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Bonneville Shoreline Trail
Northern Salt Lake City section

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail is a series of trails along the slope of the Wasatch Mountains where the old shoreline of Lake Bonneville met the hills. Sections of trail are found from Ogden to Payson. The northern Salt Lake City section extends from City Creek Canyon to Emigration Canyon.

Bruce (the Mad Scientist) rolls along the ridge above Salt Lake City. Photo by Matt Flygare, January 22, 2000.

This section of the BST extends from Emigration Canyon near the zoo to City Creek behind the state capitol. For a trail that follows the foothills above a very urban area, it feels surprisingly like "nature."

During a break in the January snowstorm, Matt rides the Bonneville Shoreline near City Creek.

The route I describe below is a quick 10-mile loop from City Creek that covers 7 miles of trail, then a 3-mile road return. We'd rate this an advanced aerobic ride, intermediate technical. Although not a year-round trail, it's rideable during temporary winter thaws. In the winter, we'd raise its rating to advanced technical because of steep climbs in mud and snow, slippery surfaces on steep side-slopes, and some rough wet rock.

Handlebar view of the snowy trail, with the old antique GPS unit getting the trail waypoints, but not much else.

The trail begins on Bonneville Drive just east of the City Creek Canyon road (see below), with a few parking places at the trailhead (GPS N 40 47.388' W 111 52.709'). There's a stiff climb on singletrack, 650 vertical feet over the first mile. On a summer's morning, it's not bad. In the winter, it can be downright brutal. You'll climb 3 miles to the divide above City Creek Canyon. Total elevation gain is 1250 feet.

Rob climbs the singletrack heading west past the U Med Center on the southern portion of the BST. April 30, 2002.

After winding around a few canyons, at around mile 5 the singletrack loops around Limekiln Gulch. It then runs straight down Dry Gulch to the Avenues Trailhead. This is a GREAT descent. But keep your speed under control so you don't crash into a runner or a dog.

Looking southeast along the trail. Scattered snow flurries, slime on a frozen base. Heaven. Photo looking over Doc Argyle's handlebars, January 22, 2000

From the Avenues Trailhead (GPS N 40 46.658' W 111 50.225'), you can head left past the University of Utah Hospital towards the Emigration Canyon end of the trail. Or, fork right and climb a short distance until you hit the paved recreation trail that rolls past Popperton Park. Dump onto the city street next to the trail and head straight until you're on 11th Avenue. Continue until 11th turns right on Bonneville Drive, then roll on back to the City Creek Trailhead.

Matt accelerates to the bottom of Dry Gulch, on his way to catching two vertical feet of air (and crashing) at the trail's exit. January 22, 2000


In the northern section of Salt Lake's Bonneville Shoreline, you're riding on alluvial deposits -- a mixture of rock, sand, and dirt washed down from the mountains into Lake Bonneville. Lake Bonneville existed from 1 million years ago until around the end of the Ice Age, 10 thousand years ago.

Mule's Ears bloom along the trail in the spring sunshine. Photo courtesy of Han Kim, May 2003.

Southeast of Dry Gulch, the trail becomes more tame. This section from the U Med Center to Emigration Canyon is fairly easy, with little altitude gain. There are several alternate trails, which usually rejoin after a half-mile or so.

Looking west toward the Oquirrh Mountains as the trail winds around a canyon during an April ride.

Another very nice option is a short loop ride using the famous Bobsled as your downhill. There are three ways to get up: via City Creek, via Terrace Hills, or via Dry Gulch and the Popperton paved trail. The most direct of these routes is to grind up paved Terrace Hills 0.65 mile to the trailhead, then another 0.3 to reach the BST. 

Arrowleaf balsamroot blooms along the trail in May.

Bonneville Shoreline North Map

Keep right at the fork and climb southeast 0.5 miles to arrive at the top of the Bobsled. After the initial spooky steep loose-rock surf, you have 1.5 miles of twisting fun until you dump out on Chandler and turn right to get back to Terrace Hills Drive. PS - Don't even dream of riding uphill on the Bobsled.

Getting there, City Creek trailhead:  From North Temple, head north uphill on E Street (around 5th East). At 11th Avenue, turn left and drive until 11th Avenue ends at the edge of City Creek Canyon. Turn right on the one-way (no passing: the left lane is for bikers and pedestrians). Pull over at the small parking area at the bottom of the canyon (GPS N 40 47.388' W 111 52.709'). If you go past the paved City Creek Canyon road, you've gone too far.

Terrace Hills: On 11th Avenue, turn uphill onto Terrace Hills Drive, then immediately turn left into the parking area. From the parking lot, ride 0.65 mile uphill on Terrace Hills to the trailhead, on your right at the dead-end. Climb another 0.3 to reach the BST.

Photo courtesy of Han Kim, May 2003.

Popperton Park: Go east on 11th to Popperton Park. Pedal east on the paved bike trail until it drops over the shoulder of the foothill into a wide gravel area. This is the Dry Gulch trailhead GPS N 40 46.658' W 111 50.225'. Turn left and begin climbing the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
Red Butte: On Foothill Blvd, turn towards the mountains on Wakara Way. Just before the entry to Red Butte Gardens, turn right and park anywhere along the road. Find a "feeder trail" that climbs about 100 yards uphill to the BST.
This is the Place: From Foothill Blvd, turn east on Sunnyside Avenue. Park near This is the Place monument and find the trailhead on Sunnyside Avenue. Go northeast around the state park on a steep climb.

Riding resources:
One-page (printable) trail guide
GPS track file (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
     Garmin MPS     GPX
Topo map for printing:  View
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to NE SLC resources

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc