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!

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