7b: Alpine

August 21: 4.3 miles total, 0 miles official BST, 3.9 miles unofficial route

This was a very interesting segment, the first in a long time that I have not hiked before (at least, a lot of it). This segment goes in and out of private property and the National Forest, actually the Lone Peak Wilderness. In 2017, Alpine City proactively secured public trail easements across the private segments, which makes them ready to be designated as the BST. However, the wilderness sections are more difficult, because the BST is intended to be open to all non-motorized traffic, but mountain bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas (despite the fact that 75% of the traffic on this trail is on bikes). Yes, fixing that takes an act of Congress; for the last two years, Senator Romney and Congressman Curtis have introduced bills (currently S.1222/H.R.2551) that would adjust the boundary of three wilderness areas along the BST (here, Mt. Olympus in Salt Lake, and Mt. Naomi near Logan) to exclude the BST, a total of 250 acres that would compensated by adding 250 acres up Mill Creek Canyon to Mt. Olympus Wilderness. Seems like a good solution to me, especially since the area we hiked through has lost any wilderness character as houses have been built right up against it. However, it is hard to get much done in Congress these days, both seem to be lost in committee, although the Senate bill has a chance of being rolled up into another omnibus public lands bill, which tend to have a better chance of passing.

Along our hike, we had a fun visit with one my best trail friends (and a former student), Brandon Stocksdale, who has a great job that most people wouldn’t imagine even exists. He’s a community planner with the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) of the National Park Service. Yes, the Park Service, and no, he is not associated with a national park. Brandon and his colleagues basically act as consultants for cities, counties, and trail associations to help them plan and conserve open spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities. He is especially good at going into an area and getting all the stakeholders (cities, counties, state, federal, private landowners, citizens) around the table to have productive discussions about how best to manage urban open space. That’s how he helped to create the Utah Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA), of which I am currently the chair (and desperately trying to keep a little of his momentum).

We had a great chat about the great outdoor opportunities we have along the Wasatch Front and the challenges of making them available to everyone, the joys of cat herding (i.e., running stakeholder groups), and the prospects of getting the BST through Alpine, which he has worked on extensively.

We finished our trip by following some mountain biking trails through Lambert Park, one of the first dedicated Mountain Biking trail parks in the state, built about 20 years ago and managed (quite well, if I may say) by Alpine City. How the BST would pass through here I’m not sure, but it was a nice path we took.

7a: A Smoky Cedar Hills

August 10 2021: 7 miles total, 6.3 miles official trail, 0.7 miles unofficial route

As the fires rage on the west coast, the Wasatch Front is full of smoke. We delayed this hike a few days trying to wait it out, but decided to go today when the air quality was slightly better than the weekend. Episode 7 is going to cover a lot of territory to finish off Utah County; today’s route traversed the base of Mahogany Mountain.

The first few miles, from Grove Creek Trailhead to the Cedar Hills city limit, is one of the newest segments of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (at least it’s the newest in Utah County). The Utah Valley Trails Alliance worked with Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in 2019 to develop an official trail network in the Pleasant Grove area, designating about 20 new miles of trail. That said, all of the “new” trails were actually existing social trails that were legalized, including this 2.5 miles of BST. We like this route, which gets up in the hills a bit for some great views and more solitude then the “Bench Road” below along the Salt Lake Aqueduct pipeline, it does have some sections that are too steep and need some rerouting.

Eventually, however, the alternative routes end, so through southern Cedar Hills, the trail follows the pipeline utility road. This pipeline, which is mostly underground but occasionally exposed where it crosses a draw, has carried a significant part of the Provo River to the Salt Lake Valley since 1951. The road here is nice and level, if somewhat dull. Perhaps when “Phase I” of the BST is completely connected, a new route could be developed here further up in the hills.

The last mile is a paved pathway, part of the extensive paved trail system built by Cedar Hills (thanks to development fees from its large developers in the early 2000s). We took this opportunity to experiment with filming by bicycle. It was a good change of pace!

Timpanogos Foothills

July 3: 7.5 miles total, 4.4 miles official trail, 1.1 miles unofficial route

The second half of Episode 6 gave us great views of Orem, Lindon, and Pleasant Grove at the base of Mt. Timpanogos. Most of this route is officially designated BST through land owned by Orem City, the Timpanogos State Wildlife Management Area, and Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest. Much of it was quite busy for the July 4th weekend, especially around Dry Canyon in Lindon.

The first section, from the Orem Firing Range trailhead to Dry Canyon, is a significant climb from the actual Bonneville shoreline (5100ft) up to almost 5700ft. Fortunately, we started early, so we had lots of shade. Much of this stretch was built by volunteers around 2000, a good example of the great work that regular people can do with enough motivation.

Many old-timers will remember when the Dry Canyon area (above Lindon) was popular for dirt bikes and ATVs, until the Forest Service banned motor vehicles around 2005 and worked to revegetate a lot of the old tracks. Since then, it has become popular with mountain bikers, who cut many new “social” (i.e., illegal) trails, often over the old ATV tracks. In 2019-2020, the Utah Valley Trails Alliance worked with the Forest Service to legalize and officially designate the best and most popular of these. Currently, we are in the finishing stages of recruiting volunteer trail adopters, such as local trail clubs and high school mountain biking teams, to help care for them long term. Thanks volunteers!

Amazingly, we were actually ahead of schedule when we got to Battle Creek, so we took a short detour up to the Battle Creek Falls. Dozens of families were joining us to cool off on this hot summer day. Stick your head in there, Spencer!

The last mile, at the base of the Pleasant Grove “G,” is typically a rather boring stretch along old roads through private property. Fortunately, we had a friend to keep us company. Todd Neumarker, a Pleasant Grove resident, avid mountain biker, and systems engineer (and one of the founders) of Trailforks, joined us to talk about how this very popular trails app got started, and how technology has impacted the outdoors for the worse (crowds) and the better (crowdfunding and volunteer organizations). We also got to geek out quite a bit about trails GIS data, which probably won’t get into the final cut of Episode 6.

Next up, in Episode 7, we are hoping to finish Utah County!

Episode 5: Provo

Well, it took us a little longer to complete this time (yes, your donations would help Spencer devote more time to production), but we are excited to release our latest episode, in which we hiked through Provo from Slate Canyon to Provo Canyon. Highlights include

  • A great conversation with Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and Councilman George Handley about how and why cities support trails like the BST, and their plans for future development of the trail and associated trailheads.
  • A great drone shot of the Y trail.
  • A few more signs provided by our donors (including a dud).
  • Some of my favorite hidden gems in Provo Canyon.


North Provo Canyon

June 12, 6 miles, 3.2 miles official BST, 2.3 miles unofficial route

It looks like I neglected to post this report when we did this hike, but better late than never. Episode 6 started with our exit from the north side of Provo Canyon. In many places, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail has to turn into a canyon to cross it without having to climb down to its mouth and back up the other side, but this is by far the largest detour, adding about 10 miles to a direct route across the canyon route. I’m not complaining though, because this is one of the prettiest sections of the BST where it gets away from the city a bit.

One of the reasons for this is that the only easy crossing of Highway 189 is near Bridal Veil Falls. Furthermore, to avoid private property and cliffs at the mouth of the canyon, the trail is upwards of 300-400 feet above the shoreline of Lake Bonneville. So our first task was to climb from Nunn’s Park (named after Lucien Nunn, who built one of the first hydroelectric power plants in the world here in the 1890s–the largest in the United States for many years) up 400ft to the Alta Ditch, a pipeline that provides culinary water to Orem from springs at the base of Mt. Timpanogos. There are three alternative routes that could become the BST:

  1. The eastern end of the Alta Ditch Road. We hiked this route today; it was a very steep doubletrack climb, not a great trail. It’s advantage is that it is there and public. It also has a nice historic site halfway up, a stone redoubt built in 1857 during the “Utah War,” for the pioneer militia to watch in case the U.S. Army came down Provo Canyon.
  2. The Dragon’s Back, a rocky ridge line. For the past 20+ years, this has been designated as the official route of both the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the Great Western Trail (GWT). However, we recently found out that it was done without the permission of one of the land owners, who is asking that it not be officially promoted for the time being. That said, access is not actively restricted, and it is still heavily used.
  3. Johnson’s Hole. This is my personal favorite. It goes through a hidden valley, first through a meadow, then climbs in a shady grove of oaks. Well, it did before the 2020 Range Fire destroyed most (but not all) of the oak. Unfortunately, it has the same private property issues as Dragon’s Back.

West of the junction where these three routes come together, the trail is official through the Timpanogos State Wildlife Management Area. This was a great place to find out more about this type of land, through which we have passed a few times already on this journey. So, we met with Mark Farmer of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, who is responsible for managing the WMAs in this region. We had a great chat, discussing the wildlife conservation mandate set forth for this land, and the opportunities and challenges of trying to balance this with the many recreation trails here, including the BST and GWT. Other than the BST, almost 50 miles of illegal “social” trails have been created over the past decades. In 2019, after 3 years of working with the community through the Utah Valley Trails Alliance, a trails master plan was released for the Timpanogos WMA that designated half of the trails as official, while eliminating others that were deemed to be redundant or detrimental to the wildlife. The 2020 Range Fire stalled the implementation, but thanks to the very hard work by a team of enthusiastic volunteers, progress is made towards reopening the trails, with signage and other improvements. Thanks Mark, for helping us understand this area!

South Provo Canyon

May 29: 10 miles, 5.2 miles official BST, 0.7 miles unofficial route

We finished episode 5 with a rather long hike into Provo Canyon. Typically, I can do 25 minute miles hiking in most terrain, but things really slow down when we’re filming. We’ve learned to plan on about 1 mile per hour, and about 15-20% more distance with retakes and work projects. So 6 miles of trail is an all-day ordeal. That said, this is a beautiful stretch, possibly the most remote section of the BST in terms of being out of view of the city (which we rarely saw). Almost all of this section is within Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, except for short stretches at the two ends and in the middle. Almost all of it was built (or at least designated) in 2001, and was an early success story of working with various land owners. Currently, the Forest Service, Provo City, the Utah Valley Trails Alliance, and local citizens are working on a trails master plan in this area, which will result in several trails branching off of the BST for all types of users, as well as connecting the gap to Rock Canyon.

Due to the significant gap in North Provo, we started at East Lawn Memorial Hills cemetery, who has not only allowed for the trail to cross an undeveloped part of the property, but has built a small trailhead area. Thank you! The first part is a significant climb to get above other private property; at the high point of this trail, we were at about 5,700 feet, one of the highest current points on the BST, about 600 feet above the actual shoreline (which isn’t really visible here anyway due to the subsequent channeling of the Provo River).

After this climb, there is a confusing junction where there are several old ATV and mountain biking trails (which are not officially designated–yet). Signs have been put up here before, but were broken or faded or incorrectly placed, so we added new stickers to a couple and put in a couple more new signs. Thanks donors! We tried a new idea for filming it, you’ll have to wait to see…

From this junction, we explored a social trail someone has to the south that could become part of the connecting trail to fill the gap between here and Rock Canyon. Much of it was a very nice trail, through a nice shady woodland, but like a lot of social trails, it was not well designed with many unsustainably steep sections, and it climbs about 100-200ft higher than it really needs to. It fades out at the end where it hits a very steep hill (still in forest service property), where we are planning to build the connecting trail, but it will be a construction challenge. If you try it out, watch for the giant treehouse!

Back on the main trail, we crossed over a ridge into Provo Canyon, where the trail follows the Smith Ditch for several miles, an irrigation ditch (now piped) first built in the late 1800s. This means it is generally well-maintained and very level. Where the ditch/trail crosses Squaw Peak Road (we just crossed into land owned by Provo City), there is a very rough trailhead that usually has more cars than it can safely hold. Our master plan includes building a good trailhead here, which the City supports, but it will be expensive, like anything else.

From the road, the ditch-trail passes through a pretty woodland, about as far from civilization as you can get on the BST. One confusing turn meant one more sign; I am really sick of carrying my post driver around! After a few miles, the trail drops off the Smith Ditch to reach the Provo River Parkway. Even though we were tired, we took a short (but very steep!) detour up to a beautiful 50ft waterfall, which is the source of the water in the ditch we were following. Remarkably it does not have an official name: I have heard it called Smith Falls, Springdell Falls, and Lollipop Falls. A couple years ago, I started calling it the Bridesmaids (because it is one of a three waterfalls to the side of Bridal Veil, although the others are well hidden), and since I created the pages in Alltrails and Trailforks, it seems to be catching on.

Bridal Veil Falls, Utah’s most famous waterfall, was an apt place to finish Episode 4, even though it is not actually on the BST. Many of us remember the “world’s steepest tram” that used to be here, with the clifftop lodge, until it was destroyed by an avalanche in the 1990s. After the owner couldn’t sell it for many years, it was acquired by Utah County, who has subsequently done a great job improving the area as a public park. Recently, a developer wanted to purchase it and rebuild the tram and lodge, but citizens led by Conserve Utah Valley motivated the county to say no. In fact, the 2021 state legislature approved designating the falls as one of Utah’s first “State Monuments,” although they are still trying to figure out what this new kind of designation means for practical management.

Episode 4: Springville

It’s been a few weeks, but we just released Episode 4, including our travels from Hobble Creek, through Springville, to Slate Canyon. As always, we couldn’t include everything we saw along the way, but highlights include:

  • An interview with Chris Morrill, who is spearheading the effort to extend the trail through the Hobble Creek Wildlife Management Area.
  • Installing 5 new signs at some confusing intersections, thanks to our generous donors
  • An interview with Laurie Weisler, who has graciously allowed the BST to pass through her backyard.
  • Exploration of the industrial history of South Provo and North Springville, including the limekilns and Columbia Steel
  • A visit with the folks at Conserve Utah Valley during one of their very successful service projects in Slate Canyon.


Provo: Rock Canyon

May 22: 3.4 miles, 2.6 miles official BST, 0.6 miles unofficial route

Much of episode 5 is crossing very familiar territory to me. I have traversed these Provo segments of the BST many times, and on a map the segments south of the Y Trail and north of it look the same, but they couldn’t be more different. The stretch we hiked with the mayor is mostly level, with one gradual climb out of Slate Canyon. Today’s segment, on the other hand, is more of what we would expect with converted utility/firebreak roads. A straight line on the map means continually going up and down steep hills. Perhaps it’s time to think about Version 2 of this trail.

The Y Trail was just as crowded as you’d expect on a Spring Saturday. This short but steep climb is one of those dozen or so iconic Utah trails, and any self-respecting BYU fan has to climb it at least once; some people hike it every week. In 2014, BYU was able to acquire the property from the US Forest Service (yes, that did take an act of Congress). The University has put in a huge amount of effort since then to improve the area, including parking and trail improvements, permanent LED lighting of the Y for special events, erosion control, fire remediation, and even building a short new section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to bypass the busy parking lot.

To the north, the lecture of the day was on landslides. Some of the hills we went over were active landslides, evidenced by the numerous large boulders composed of the same limestone as the cliffs 2,000 feet above us. These are still technically active, and a subdivision platted here has never been built (perhaps a good cause for preserving open space?). During the very wet year of 1983, part of this rubble slid further (called the Oak Hills Slide), permanently engulfing a street and nearly destroying a home. In 2005, a 7-foot diameter rock fell 2,600ft from the high cliffs here and barely missed a nearby house, although it destroyed their guest house, and still sits in their front yard. Throughout this neighborhood, similar boulders have been incorporated into landscapes. Despite the hazards, the alternative trail route we took through this landslide and boulder field area is very pretty and much more interesting than the main trail up over the hill; if only it could be rerouted to go around the hill completely with minimal climbing, and designated as official.

There is a short section of National Forest property here, so we planned to put in a couple new signs. The first went in fine, but the second proved impossible, as the whole area was solid gravel and my 10 attempts to drive it in different locations basically destroyed the post.

Around a bend we entered the magnificent Rock Canyon, another very popular trailhead, overflowing with cars on a sunny Saturday. Besides the BST, this canyon is popular with rock climbers, and people climbing 2,000 vertical feet to the top of Squaw Peak. In case you are wondering, negotiations have been ongoing for years to rename this mountain to something less offensive to the native Ute nation, and apparently an agreement is coming soon. Provo City and the Forest Service have recently worked out a plan to greatly improve this trailhead park, with expanded parking, nature trails, and a project to use excess creek runoff to recharge the aquifer under Provo.

North of Rock Canyon, the official trail ends at the edge of Provo City property, but the mile of utility road beyond, through private property is still very heavily used by a variety of trail users. It is likely eligible to be dedicated by force under Utah state law (§72-5-104), because it has been open for more than 10 years, although it is unincorporated, so the city does not have the jurisdiction to make any demands. Personally, I would rather designate it in cooperation with the land owners, which would hopefully enable building and or designating a better route. Beyond that, there is still a mile gap through property that is clearly fenced and posted. Provo City has made closing the overall 3.5 mile gap in official BST here a top priority, but there are a number of obstacles in the way, so it may be a while.

Provo: Thanks Mayor!

May 5, 1.6 miles official trail

We may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit; yesterday evening we hiked and filmed the first part of Episode 5, even though we barely finished filming Episode 4, which won’t be done for at least a week. However, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to walk with Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, and Councilman George Handley, who have both been champions of outdoor recreation and open space conservation in the city. We all had a great talk about how trails and open space are economic assets for our communities, about Provo’s track record in preserving these resources (such as the mouth of Rock Canyon and Slate Canyon), about the challenges that cities have to balance the community good with private property rights, and about their future plans to improve the city’s foothills for a variety of users.

Our hike, between Slate Canyon and the Y Trailhead, is one of the oldest segments of the BST, having been designated about 2000, and is still in very good shape. It is a testament to how this process should work, since the trail passes through city, state, federal, and private property, but is working well. There are a couple spots that could use a sign, I suppose…

Springville in the Spring

May 3, 8.5 miles (6 miles official BST, 1 mile unofficial BST route)*

At long last, we finally reached our first stretch of official, maintained, signed Bonneville Shoreline Trail! We traveled from Spring Canyon in eastern Springville, past the length of that city, to Slate Canyon in southern Provo.

The trail itself is a mix of singletrack and the firebreak/utility access road that is common for the BST. Since this slope at the base of Mt. Buckley is more southern-facing, there was almost no shade for most of the trail. Most of the trail is well-maintained and a sustainable design, except for one very steep hill just west of Spring Canyon where it climbs around some houses perched on the rather narrow Bonneville-level bench.

Here, and at other places along this stretch, the trail officially passes through private property. To talk about how this worked, we visited with Laurie Weisler, one of the landowners who have given up most rights to part of their backyard for the public good. The community is grateful for their sacrifice.

Because this segment is officially designated, we were finally able to start using our generous donations to improve the trail. Provo City have put up several trail markers through here, but there are a couple of confusing turns that were unsigned, so this was a good place to test our new sign design, with permission from Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. These all steel signs aren’t as pretty as wood posts, but I think they are nicer than the fiberglass markers, easier to install, more durable, and significantly cheaper (about $12-15 each). We’ll be putting up a few more in National Forest lands. We were also going to put new stickers on some of the older markers, but it appears that some kind soul has already done that recently.

Putting in these new signs was fun, except for having to carry the 20 pound post driver and the steel plates for 9 miles. At least we were smart and cached the posts at trailheads along the way. Speaking of which, I sure hope Springville is able to finish their trailheads at some point; the road going up to the one north of town is in very bad shape.

Another highlight of this segment was a view of Provo’s industrial history, including the site of the Columbia Steel mill (now home to a brand new car factory), ruins and tailings from limekilns, and an old gravel pit where we hope an official section of BST will be designated soon.

All in all, a great hike on a beautiful day!

*Note: if you’re wondering why the total length of our hikes always seems to be a lot longer than the amount of trail we cover, it’s because we do a fair number of short detours and a lot of back and forth on the trail as part of the filming process.