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!).

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