 miles, 3.8 miles official BST. Trailforks log

Yes, this is not an error, we are jumping ahead. We have some great guests lined up on some segments of the BST that they know very well, but to work around their schedules, we will be filming much of the Salt Lake Valley out of order. The episodes should still come out in order, if a bit delayed.

Today we traversed the face of Mt. Olympus, an area with a few very popular trails (judging by the multitude of cars overflowing the trailhead parking lots). We were joined by the person who has probably put more effort into this stretch of the BST than anyone else (who is still with us), John Knoblock. John is currently the chair of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee, the citizen organization that has been primarily responsible for encouraging the construction of the trail since its inception in the early 90s, especially in Salt Lake County. He first got involved in the BSTC around 2010 as this section was first being built in his own backyard, and moved into a leadership role as the original leaders retired. In addition to running the BST website, John has been personally instrumental in getting several recent additions to the trail done in the valley, and continues to do the often challenging work of forming long-term relationships with land owners and coordinating the multiple jurisdictions and user communities necessary to extend the trail piece by piece.

Our hike started up Heughs Canyon, which looked a little uncertain with no real trailhead, having to pass through a gated community and up a driveway to reach the trail. John verified that the trail has full legal access here through easements put in place by forward-looking planners. Heughs Canyon is a steep trail, but a beautiful walk along a perennial creek, which has been significantly improved in recent years to handle increased traffic.

The southern segment of the BST here was completed in 2019 with incredible effort of the Forest Service, the BST, and local citizens. Watch for the plaque honoring Brett Alan Smith, one of the original champions of the BST; this segment was his personal crowning achievement, completed just weeks before his death. Much of it passes through the Mt. Olympus Wilderness, so it had to built by hand through very rugged terrain, including several sections of solid rock. The views were incredible, though! Due to the wilderness, mountain bikes are not currently allowed here (the trail is currently too rough to be very enjoyable anyway), but the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act (H.R. 2551, S. 1222) aims to solve this issue by adjusting several wilderness boundaries to move this and other BST segments from wilderness to normal National Forest administration, in which multiple types of users are allowed. The bill compensates by adding an equal amount of land to another part of the Mt. Olympus Wilderness. As of this writing, both bills were recently reported favorably out of committee, so they may actually pass this year!

Continuing the trail south of Heughs Canyon to Big Cottonwood Canyon will be a challenge, as the route is almost entirely on private land. The main impediment is a large gravel pit, but at some point in the future, operations there will be completed, and the owners will likely want to develop the land, which would probably require a trail route.

The northern half of the trail connects the Mt. Olympus summit trail to the Olympus Cove neighborhood, which was completed in about 2013 after three years of construction by volunteers and forest trail crews. This is a very nice trail through the woods on the north-facing slopes of the mountain. Fortunately, Salt Lake County was able to secure access into the neighborhood, but continuing the trail from here to Neff’s Canyon and on to Millcreek Canyon has proven to be an insurmountable challenge so far, due to private land owners and some extremely challenging terrain. This could be one of the last sections of the BST to be completed.