2009 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  EXPLORING SOME OTHER LOGAN CANYON TRAILS

SUNDAY, AUGUST 30

 
"Thick vegetation screens out the noise of the highway and allows visitors to enjoy the
rushing, bubbling sounds and beauty of the Logan River. Observant travelers will also
enjoy the company of many songbirds and small wildlife as they explore the trail."
 
~ description of the River Trail from the Guide to Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway, p. 7
 
 

Large wildlife species like deer, elk, bear, and moose have also been spotted by observant trail users in this area, although the biggest critters we've seen in the lower canyon area are deer. I'm a bit disappointed I haven't seen any moose or elk since we were in the Bighorns in June -- and no bears so far this summer.

There are hundreds of miles of trails in the Wasatch-Bear River Range of northeastern Idaho. Many of them have trailheads in Logan Canyon.

If you visit the area, the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau has another brochure you should pick up, read online, or download: its Hiking Trail Guide. The guide has descriptions and maps of almost two dozen trails in the Logan Ranger District. Some of the trails are for foot travel only; equestrians and mountain bikers may also use some of them when the trails are dry.


Locations of some of the trailheads in the Logan Ranger District

[Note that the descriptions of difficulty ("steep," e.g.) of the trails in this guide are for average hikers who may or may not be acclimated to altitudes of 5,000-9,000 feet. They should be easier for well-trained and/or altitude-acclimated runners and hikers. We've been at higher altitudes all summer so these more moderate altitudes barely affect our breathing rate. And degrees of steepness? Let's just say that my perspective was forever readjusted after running and hiking the Appalachian Trail . . . what I used to consider "steep" is now "moderate."]

Trail distances range from 1+ to 24+ miles one way, although you can string some of them together to go much farther. A few of the trails in the guide are on the Bear 100 course, which I talked about in the last entry.

In this entry I'll describe several trails that can be accessed from the lower end of Logan Canyon..

TRAILS RIGHT OUT OUR DOOR

In my first entry about Logan Canyon I described the campground where we chose to stay for our first five nights in this area, Guinavah-Malibu. It is one of at least nine forest service campgrounds along the Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway and located about five miles from the mouth of the canyon on the east side of the city of Logan, Utah.

We quickly found that one of the benefits to staying in this campground is its proximity to several interesting hiking and multi-use trails that were fun to run and hike on our easier training days. First I'll give a general description of five of them, then show photos I took while running and hiking on two of them.

  • The trailhead for both the Riverside Nature Trail (#2 on map above) and Crimson Trail (#4) is about 200 feet from our campsite. Both trails extend from Guinavah Campground to Spring Hollow Campground. Crimson goes up higher, branching off Riverside in moderately steep ascents or descents from either end. Both trails are for pedestrians only. I'll go into more detail about the 1.5-mile Riverside Nature Trail below.
  • The Crimson Trail (3 miles one way) is steep and skirts the upper edge of a huge band of limestone known as the China Wall, formed over millions of years from the sediment that was once the bed of an ancient tropical sea. Its elevation ranges from 5,200-6,000 feet.
  • Wind Caves Trail (2 miles out, 2 back, #3 on trailhead map above) is catty-cornered across the road from the Guinavah Campground entrance; it is a steep trail that takes visitors up to 6,000 feet in elevation to a delicate triple arch and natural cave (AKA Witch's Castle) formed in a limestone outcropping by wind and water erosion. This trail is also for foot travel only. I haven't hiked up to the formations yet. I took these photos from the Riverside Nature Trail on the other side of the Logan River:

Above and below: view of Wind Cave from across the Logan River

  • At the end of the Riverside Trail you can access the River Trail (#1 on trailhead map above), which follows the Logan River downstream for about four miles from Spring Hollow Campground to the Canyon Entrance Park at the edge of town. The elevation ranges from 4,900 feet to 5,400 feet. This is a multi-use trail for walkers, runners, and cyclists. I don't believe equestrians can use it, but they have trails farther up the canyon that they can use.

Out and back from our campsite on the River and Riverside Nature Trails is about 11 miles, but neither of us went the whole distance along the river this week. Jim measured 8 miles out and back on them this morning; he turned before reaching the end at First Dam and the Canyon Entrance Park.

I'll show photos from both of these trails in just a bit.

BONNEVILLE SHORELINE TRAIL

There is another trail that can be accessed from the Canyon Entrance Park: the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. This one interests me for reasons that will soon become clear.

During the last Ice Age, the Cache Valley (and beyond) was filled with a huge freshwater lake that was 348 miles long and 145 miles wide. It is known as Bonneville Lake. Remains of 15,000-year-old wooly mammoths, musk oxen, camels, and prehistoric bison have been found along the ancient shoreline.

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail for hikers and mountain bikers attempts to follow the original "bench" along the shoreline. When completed, this trail will extend more than 280 miles from central Utah to the Idaho border. Only about 90 miles of designated BST are open in various segments shown in green at the website link above. This is a photo from the website home page that shows a section of trail but it doesn't identify the location:

In the Logan area, the trail only extends about 1.5 miles from Green Canyon to First Dam. Blue trails are connectors that aren't yet officially part of the BST. Red trails are proposed. As the website says, it's a work in progress. I don't see a proposed finish date.

Obviously, I'm curious if I'll ever be able to do a journey run or hike on the whole thing! And I wonder if there will ever be a Bonneville Trail 100- (or 200-) mile ultra marathon??

Meanwhile, out of these five trails, the only ones that Jim and I have explored so far are the River and Riverside trails. I want to check out the others when we come back in a few days.

RIVERSIDE NATURE TRAIL

The Riverside Nature Trail starts out rocky and narrow at Guinavah Campground and quickly gains about 150 feet in elevation as it parallels the river heading west. I took this photo about 1/4 mile from the trailhead. Our campsite is about a hundred yards to the right of this sturdy campground bridge across the Logan River:

Elevations along the Riverside Nature Trail range from 4,900 to 5,400 feet. The trail switchbacks down to the river's edge and then gradually widens and becomes more smooth for about 3/4 mile before reaching Spring Hollow Campground.

Jim and I have both run this trail out and back on two different days. The photos in this entry are from both days. We saw very few people on the Riverside Nature Trail on Friday morning, partly because local kids went back to school this week and college classes have also begun. This weekend morning  both trails were busy on either side of Spring Hollow Campground with people walking, running, and fishing (plus cycling on the River Trail).

The sign and map at the beginning of the trail (above) indicates that it is good for families. Not only is it a fairly easy trail for children to hike, it is also educational.

There are about a dozen stations along the way that explain various components of the riparian ecosystem. For example, a sign near the spot below describes how important the grasses and willows along the water's edge are to holding the banks as well as providing shade and cover to fish and mammals like moose:

This trail is mostly shaded with thick trees and shrubs. This time of year it's a very green place. In the next photo, even the river (on the left) looks green! You'd think the trail would be "buggy" with all this water and vegetation but I didn't notice any annoying gnats, mosquitoes, flies, or other bugs when I was walking and running along the river, even here.

The trail has several wooden bridges across creeks and wet areas,


Hmm . . . I wonder if Jim or Sue would mind if I jumped into that pool of green algae ??

and several places where it passes close to large rock formations several hundred feet below the China Wall:

 

Although there are a couple of vantage points at the higher elevations on this trail where you can get scenic glimpses of nearby mountains,

the best unobstructed views are from the river's edge as the trail get closer to Spring Hollow Campground:

My favorite area along the Riverside Nature Trail is the lake/wetlands area, shown above and below, that is formed by the Second Dam just below Spring Hollow Campground. The trail is close to the river's edge here:

 

The Riverside Nature Trail ends in the Spring Hollow Campground. It's a little tricky to find your way through the campground the first time, but there are roads and paths that connect it on the other side with the River Trail that extends another four miles to the edge of the city of Logan.

RIVER TRAIL

The River Trail begins on the western side of Spring Hollow Campground. It is wider, smoother, and flatter than the Riverside Nature Trail. It follows the Logan City water line gradually downhill toward town. You definitely notice that it is a relentless uphill, however, on the way back to Guinavah.

I'm not sure of the distance. The hiking guide referenced above says it's 3.7 miles one way and the same organization's Guide to the Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway says it's 4.2 miles. The latter may count the distance through the campground to reach the Riverside Nature Trail. We'll measure it when we come back.

The River Trail seems to be as popular with mountain bikers as it is with runners and hikers. It is much more heavily used than the Riverside Nature Trail because it is closer to town, has five entry/exit points along the scenic byway, and is easier to negotiate. Although it is close to the heavily traveled scenic byway, the hiking guide claims traffic is not visible for most of its length.

There are three dams along the length of the River Trail, between it and the scenic byway. Logan City has been producing its own electrical power from the plant at Second Dam since the early 1900s. Third Dam lies just below Spring Hollow Campground:  

 

The Logan Canyon booklet says that trout are stocked in the water at Second Dam. I don't know if they are stocked at Third Dam, above, but there sure were a lot of people fishing along the half mile of trail between it and Spring Hollow Campground!

The wetlands on this side of Spring Hollow are just as beautiful as those on the other side.

 

 

As you'd imagine, the marshy areas on either side of Spring Hollow Campground are full of fish and other wildlife: ducks, geese, songbirds, numerous species of small mammals, deer, and moose.

They are popular spots for anglers of all ages, too. Both times I ran and hiked the two river trails I had to watch Cody carefully to be sure he didn't jump into the water near any anglers. They wouldn't appreciate a dog scaring away their fish!

When we come back I'll add more information in another entry about these and other trails that we explore in the Logan Canyon and other parts of the Wasatch-Bear River Range.

Next entry: uninvited guests

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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