Facing one direction on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, all the eye can see are scrub oak-dotted foothills silently rolling to join the looming Wasatch mountains beyond.
But a 180-degree turn brings into bird's-eye view a valley overflowing with buildings and streets, cars and concrete as more than a million people go about their busy lives.Being an "urban interface," providing a link between the city and the mountains, is just what the trail was intended to do, said Rick Reese, co-chairman of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee.
When completed, organizers say the 100-mile trail marking the eastern shore of the legendary Lake Bonneville from Brigham City to Nephi will be thought of as one of the state's - even the nation's - great treasures.
The trail will be "regarded with the reverence of Yellowstone" 40 years from now as it provides access to tens of thousands of acres of public lands, Reese predicts.
"This is what gets me misty-eyed," Reese said, sweeping his arm in the air over the valley below. "This view exceeds anything in the nation."
But so far just a small section of the trail is in place. In Salt Lake City, the trail links the City Creek Canyon gate to Emigration Canyon.
In Provo, the trail is completed from Rock Canyon to the Y Mountain trailhead and from Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon to Squaw Peak Road. In the Ogden area, the trail is done from 46th Street to Ogden Canyon with committees working rapidly to expand it northward.
Other sections of the trail exist in the American Fork, Alpine and Draper areas.
Committees of citizens up and down the Wasatch Front are working together to push for the trail's ultimate completion. Reese said the trail's popularity speaks to its importance as open space is disappearing like a "snowbank on a hot June day."
Hikers, joggers, bikers, dog-walkers and even equestrians use the trails for trips ranging from quick jaunts to daylong ventures. Even when temperatures soar near the 100-degree mark, a few lone recreationists brave the midday sizzle to get in their trail time.
The path is getting so much use that Salt Lake committee members say the next step is to post signs and start defining etiquette for recreationists. With so many types of users, trail right-of-way issues need to be resolved, Reese said.
Salt Lake resident Rick Steiner is one who says the trail has decreased the stress in his life. He rides the trail on his mountain bike at least twice a week, and often he uses the trail to commute to his job at the University of Utah. Getting off the streets and out of the hubbub of mechanized travel makes him less ruffled at the end of the day, he said.
He pointed out that the city puts a lot of effort into getting visitors to Salt Lake City. An urban trail will set the community apart and increase the quality of life for its residents, he said.
"People who live here will stay here because there is something for them to do."
Another user is Mike Hibler, who also works at the university. When temperatures are cooler, he takes his bike out on his lunch break and said he "appreciates the convenience of the trail." It gives him access to a technically challenging trail only a short distance from his workplace, he said.
Hibler has even devoted part of his Web site to trail directions for mountain bikers.
Since 1990, various committees have been working to define the goals and scope of the project. The idea for the full-length, 100-mile trail came from Randy Welsh, who once worked as a forest ranger in the Cache-Wasatch National Forest.
The idea has sprouted from there. Asked today how large the Salt Lake committee is, members scratch their heads because uncountable donations of time, energy and money are offered daily. Numerous Eagle Scout projects have benefited the trail, as well as volunteer outings and personal contributions ranging from pocket change to thousands of dollars.
The most notable is a $47,000 grant received from the Steiner Family Foundation. That grant was matched by the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee and the state's Nonmotorized Trails Program. And last year, Congress allotted $500,000 for the trail's development.
The approximately 11-mile stretch above Salt Lake City has been coined the Steiner Centennial Trail in honor of the grant. This section, from City Creek to Sunnyside Avenue, will be completed this year. It ranges from cool wanderings in wooded areas to spectacular views over the Salt Lake Valley.
The project serves several other purposes besides providing the general public access to spectacular views and recreational op-por-tu-ni-ties.
According to the committee, it provides access to canyons and streams, facilitates quick deployment of firefighters, serves as a buffer between urban areas and the bench and preserves the educational and historic values of the foothills.
But even trail advocates admit the vision isn't easily realized. Progress has been slow due to the difficulty of acquiring land where the trail is to go. Much of it belongs to developers or private landowners, and in some places, the trail would cut through already existing neighborhoods.
Some bench homeowners worry about the public coming so close to their backyards. At an April Salt Lake City Council meeting, residents of the affluent gated community of North Cove expressed concern that the trail would be an "ideal avenue for criminal infiltration" and argued that they wouldn't have bought lots in the area if they had known of the proposed route.
And in an equally wealthy area above Foothill Boulevard, the trail may be stalled for years because of difficulty acquiring land. For now, the trail is just a designated road route. Reese, however, thinks one day the two groups' grandchildren will sit down and work out a way to get a trail put in there.
Both the Ogden and Provo trail committees say they face similar property-acquisition challenges.
Although committees are still working on marking the trail, a number of access points exist for the completed sections:
- City Creek gate. From the west end of 11th Avenue go north on Bonneville Boulevard to the mouth of City Creek Canyon. To the left of City Creek Canyon Road is a trail that takes hikers west up several switchbacks and ends above the North Cove subdivision. The shoreline committee is working out conflicts with North Cove residents so the trail can continue over the mountain's saddle and to the Davis County line.
To the right of the road is a trail that heads east to Morris Meadows, one of the last places in the city where meadowlarks can be found. After crossing the meadow, the trail heads east up a canyon and winds toward Terrace Hills.
- Morris Meadows. Travel north on I Street (600 East) until it turns into North Hills Drive. Turn left into the parking lot east of the LDS church. Walk north on the access trail until it reaches the main Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
This access point connects with the trail midway between City Creek gate and Terrace Hills.
- Terrace Hills Drive. Take 11th Avenue to the top of Terrace Hills Drive. The access trail on the left hooks to the main Bonneville Shoreline Trail and leads back to the Morris Meadows trailhead. The access trail on the right takes hikers on into Perry's Hollow, which winds around until it comes to a short section of unfinished trail that will eventually connect to Tomahawk Drive.
- Limekiln Gulch. Travel north on Virginia Street to Chandler Drive. Turn right on Chandler Drive; take another right on Tomahawk Drive. The trailhead is on the north side of the street next to 1553 Tomahawk.
Hikers can go east and west also from this trail after following an access trail past historic lime kilns once used for buildings now in downtown Salt Lake City. Here the Bonneville Shoreline Trail heads east to the Dry Creek trailhead and west back to Tomahawk.
- University Hospital. Travel north on Wasatch Drive and turn right on North Campus Drive. From North Campus Drive, turn right into the Jewish Community Center parking lot. Go north on the trail past the power station, and the access trail hooks up with the main trail behind the Medical Center.
Hikers can go south en route to the Red Butte Creek trailhead or northeast directly up Dry Canyon to the Limekiln Gulch access trail.
- Red Butte. Drive east on South Campus Drive on the University of Utah campus to Red Butte Garden's north gate.
The access trail heads south through Red Butte Garden and across Red Butte Creek to the Research Park and the Sunnyside trailheads. These trailheads eventually head to the east end of the Salt Lake City stretch of the trail. The Red Butte trail also hooks up with the westbound trail that heads back to Dry Creek.
- Research Park. From the Red Butte Garden entrance turn right on Colorow Way and go three-tenths of a mile. An access trail heads east through oak brush and next to a spring until it connects with the main trail. Beware of poison ivy near the spring.
Going north on the trail takes recreationists back to the Red Butte Creek Road trailhead. Going south leads to the This Is the Place State Park trailhead.
- Sunnyside/Zoo. Travel east on Sunnyside Avenue (800 South) to Hogle Zoo. The trailhead is located east of the Pioneer Trail State Park's east gate. Going north on the trail takes hikers north through the park and to the Research Park trailhead. Dogs are not allowed inside the state park.
Provo also has several access points. The most popular trailhead is at the end of 2300 North in Provo. Going south from there takes hikers to Rock Canyon and south to the Y Mountain trailhead. Another access point is in Provo Canyon at the Nunn's Park turnoff.
In Ogden, the trail is accessible by turning east off Harrison Boulevard onto 22nd Street, 27th Street, 29th Street, 36th Street or 4600 South Street. Trailheads exist at the ends of each of these roads.
All trailheads have on-street or off-street parking nearby.
More information about the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is available at (http://www.bonneville-trail.org).