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.

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