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!
11 March 2023: 8.5 miles, 6.8 miles official BST, 0.4 miles unofficial BST. Trailforks hike log.
We can’t seem to get rid of this winter! With the recent mix of sun, rain, and snow, we weren’t sure what the state of the BST up north would be. I have a firm rule about not hiking muddy trails. But the forecast for today was sunny and 42°, so Spencer and I couldn’t pass up a chance to finish Davis County before “mud season” kicks in. Turns out we chose wisely! Almost the entire trail was still snow-covered, packed solid by the frequent users, which made for a great trip, although walking on packed snow is just enough harder than a dry trail to make us quite tired by the end.
We started across Bair Canyon from where we ended the last trip above Fruit Heights, verifying the difficulty of connecting the gap. We hope the city can find someone to work with them on this. The trail north of the canyon appears to be an old rock quarrying road. We tried the trail above the Kaysville gun range, but it turned out that it was open and a lot of people were enjoying the sunny Saturday there, so we dropped down a not-really-a-trail to the East Mountain Wilderness Park to rejoin the official trail.
The BST route through the park is not signed but we think we followed the most likely route. At the top, where the trail crosses Holmes Creek, Kaysville installed a new bridge in 2020, which they had to bring in by helicopter. The new route of the trail here is much nicer than the old crossing. The rest of the trail north of here is a long-established trail built by Layton and the Forest Service in the early 2000s, and improved in many sections during the early 2010s. The next major crossing was Adams Canyon, which had a beautiful conifer grove that is rare at this elevation. This part of the BST had many more people than anywhere else we’ve been in Davis County; the waterfall up the canyon is a popular destination. The new trailhead that was recently built at the bottom of Adams Canyon as part of the US-89 reconstruction was apparently very needed.
Between Adams Canyon and Fernwood Picnic Area, the trail is nice and level, with some small creek crossings. The only downside is a massive gravel pit. North of Fernwood, the trail does not appear to have had as much traffic; the snow is deeper and the trail was not packed quite as well; “postholes” (deep footprints) were so common that it was difficult to keep our balance. The long bridge (possibly only second longest to Draper’s Bear Creek along the BST?) installed in 2014 across the Middle Fork of Kays Creek was a highlight here.
The main drawback of this entire hike, as in many places we have been over the last couple years, was the lack of signage. Over 7 miles, we probably saw 4 BST trail markers. There were a lot of junctions where it was not at all clear where the trail was supposed to go; ideally, I would have at least 20 markers along this section. I think I will push for signage as a fundraising priority. They’re a lot cheaper than trying to buy large parcels.
North of Layton Ridge, there is a short dead end trail built by the neighborhood developers, but beyond it is private property. The snow wasn’t groomed, and we were too tired to hike through two feet of snow, so we’ll save that for another day. Instead, we went north to the Weber River, to see the plans for crossing this congested canyon mouth. I-84, the railroad, the river, the gravel pits, and private property in the foothills have conspired to make this canyon more difficult to cross than any other. The compromise is to bring the trail down into the valley to join a future extension of the Weber River Parkway. UDOT is currently building a pedestrian underpass under US-89 for the trail, and a decent trail already exists along the south bank until the river goes under I-84. After that, a bridge over the river will need to be built, but we’ll talk more about that next time.
February 11 2023: 7 miles, 5.6 miles official BST, 0.5 miles unofficial route, Trailforks hike log
We had hoped to be hiking all fall and winter and finishing Davis County by the end of 2022, but other work and weather has set us back. We had the wettest January on record, and after our last adventure, we waited until the snowy trails were more packed down. So it was good to finally get out and continue our journey past Farmington.
The trail in the southern part of Farmington, north of Davis Creek is a nice trail for the first mile or so, before it becomes a utility service road. The county BST plan intends to move it from this road further up on the bench. We were able to hike a short section that already exists, but most of it will require new construction, and this is a lower priority than the significant sections in the county with no trail at all.
North of Farmington Canyon, there are generally two trails, the lower utility road that passes through a couple subdivisions (which Farmington City calls the official BST for now), and an upper singletrack trail that the county plans to use as the permanent BST. In fact, the Forest Service and Fruit Heights City already designate parts of the upper trail as the official BST (with some trail markers out there to prove it). However, the upper trail is broken where it crosses Farmington, Shepard, and Bair Canyons, especially the very steep slopes on their northern sides. We saw an old cut across much of the north side of Farmington Canyon which is likely the future rout, but it disappears before it can cross the creek to connect to the large canyon trailhead. At Shepard Canyon, there is a narrow, windy, steep trail that crosses the creek over a small hand-made bridge, but this would need to be completely rerouted to be a good multi-user trail. Bair Canyon has a very good trail on the south side of the creek leading to a nice bridge, but there is a significant gap on the cliffy north side. Fruit Heights City recently got a grant to construct this last crossing, but they have had some difficulty finding a trail builder who can make it work.
We explored the upper route as far as we could. It is generally a nice trail between the canyons, with some parts that could use some work to bring it up to BST standards. To top it all off, when we were in Bair Canyon we saw a bald eagle up on the rim!
So what exactly has happened with its passage? When Congressman Curtis and Senator Romney first introduced it in 2017, then reintroduced it in 2021, news coverage often sounded like its passage would suddenly make the BST finished. That is not at all the case. It does not include any funding, it is not a “land grab” of private property, it is not the privatization of public land, nor does it authorize any construction. In fact, there is nothing about trails in the bill at all; it is really just a boundary adjustment for existing federal public land.
In several places, the planned route for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail crossed into designated federal Wilderness Areas within Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. These were first created in 1984, when houses were much further from the Forest, and they did not worry about the exact boundaries very much. While trails are allowed in wilderness areas under the 1964 Wilderness Act, mechanized vehicles (including mountain bikes) are prohibited. This is in conflict with our vision of the BST as a multi-use trail over its entire length. Also, most of these areas are now in people’s back yards, and don’t really have the “wilderness character” that was the original intent of the law.
The BSTAA removes about 300 acres from the Lone Peak, Twin Peaks, and Mt. Olympus Wilderness Areas in about a dozen places to make the BST route part of the “normal” National Forest, then adds the same amount to Mt. Olympus Wilderness in Millcreek Canyon, a parcel recently acquired from the Boy Scouts of America with much more “wilderness character” than the parcels being removed. This enables near-term action in several places:
On the south face of Mt. Olympus above Holladay, a 1.5 mile section of BST built in 2019 as a pedestrian-only trail can be opened to bikes, although it may require some trail improvements (see Episode 14 of State of the BST, where we discuss the BSTAA with John Knoblock).
On the south side of Big Cottonwood Canyon, a 1 mile section of BST that is currently under construction (see Episode 13 of State of the BST) can be completed and opened to mountain bikes.
On the south side of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a 1 mile trail can now be built to connect the Bells Canyon trail system to the park-and-ride lot at the mouth of the canyon (see the end of Episode 12).
In Alpine, a 3-mile stretch of popular social trail, coincidentally known to the locals as the “LPW” (for Lone Peak Wilderness), can be made legal and officially designated as part of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (see Episode 7, where we also discuss the BSTAA).
One roadblock is removed for several future stretches of the BST, including in Millcreek Canyon, Neffs Canyon, Cottonwood Heights, and Sandy, but these segments are not likely to be built immediately because they also cross private property, although separate negotiations are progressing with landowners in some of these areas.
The law also includes a wilderness boundary adjustment in Birch Canyon above Smithfield in Cache County, but this is not part of the BST.
None of these actions is immediate, as each of them will need to go through the standard federal approval process under the National Environmental Protection Act of 1970 (NEPA), but the Forest Service is supportive of these actions, which have been part of its long range plans, and approval is likely to be swift.
In the Spring, Spencer and I set a goal to complete Salt Lake and Davis Counties in 2022. Of course, life always happens, and we got way behind schedule. October and November turned out especially busy, but there was clear weather today, and the temperature was reasonable, so we figured we’d go back to finish the brand new Bountiful Bypass section. We knew there would be snow, so we came prepared with snowshoes and microspike cleats, parked a car at Mueller Park, and drove back to the Summerwood Trailhead where we ended back in October.
Getting to the new BST from this (and any other) trailhead is a steep climb. This trail is remarkably high, around 6,400ft (1,300ft above the highest Bonneville Shoreline). Yet it still barely misses private property in a few places. Fortunately, the access trail had seen some traffic since the last storm, so our cleats worked great. Previous visitors had gone other directions wo when we turned onto the BST, it was virgin snow. Over the past few years, I have really gotten into snowshoeing, and there is something very satisfying about plowing a new path through fresh powder. But not for 9 miles. Snowshoeing a level ungroomed trail in powder is like climbing a steep hill, because you sink so much you have to lift your feet out of each step. Fortunately, the new BST is a well-built relatively trail or this would have been much worse.
The views were awesome along the way, and since this is generally a north facing slope, most of the route is shaded in oak. In fact, as you get into North Canyon, it turns into a conifer forest that would normally be an enjoyable hike. However, by this time, we had covered 4 miles at about 1 mile per hour, the snow had deepened to a foot or more, and checking my trailforks app, realized we had at least 5 miles left with only 3 hours of daylight left. At this point, Spencer said, “I would like to entertain the idea of turning back.” It didn’t take much convincing! Fortunately, going back over our footsteps (with a lot of gradual downhill) was a lot easier and quicker, and we reached our car just as it got dark.
So, I think I’m going to set my limit on snowshoes to about 3 miles. We’ll come back to finish the section between North Canyon and Mueller Park in the Spring. We should probably wait until they finish building a bridge over the creek in Mueller Park anyway.
We were supposed to finish the new “Bountiful Bypass” section today into Mueller Park, but it had snowed earlier this week, and when we got to the trailhead, it was obvious that the trail would be very muddy (especially since much of it is not beaten in much yet). Hiking muddy trails is always a bad idea, but we didn’t want to waste the day (and the hour drive each way).
So we skipped ahead to the next episode, which follows a south facing (i.e., much sunnier) route that is lower and more beaten, and thus much less likely to be muddy. Which turned out to be true. We started near the Bountiful B, passed the Viewmont V and Centerville, ending at the Little Valley trailhead in southern Farmington.
The southern end was a little tricky. The official BST shown on all of our sources, including the Forest Service and Davis County (the trail stewards), was very steep, heavily eroded, and appeared to be abandoned (covered in weeds). Perhaps we were on the wrong route, but we couldn’t find anything nearby. There is an upper alternative route, which is not official, but it is more level, in much better shape, and is clearly more commonly used. I liked it quite a bit, as it wended its way through a meadow where the scrub oak had been burned a few years ago.
When we rejoined the official BST, it was in significantly better shape, a nice level trail. Because Centerville is the lowest elevation city on the Wasatch Front, the Bonneville Bench is far above the city, and even though this trail was a few hundred feet below the upper bench, it is a very natural landscape. As in other parts of the BST, this trail crossed several pretty creeks above where they are diverted into the city’s culinary water supply, including some well-built bridges.
North of Parish Lane in the middle of Centerville, the trail changes from a singletrack trail to following the old utility/fire break road, a typical “version 1” BST like we have seen elsewhere, especially in Utah County. It makes for a somewhat dull hike, although the views are great of Centerville, Farmington Bay, and Antelope Island in the distance.
Fall has been a great time to hike these last couple stretches, and we hope to continue in November, with just a few more outings to finish this season in Davis County.
Welcome to Davis County! Today we continued north around North Salt Lake along a brand new section of trail high on the ridge between Davis County and City Creek Canyon.
In the first big push to expand the BST in the late 90s, the Lake Bonneville Bench above Bountiful had already been developed with homes and a couple golf courses. So Davis County just designated Bountiful Boulevard (well, its sidewalk) as the route for the BST. In recent years, the County and its cities worked with the US Forest Service to develop a countywide plan for a “Version 2” trail. We’ll probably be revisiting that plan several times over the next few hikes. Here we got to hike the first part of that new trail to be built, completed in 2021.
The trail is very high here to avoid some large blocks of private property and stay in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which means that while the BST itself is relatively level with very reasonable grades on the hills, every access route from a trailhead has to climb at least 200ft to get to the trail. But there were amazing views of the valley and the Great Salt Lake (or at least where the GSL would be if it weren’t so low). It was also a beautiful walk through the fall colors, as these hills were covered with a lot more bright red bigtooth maple than most of foothills.
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.
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!
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.