Trails in Utah
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What we need in Utah
The Butterfield Canyon off-road (well, paved) trail is a quick and fun way to get away from the bustle of the surrounding cities and is accessible both from the Salt Lake and Tooele sides of the Oquirrh (Oak-er) Mountain Range. The Oquirrh Mountain Range is a string of 10,000-foot peaks that divides the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys. Most known for its copper mining, the beauty of this range is usually overlooked. Butterfield Canon is only open 5 months of the year so you can bet on running into plenty of other people along the way. This trail is perfect for anybody who wants to experience some beautiful forest and great views with the best being at the top where you can overlook the Salt Lake and Tooele Valley's, as well as looking down into the largest open pit copper mine in the world - Kennecott Copper Mine!
Please note that Butterfield Canyon is open from June 1st to November 1st every year.
This is an awesome spur off of Lower Mill Canyon that takes you away from the crowd and gives you some fun on the rocks. The trail weaves through the pine forest up to about 10,000 feet and into the middle of an aspen forest surrounding Forest Lake. Most of the trail is shaded and there are a few spots where mud is usually present. With its rock gardens and mud pits, it will keep people of all skill levels and vehicles capabilities entertained through this short trail. This is also a great trail to camp along since you will be off of the busy trail, however, there can still be a fair amount of traffic on warm summer weekends. There is a large amount of wildlife present if you keep your eyes open, and once at the top, can be a very peaceful spot to relax.
Mary Ellen Gulch
Located about an hour southeast of Salt Lake City in the majestic Wasatch Mountain range is an offroad trail that offers a lot of adventure for any outdoor enthusiast. From the bottom, you get to experience some of the amazing scenery in the Wasatch National Forest and work your way up the old mining road to some of the abandoned gold and silver mines. If you look hard enough you can find iron pyrite or fools gold laying around! If you are more extreme, there have been rumors that you can get lucky panning in some of the streams. There is a story of a Jeeper who panned in one of these canyons and found just enough gold to pay for his expenses from his journey up, so who knows what you may find! All the mines you find in this area were very active gold and silver mines in the late 1800's. As you finish the trail you will also get to take in some great views of the surrounding mountains and overlook the Mineral Basin ski lift.
Situated just outside Moab is Arches National Park. Arches is a major tourist destination known for its many sandstone arches that seem to defy the laws of nature. However, most of these famous arches are easily accessible from the main paved road and that’s typically where the crowds flock. Arches is not widely considered a Jeeping destination because it does not contain many off-road trails within its boundaries. In one sense that’s a bummer, but another way to look at it is that all the Moab Jeep fanatics and big outfits won’t put Arches on their radar, which means that what is available may be wide open for the taking.
A short hike over to Tower Arch, Parallel Arch, The Marching Men, and Anniversary Arch make this trail a must do.
Escape the heat of the city with this off-road trail deep in the Wasatch Mountains above Logan, Utah. This off-road trail takes you from the Logan side of the Bear River Range near Logan Peak, over to the Bear Lake side connecting with multiple other trails. Due to its elevation and location, it is only open about half of the year. Hunting is popular in the fall season while campers flood the sites during the summer all throughout this network of trails. Spend some time exploring Old Ephraim's Grave or head up to Peter Sinks trail to experience some extreme temperature changes. You will find it hard to not have something to do. As you wind your way through the mountains, you will see a number of campsites to suit your needs. You can find many spots nearby other camps if you have a large number of people or you can easily find a secluded spot off in the trees where you will not be disturbed. Any way you choose, you are sure to enjoy some time within this network of trails.
Allen's Ranch Road
This is an important road in the area. Although it may be short and mild, it allows quick access to the Tintic Mountains from Little Moab/Chimney Rock Pass on a public road. Other roads in the area are quite a bit out of the way or private property. This is also part of the Prospector OHV Backcountry Complex taking you from Utah Lake over to Vernon Reservoir. The Prospector OHV Backcountry Complex is a network of trails in the west desert of Utah taking you from town to town by dirt. The network spans hundreds of miles and achieved funding in 2010 for signage and maps. The network ranges from Tooele to Eureka, and Utah Lake over to Dugway. This accommodates day runs to long multi-day trips to everything in between. Gear up and be ready for an adventure in the west desert of Utah. Allen's Ranch is also a Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit (CWMU) so hunting is permitted on this private land.
Baker Fork Road
Winding its way through the Mill Canyon OHV Complex in the Wasatch Mountain State Park, this easy off-road trail will guide you from Midway over to American Fork Canyon via Lower Mill Canyon. Once it opens in the springtime, OHV enthusiasts flock to the area to explore the miles of trails that the Wasatch Mountains have to offer. Although Baker Fork Road is maintained, it provides access to incredible views and many other trails carrying in difficulty such as Forest Lake and Mineral Basin. Whether you are looking to kill a few hours, or need to get away for the weekend, this mountainous OHV complex is full of trails to escape the heat and get you away from the rush of the city.
Barlow Canyon offers some of the best old mines and prospects in the area. Right off of the trail, there are places to walk to, but if you are willing to do a little hiking there are a lot of really cool sights to see. Being a short and easy trail, there are many in the area that you can combine to complete a day or two of good wheeling with camping far from any city. Although there are no real obstacles, this trail is one of the best in the area for its history. Combine this with Miners Canyon, The View and the Barlow Canyon Mines spur for a good day of mining ruins and views.
Barlow Canyon Mines
Definitely a worthwhile spur off of Barlow Canyon this road leads to one of the best mines in the area. The road up is really nice, although only half a mile long. Once you are at the top of the trail, there is a mine back and to the left in the rock hill. You can see where the old entrance used to be, an open gated entrance, and a grate over another shaft. If you venture the other direction from the road, you will see some tailings from that mine.
Bartlett Wash Road
This is a convenient and easy four-wheel drive road just near Moab, Utah that makes you feel like you are deep in the desert outback. Bartlett Wash Road is suitable for most vehicles and connects you to Tusher Tunnel, Hidden Canyon, and Dubinky Well Road.
Bear Lake Summit Trail
Located in the Bear River Mountains, this beautifully scenic byway serves as the main vein for several connecting trails. The road is lined with a mixture of thick pine and aspen trees. These mountains are home to a large population of deer, elk, and moose. Free range sheep may also be crossing the road, so be cautious of your speed. There are plenty of excellent choices for dispersed camping along the way. Whether you are in a tent or a 40+ft. trailer, you can retreat to a cozy spot just off the trail.
Bell Canyon is an interesting side route off of Twelvemile Pass located in the East Tintic Mountain Range. The area is rich with mining history, and Bell Canyon serves as a good base camp for your exploring while providing secluded camping.
Black Dragon Wash
Green River, Utah
Black Dragon Canyon has a lot of history behind it dating back to the Native Americans as shown by the incredible pictographs found on this trail. These pictographs are considered to be some of the best in Central Utah. This trail combines incredible history, amazing photographs of the high canyon walls, and even a few challenges along the way. The end of the trail is very close to Green River so you can stock up for a long day out in the Swell, or this is a nice trail to end the day since you can jump right onto the freeway.
Black Rock Canyon
This is the most well known off-road trail in the area, although still pretty abandoned most of the year. This is a popular trail to get from Saratoga to Vernon Reservoir following a section of the Prospector OHV Complex. This complex is hundreds of miles of dirt roads ranging from Tooele to Eureka, and Utah Lake to Dugway. You could spend days on the trails and never see the same thing twice. The mines in the area are the main reason for the off-roading though, as this used to be one of the biggest mining areas in the state of Utah. There are still plenty of mines that you can explore if you know where they are. Nutty Putty Cave, although now closed off, is one of the more famous of them all and even has a movie out about the story of the man whose body still remains within the walls. Black Rock Canyon is the only trail to take you straight up and over the East Tintic Mountains allowing you to reach a whole new area of trails. The View is a spur off of this trail and provides one of the best views of the West Desert in Utah. Be sure to pack plenty of food and water as it is easy to get lost on all of the spurs out here, and bring a flashlight to explore some caves!
This is a beautiful drive into the heart of the Tintic Mountains. The network of trails in the area can keep you exploring for days but still make for a fun short trip from the Salt Lake or Provo Valley's. The trails near the base of the Tintic Mountains also make for some good snow wheeling due to the easy nature of the trails in the summer and fall months. During the summer, these small canyons can offer some cool away from the heat of the west desert. In the fall, the leaves are on fire and make for some very scenic photos, especially if you get to the higher elevations and look out west over Vernon, north toward 5 Mile Recreation Area, or east toward Utah Lake. Broad Canyon is the entrance from the north side of the mountains that takes you into the center of the range where you can access many other spurs taking you into random canyons, fun little playgrounds, and many mines. You could have a month off of work and not explore all of what the Tintic Mountains have to offer.
Buckhorn Draw Road
Buckhorn Draw is a stunningly scenic and well-graded gravel road, located in the northern section of the San Rafael Swell. This trail is highly recommended for breathtaking views. The San Rafael River is responsible for carving through several layers of sandstone and limestone over the course of millions of years. What remains now is known as “The Little Grand Canyon". The colorful, winding gorges can be seen nearby from a spectacular birds-eye view at The Wedge Overlook.
Buckhorn Draw Road starts by weaving through steep towering canyons of mesas and buttes. Further ahead, the landscape opens to vast, barren plains and offers a more broad perspective of the massive, thousand foot gorges spanned across in the background. Just off the trail are many ancient spectacles, such as rock art panels depicted by early Native Americans, as well as a prehistoric dinosaur footprint. The Swell is a place for solitude, while also inviting exploration for all types of adventurists.
Situated just outside of Moab, Bull Canyon is a fun off-road drive through winding canyons and sandy washes. The trail leads you to the short hiking trail to the lower view of the magnificent Gemini Bridges. In addition to the natural beauty of the Gemini Bridges, you get deep into the heart of the awe-inspiring beauty of the unique landscape that surrounds Moab. For an introductory route into wheeling around Moab combine this trail with Gemini Bridges, Surprise Overlook, and Long Canyon.
This is a gorgeous trail just west of Utah Lake. You gain elevation quickly and get rewarded with great views. It is a relatively mild trail allowing SUV's of all sorts to reach the mines and enjoy a day away from the city. This trail also serves as a quick emergency exit to the more challenging trails in the network in case you have any breakages, injuries, or other emergencies. Although there are no major obstacles, it is a nice trail to cruise up or down if you are in the area.
Green River, Utah
This beautiful off-road trail acts as a shortcut from Buckhorn Draw Road over to Fixit Pass. Wash roads in the San Rafael Swell are abundant, but this one has a few extra features along its edges such as hikes and abandoned mines. This wash has some incredible scenery as it takes you from the more green area near Locomotive Point into the barren desert along the central portion of Buckhorn Draw. If you feel like taking a walk, you can even reach the San Rafael River at the base of the Wedge Overlook (also known as the Little Grand Canyon). What this wash lacks in obstacles, it makes up for in scenery. This off-road trail will get you deep into the network of trails within the San Rafael Swell providing days of endless excitement and scenery to view.
Castle Valley Overlook
Castle Valley Overlook is just outside of the Sand Flats Recreation area and has a couple of amazing camp locations overlooking Castle Valley.