Shoreline Trail: The Best Things in Life Are Free

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(Photo by Jameson Clifton)

(Photo by Jameson Clifton)
(Photo by Jameson Clifton)

If you’re like me, Spring Break is one of your favorite things. And if you’re like me, you use it as an excuse to go out into the wilderness with a few of your friends and act like a complete idiot. But if you’re really like me, you’re also completely broke.

The reason for your lack of funds is insignificant. Sure, you probably don’t need a bag of gummy bears every day, and you’d probably be able to afford Cancún if you would just brew your own coffee or pack a lunch every once in a while. But now is not the time to be thinking about your poor financial decisions. Because, luckily for me and you, there is at least one good decision that we’ve made in our recent past: to attend the U.

The Wasatch Mountains are more than just an amazing backdrop to your college career — they’re filled with trails and caves, reservoirs and creeks, waterfalls, cliffs, wildlife, and all other sorts of awesome. And the best part of it all? It’s free.

So grab a backpack, a jar of peanut butter, and a water bottle, and get yourself to the nearest trailhead. My favorite is the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

In the early 1990s, This is the Place State Park was looking to expand. At the same time, Red Butte Garden was growing and the U’s Research Park was considering a new project that would eliminate the natural trail system behind it. Local outdoor enthusiasts decided to do something about it. With overwhelming support from the public, Salt Lake City adopted the Shoreline Trail as an official recreation area, and in 1991 a nonprofit coalition was formed to develop it.

Today, cities and groups from six counties in Utah are members of the
coalition. And every year, hundreds of volunteers add length to the trail that will someday span almost 300 continuous miles from the Idaho border down to Nephi, Utah. More than 100 miles have been completed to date.

Much of the progress made in recent years has been up north in Weber County, although in 2013 a section was finished that connects the Mount Olympus trailhead to Neff’s Canyon. Further south, past Little Cottonwood Canyon, most of the trail is done between Bells Canyon and Corner Canyon in Draper.

However, the best part of the trail isn’t its history but its access to all of the amazing canyons in the Wasatch.

If you live on or near campus and don’t have access to a car, your best bet is to walk to the nearest trailhead. There are six in the Avenues and four on campus. The easiest one to find is in front of the Utah Museum of Natural History, which takes pride in its proximity to the Shoreline Trail and has installed drinking fountains for recreationists and their pets.

The section of the trail by the U is probably best experienced on a bike, so I don’t usually venture that far north. One of my favorite places is Neff’s Canyon, on the north side of Mount Olympus. But Bells Canyon, south of Little Cottonwood, is the absolute best. About half a mile up is a lower reservoir where you can catch-and-release trout, and past that, after another half mile through meadows and rock gardens, the climbing gets steep for a bit until you get to a waterfall.

In all of these canyons you can go backpacking, but be sure to bring enough food for a few days, a tent, and a sleeping bag. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a mountain goat or a cougar. With this trip option alone, you’ve got yourself an epic Spring Break adventure, all for the magical price of $0. Because if you’re like me, that’s about all you can afford.

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