City Guide 2009 | Bygone Byways | City Guide | Salt Lake City Weekly

City Guide 2009 | Bygone Byways 

Before there were Interstates, there were trails to adventure.

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Utah abounds in outdoor recreational opportunities. So much so that you can pick your activity based not only on your favorite sport, but combine it with something else that interests you as well. For example, how about venturing outdoors while also picking up some Utah history along the way? If you’re not from here, or have people visiting and want to give them a taste of Utah—both in terms of what it offers recreationally and what shaped it historically—consider the following trails that cut through the state’s history. For those nonbelievers who immediately have an aversive reaction when hearing the words “Utah history” because of the assumption it will be all about a certain religion, all three of these trails are about non-Mormons who came to Utah not for salvation, but that most American of pursuits: making money.

Transcontinental Railroad Trail
Of all the places across the entire U.S. of A. to have the railroad from the East meet up with the West, the spot where the Golden Spike got driven was 32 miles west of Brigham City at Promontory Point. Of all the moments in the history of Utah, the one that was chosen for the state quarter honors May 10, 1869, when there was finally a way to get from one coast to the other without using a horse.

Going off the paved road on the Transcontinental Railroad Trail provides the opportunity to see railroad history, ghost towns and a unique art installation, all while experiencing the seemingly endless vistas that come about in the west desert. After all, while Utah is justly noted for its mountain ranges and red-rock canyons, part of the state’s unique beauty is its vast desert areas.

Start out at the Golden Spike National Historic Site and the trail runs approximately 90 miles over the top of the Great Salt Lake through the ghost towns of Terrace and Kelton, before ending up in Lucin, about 45 miles from Wendover. Head five miles south of Lucin to see “Sun Tunnels,” Nancy Holt’s 1976 art installation which features four huge pipes set to correspond to four constellations.

Transcontinental Railroad Trail
Starts at Golden Spike National Historic Site 32 miles west of Brigham City and runs for approximately 90 miles of unpaved road up around the north end of the Great Salt Lake. Ends in Lucin, approximately 45 miles from Wendover. Total trip time by car is approximately five hours. For a map of the trail, check out

Tour de Suds
This mostly single-track mountain-biking route of six miles begins in Park City, goes through old mining territory and by Deer Valley Resort. For more information go to For maps go to or

Old Trappers Loop
This easy two-mile hike on an asphalt/gravel road rises from 4,960 to 5,900 feet. The trailhead is located just easy of the intersection of New Trappers Loop and Highway 39. For more information and a map go to

Tour de Suds
Yes, suds refer to a beverage and not a bathtub. Park City’s Tour de Suds mountain bike race (some would say it’s really more of a party on wheels) is put on by the Mountain Trails Foundation every September, but the trail is available the rest of the year, weather permitting, to anyone who wants to try to find their way around it or is willing to ask directions from the locals, who can often be found biking the trail. The 6-mile single-track course takes the rider through the three reasons Park City has become famous over the years.

The course begins at the top of historic Main Street, which is the camera vantage point for thousands of reports on the Sundance Film Festival every January. The tour then heads up into Daly Canyon past several old silver mines that were the reason Park City was founded in the first place. The end of the trail runs across what brought Park City back after the mining days, ski slopes—in this case, Deer Valley.

Note that the final portion can change depending on what sort of development is going on in the area. Beware that the trail rises quickly from 7,100 feet to 8,800 feet and has been described as everything from “strenuous” to “extreme.”

Old Trappers Loop
When mountain men came to the area to trap animals in the early 1800s, this was the main route between the Ogden Valley and Morgan County. It’s an easy two-mile hike, but it offers spectacular views of picturesque Ogden Valley with the Pine View Reservoir, Wolf Creek Resort and the towns of Huntsville, Liberty and Eden below in all their beauty.

After walking the trail, take a car or continue the hike into the Ogden Valley to load up on some more history. Go from trappers to Trappists by trying some of the 14 different flavors of Trappist Creamed Honey in Huntsville at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, a monastery founded in 1947.

In the evening, head over to Eden and the Shooting Star Saloon, the longest continually operating bar in Utah that’s been around since not long after the time of the trappers. In a state noted for its strict liquor laws, the Shooting Star has achieved the not-insignificant feat of constantly serving up cold ones since 1879.

Utah’s outdoors are part of its history and its history has been shaped by its outdoors. One can be used to get to know the other while enhancing the enjoyment of both.

Geoff Griffin is a City Weekly freelance writer.

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