- Posted On
- Apr 26, 2016
The canyon that hides it all.
By Parker Christiansen
Vast Utah has so much to offer. Few take advantage of Logan Canyon hide-a-ways with stunning views and lighthearted pleasures for everyone to see, do and enjoy. Just less than 2 hours from the Salt Lake airport you can escape to an hour long stretch of canyon that harbors endless hikes, fishing, skiing, climbing and much more. As part of the Wasatch Range, Logan Canyon is entirely within National Forest and accessible to everyone. The area has been the go-to get away for centuries, including Utah State University students, Logan residents, out of state visitors, exploring mountain men and even the ancient Shoshoni Indians. Catching the eyes of the Shoshoni in 4,000 B.C. the canyon was a gateway to the tribe’s “House of the Great Spirit.” When the Shoshoni became extinct the mountain men used the area to trap and rendezvous. Local residents share stories about the great old Ephraim -a giant bear whose skull is on display at the Smithsonian Museum. The bear stood 11 feet tall and weighed over 1,000 pounds!
The canyon has more than just good stories and history. Many flock to hikes ranging from all day journeys to short, fun filled family picnicking destinations. A moderate yet extravagant hike is the Wind Caves. The trailhead begins straight across from Guinavah-Malibu Campground. These rock formations carved by canyon winds are full of caves and tunnels that overlook the canyon and Logan River. The view from the top is stunning! Plan on a two mile hike up the steep canyon hills for a nice aerobic calorie burner. The top is perfect for an early morning, warm afternoon, or sunset view and geological excursion.
While hiking on your descent if you feel you want to explore more, take a left about halfway down onto Wind Cave Way Trail. This trail will take you up to the ridge of the canyon where you can find breathtaking views of more rock formations jetting out just across the canyon. These formations have been called the China Wall, not to be mistaken with the Great Wall, but perhaps even more phenomenal. The China Wall runs for miles along the southern cliffs of the canyon. Want to enjoy the view from above China Wall? The Crimson Trail will take you there - a fairly straightforward three mile loop starting and ending at the Spring Hollow Campground. With overlooks and nature, it’s an easy hike that the whole family can enjoy.
Driving up canyon, in about 22 miles a turnoff takes you to an adventure enthusiast’s summer paradise - up a seven mile stretch of road to an ear popping 8,050 feet terminating at the cold mountain lake of Tony Grove. Ringing this lake is a National Forest campground with several secluded campsites. In this area there are many other hikes accessed from the same trail at a four way merge. These include White Pine Creek, Bunchgrass Creek and Naomi Peak. The summit of Naomi overlooks fields of green and yellow scattered below. If you are a backpacker, any destination in the Tony Grove area is open camping. And there are plenty more hikes are all over this area. A special one is White Pine Lake - a 4 mile trek one way from Tony Grove Lake that cannot be reached by vehicles. White Pine Lake is a place where you can escape reality and experience true solitude. A place where the air is crisp and the views are abundant.
The Jardine Juniper is approximately 1,500 years old which makes it the oldest tree in the entire rocky mountain range. The hike to this juniper is just under six miles one way but the journey to this grandmother tree is extravagant. Meadows of color all along the way and trees that are obvious descendants’ of Jardine and full of majestic beauty. The Jardine Juniper didn’t make this hike easy by any means. It’s a 1,800 foot gain but over six miles is dispersed well and the reward at the end is experiencing the mighty tree.
In the entire canyon you’ll find anything from long 18 mile multi-day backpacking trips to an overnight trip that is just as astounding. Take the turn for Camp Lomia or the turn to old Ephraim’s grave just a couple miles up the canyon. These routes will take you to a very new side of the canyon called “The Sinks” full of dirt roads that lead from mountain top to mountain top. Many areas have hikes that go to where the roads cannot, with beautiful, secluded campsites full of trees to rig your hammock and grounds that are perfect for tent pitchers.
Many native Utahns’ escape to the canyon’s destinations via US-89 to Bear Lake (reminiscent of the old Lake Bonneville that covered most of northern Utah thousands of years ago). Along Bear Lake beaches kids can gather small sea shells that have washed to shore. Just north of the border into Idaho is Lake Bloomington, a glacier formed lake with many surprises. Start with a rope swing that will make your heart drop, and your adrenaline will kick in at splashdown. If you choose to visit Bear Lake in the summer, the first weekend of August features festivities that are based around locally grown raspberries. Perhaps the best raspberries you’ll ever enjoy from jam, to juice and shakes. The local farmers have mastered growing and processing this berry with some big help from the terrain, weather and soil. They celebrate the festival with rodeos, a parade, carnival and, of course, boating and water sports capped off with lively music and dancing. An annual fun weekend!
The Logan River carved the entirety of Logan Canyon centuries ago. This river is the favorite of many local and vacationing anglers alike for fly fishing. It’s best suitable for wader fishing since the water is knee to hip deep in many of the areas where the trout lurk. It is rocky and not accessible by boat, but the river is extremely accessible by foot. Logan River is full of many honey holes so find one that works and enjoy! The lakes in Tony Grove are another area that fishes extremely well in the summer. Here, fishing from a float tube is recommended.
One area where I personally love to fish the river is in a stretch near a place called The Nunnery about halfway up the canyon. The Nunnery is an old Christian nun hideaway for the “bad” nuns to be tucked away in Logan Canyon. This oft told old folklore tale of the canyon that is more than many folks can bare. The story goes that a nun was sent here and had a child. Unwilling to give up the baby she ran into the woods. Chased by the head nun, she tucked the baby in a bush to find later. The head nun found the baby and drowned it in the pool. When the “bad” nun went back to the terrifying sight she committed suicide at the edge of the pool. Now The Nunnery is full of old cottages and an empty pool. Be warned ghost hunters, the area is covered with cameras and bad juju.
Summer and fall eventually turn to winter, and Utah’s The Greatest Snow on Earth®. For a big ski based state, Logan Canyon is no exception. Beaver Mountain is a small, and charming resort where you can get yourself into some big snow. This high elevation resort holds the pow longer and gets storms often. If you head north you’ll also find Utah’s newest resort Cherry Peak, located about 20 minutes north of Logan. If skiing is not your sport, the perfect solution lies in the same Tony Grove area where you can slap on the snowshoes and enjoy the deep snow covered mountains. Hills covered in white that are breathtakingly beautiful at every turn.
Logan Canyon hides it all for you to find and discover. And in the town of Logan you’ll find too many good people to hide them all. Not only full of good people, but also good family fun all seasons of the year. Check out Utah State University where activities are vibrant and plentiful. Get a map, brochures and helpful information at Cache Valley Visitor’s Bureau to discover what great adventures the Logan area has to offer - from great food and lodging to local favorite spots and a canyon that will take your breath away!