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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Hike: Red Butte Canyon Area

One of the best things about spring is the longer daylight hours.  Which means enough light for weekday evening hikes, the perfect way to break up any long work week.  With the warmer weather and summer around the corner (and working for home), I have been setting some "personal goals" on moving at least 3 miles a day.  Some days its just a walk around the city, picking up groceries or dropping off a book at the library.  But on these city walks there is the issue of Olive being on-leash the entire time, and scrounging for all the leftover food littered throughout the city thanks to our growing homeless population.
City life can be wonderful, right?  

At least once mid week its nice to take Olive out on the trails where she can be off leash, and run like a maniac. And I don't have to worry about her eating week old hot dogs off the ground.  A great midweek hike close to downtown, and early spring hike is the trails in Red Butte Canyon. 

First, let me be clear, these are not the trails within the Red Butte Garden itself.  The hikes in the garden require you to pay admission to the garden, and are not dog friendly.  However, there is a network of trails outside of the fence of Red Butte Garden, that crosses over where the entrance of Red Butte Canyon is closed to the public, and through some nice trails.    

We opt for the free dog friendly network of trails surrounding Red Butte Garden in the canyon. To access these trails, we like to drive over to the Red Butte Amphitheater entrance, and follow that road back to the free parking area at the trailhead.  The spaces right outside the amphitheater are regulated student parking spaces until 8pm Monday through Friday.  You can park in these spaces after 8 or on the weekends.  Or you can just follow the little road back into the free unregulated spots at the trailhead.   

Bonneville Shoreline Trail over to the Red Butte Trails
Following the Bonneville Shoreline Trail over to the Red Butte Trails 

Construction over at Red Butte Garden- building a new section- a water conservation garden

There are a few options from the parking area:  One is to park your car and walk up the road that leads to the closed off section of Red Butte.  However, we like to hit the trails for a quick sweat and some elevation.  Leaving the parking area, we take the trail straight across from the parked cars, leading up to the BST and then over into the Red Butte area.  We climbed up the trail, and then back down where you will cross the road in front of the gated section of the Red Butte Canton Research Natural Area.  

If you are wondering why most of Red Butte Canyon is closed to the public, it is because it is a Natural Research Area (NRA).  The nearly pristine condition of this watershed makes it a perfect NRA.  The pristine ecosystem here is due to the fact that the canyon was a protected watershed for use for Fort Douglas, the U.S. Army post built in 1862.  As a protected watershed, the area was kept free from grazing, farming, and other human induced impacts to the watershed.  Once the U.S. Army no longer needed the land, the U.S. Forest Service took it over, further protecting the space as a RNA. 

Federal land-management agencies have been developing a national system of Research Natural Areas since 1927. More than 400 areas have received this designation nationally. Since inception of the RNA Program, there have been two primary purposes for Research Natural Areas:

1. to preserve a representative array of all significant natural ecosystems and their inherent processes as baseline areas; and
2. to obtain, through scientific education and research, information about natural system components, inherent processes, and comparisons with representative manipulated systems.Basically, Red Butte RNA serves as a near pristine ecosystem, and a baseline to compare other impaired streams against. 

Spring bloom along the trails 
Stopping for a picture on one of the benches along the trail

Once you cross in front of the closed off entrance, you will cross the end of Red Butte Creek and continue on the trail that borders the Red Butte Garden trails.  The trail will border the fenced off area of Red Butte Garden. Keep following the trail up and around the fenced off area.  Eventually, the trail will end at the BST section by the Natural History Museum and you can follow the main path and road back to your car.

Making our way on the trail around the Red Butte Garden perimeter fence 
Catching the sunset over the Salt Lake city
Catching the sunset over the city 

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