Sunday Drive: Swinging over the ravine

Tom Kelly

The nearly 200-foot long suspension bridge was whoomphing and creaking as hikers crossed, some posing for selfies midway while others tried to avoid looking down onto the canyon floor some 100-plus feet below.

A hike for me needs to have a destination – not just an end point, but a real point of interest. Maybe it’s the panoramic mid-summer view from Jupiter Peak or the rock furniture atop the Living Room on the east benches above Salt Lake City.

The Corner Canyon area of the Salt Lake Valley, tucked along the area where the Bonneville Shoreline Trail starts to move toward Traverse Mountain, is a maze of trails. One of the great family hikes is to walk the switchbacks up to this amazing suspension bridge spanning the deep ravine of Bear Canyon.

Draper City has long been in the trails business, building byways for hiking and biking for a half century. The towering granite of Lone Peak looks down on the vast expanse of the valley below. Coursing off its flanks, bursting at its banks with spring runoff, is Bear Canyon Creek, a primary watershed.

Over time, there have been plenty of trail crossings over and through Bear Canyon Creek, including an old water-level wooden bridge just a quarter mile up from the suspension bridge. But those crossings presented a challenge, with people and dogs beginning to impact the watershed. Instead of banning travel, a new bridge was conceived over the gorge to keep hikers and their pets out of the creek.

In a community-wide effort, funds were raised and Draper’s own Ralph Wadsworth Construction undertook the challenging project to span the ravine using minimal heavy equipment. A focus was made on using materials that would stand the test of time with limited maintenance. In 2015, the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge was opened.

The hike affords some stunning views of the Salt Lake Valley as you wind your way up the switchbacks. Suddenly, the massive bridge comes into view set against the vegetation of the foothills.

In the early morning hours, not long after sunrise, I stood at the middle of the bridge staring down into the ravine. It would be hours before the eastern sun would crest over Lone Peak. Soon, families and kids would be ascending the trail – children giggling and running, parents steadily guiding them up the trail. Down below, the creek itself was nearly invisible through the brush but with its distinctive roar signaling springtime in the mountains. 

It was a peaceful place to be.

Trip Details 

Getting There: It’s about an hour’s drive from Park City, simply follow your GPS to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge Trailhead in Draper. There are many ways to get there.

Trailhead: You can access the bridge loop from several trailheads along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. The Orson Smith Trailhead, maintained by Draper City, is the most convenient. There is a good amount of parking but it will fill up on weekends. There are trailhead restrooms.

Trail: Well-developed trail with gradual incline on easy-to-hike switchbacks climbing up to the plateau. It’s an easy to moderate climb. It’s a little over 1 mile from trailhead to bridge, with around 430 feet of vertical climb. It’s a loop that you can hike in either direction; we prefer the bridge approach views from the clockwise routing.

Dogs and Bikes: Yes, you can bring your dog on a leash up to the suspension bridge. Dogs are not permitted on trails up Bear Canyon past the bridge. Hikers also share the trail with bikes (walk bikes across the bridge).

Dining: Plenty of restaurants in Draper and Sandy for lunch or a special treat.

Next Week: Summer is the time for road trips. And this was a big one: Next week, I’ll take you on our annual 4,500-mile Tour de Heartland.


More Dogs on Main: ‘George Washington peed here’

I just returned from an interesting vacation in the mysterious East. This is the annual bike trip with a very eclectic group of friends who have been doing these trips in one form or another for about 40 years now. This year we were in the Finger Lakes area of New York. It was strikingly different from here.

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