While the show season is in full swing during the summer months and rodeos take place regularly across the state, many equestrians in the greater Salt Lake area enjoy heading out for some relaxing, non-competitive horseback adventure.
Fortunately, there are a couple of great nearby trails located out by the west desert, close to Grantsville. Box Elder Canyon and Mud Springs are popular destinations. The Back Country Horsemen of Utah have a terrific web page that offers information about, and directions to, many riding trails throughout the state.
For those who wish to try out the Box Elder loop, head west to Grantsville. There you will drive west on Main Street and take the Old Mormon Trail road (also known as West Street). Drive south 6.3 miles to Box Elder Canyon Road. There is a street sign that looks like a city street sign. Make a right and go 0.9 mi to a wide turnout. This is considered the best place to park. The parking area is simply a wide spot on the right (North) side of the road. From the parking area, head southwest to the trail, with a starting elevation of 5200 feet. This is a moderately difficult excursion, recommended for experienced riders and well-conditioned, fit horses with previous exposure to non-groomed trails. If your horses are not shod, hoof boots are recommended.
Once you’re tacked up, making sure to have plenty of water for you and the horses, you’re ready to ride up the dirt road to the west. After 2.6 miles the road splits. Keep to the left. Stay on the dirt road for another 0.9 miles. You will see a notch in the canyon on the right side of the road. There is a two-track road that will take you through a meadow. There is a gate in an old fence on the other side of the meadow, the trail is there. This is not a heavily used trail, which is why many riders consider it to be a favorite.
The Back Country horsemen’s site explains that this trail is sometimes hard to find due to lack of use. They advise riders to “Just keep looking for trimmed branches”. The trail runs up the canyon and connects to the Stansbury Front Trail. The Stansbury trail runs to the North. It is about 3 miles up the canyon. You will go over a pass into White Pine Canyon and you will find a water trough that runs all summer. After another mile or so past the trough, you will find a two-track dirt road heading east. Follow that road down the canyon, where it will merge back into the road where it forked as you were riding up, thereby completing the loop. From there it is only 2.6 miles back to the parking area.
This scenic loop route has a distance of 15 miles and is usually accessible from May through November, barring unforeseen weather restrictions. Time-wise, it will take most riders an estimated 4 hours to complete. Early morning summertime rides are nice, as you should avoid the peak of the mid-day or afternoon heat. If embarking on the trek later in the afternoon, be sure to allow plenty of time to get back while you still have daylight.
While article writers do not have first-hand experience with this trail, we have borrowed information from both the Back Country Horsemen website and Wasatch-front riders who have personally enjoyed the somewhat rugged trail.
Outdoor adventures such as this provide a wonderful respite from arena drills and the demands of schooling for both the horse and rider. For those who have adequate experience and a fit, capable horse, trail riding can be an absolutely joyous and refreshing endeavor.
If you are interested in tackling trail adventures but aren’t quite yet confident in your own skills, or your horse’s ability to take on such new sights and sounds, you may wish to talk to an expert trainer who specializes in trail or endurance riding or connect with the Back Country Horsemen of Utah for advice. Cliff Tipton of Flying T Acres (located in Erda, UT) is a wonderful horseman who many riders trust for reliable training and helpful lessons. Respected horseman Bob Toomer, who trains out of the Grantsville area, also has vast experience and reliable credentials.
Enjoy the local trails this summer!