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Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Dry Fork Travertine Pools

Another little hike we recently took was to the Dry Fork Travertine Pools.  They're a unique and amazing little spot that most people have no idea even exists.  I hesitate to put this up, but since it requires a bit of a hike to get there, here goes.  I guess I'm putting this up as well because I'm creating a blog of cool, unusual, and interesting places to visit and this definitely makes the cut.  Even more so, I'm trying to create the type of blog that I would want to stumble across.

A few weeks ago we started out at the Limekiln Gulch trailhead.  It's in the Avenues of Salt Lake, quite near the Block U on the mountain.  It's called Limekiln Gulch because of the old limekiln in it.  Basically, the early pioneers would take limestone and wood and stack them into the limekiln, then set the wood on fire.  After it burned down, it left behind lime, a key ingredient in cement.  The lime was then used as mortar, whitewash, and similar building applications.  It also had other applications such as reducing the acidity of soil and sanitizing buildings.  The limekiln has had grates and fences put up to keep people from climbing in and around it (added since I was here last), and is a unique place in and of itself.  We paused briefly, then continued on up the gulch. 
We stopped again at the top before following the Bonneville Shoreline Trail down the other side of the saddle.  At the bottom, we veered off the trail onto a smaller trail going up the Dry Fork.  We had a small problem at this point.  Because it's been a high water year, what normally is a "trail" was instead a "trail at the bottom of a small stream".  Some in the group had a problem with this.  We continued hiking. Some got their feet wet, while others like me attempted to stay on the banks. 
The trail essentially follows the bottom of the gulch for about a mile.  The gulch gets wider and narrows back down several times as you head up-canyon.  Sometimes we were in the stream, and other times walking on the bank alongside it.  One major landmark is a huge rock in the middle of the gulch.  The rock is probably 6-8 feet tall, and a dozen feet across.  You literally can't miss it.  A stone's throw down the canyon is what used to be an old wheelbarrow.  We joked that it's just a "barrow" now because it doesn't have a wheel.  How it got up here is anyone's guess.
The rock is a good place to pause and stop for a rest.  Shortly after this point, the route splits into several different options.  One way is to continue up the gulch, another is to head up a side gulch, and the third option is to go right between the two on a mixture of trail and deer-trail.  We took the deer trail as it climbed out of the canyon and across the open hillside. 
The deer trails braid across the face of the mountain.  I have no idea which one is the best one to take, but it's easy to get discouraged here if you don't know what the final destination is.  We  hiked onward and upward, knowing that a small paradise was waiting.  We chose the wrong deer trail, so had to do some off-trail scrambling to get there, but we finally made it. 
It's a beautiful and peaceful location.  The small moss-lined travertine pools completely take you by surprise as you come over the final lip.  It's also a deceptive location- there's a lot of poison ivy in the immediate area.  Of the whole hike, the only poison ivy we saw was in the area close to the pools and spring.  It's avoidable if you watch for it, but you've gotta be careful.
We enjoyed the peaceful setting.  It's an amazing secret spot. 

The travertine in the area is pretty cool.  It's rock formed from spring deposits.  Some of the rock has small tubes and passages throughout it formed from the stone accumulating on roots of plants.  The roots then die, leaving the holes. 
On the way down, I couldn't believe how green the mountainside still was.  Normally at the end of June the hills are brown and crispy.  The hike back went a lot more quickly than the hike up did.  I'm not going to come right out and give this one to you, but I've sprinkled enough information throughout the post that you can find it if you really want to.

Nearest City: Salt Lake City, UT
Location: N° W°
Time Needed: About 4 hours
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Kid Friendly: Probably not- steep hillsides and some poison ivy
Additional Info:


  1. Hi! This looks like a beautiful hike! Would you have any idea how many miles it is, and/or the elevation gain?

  2. You have two options for a starting spot. One is on Tomahawk Drive, the other is a Popperton Park. Leaving from Popperton Park, the trail is better defined, but you gain more elevation and the hike is longer. Tomahawk Drive is shorter, but you gain elevation, then loose some before gaining it back. You also can see the old limekiln in Limekin Gulch. The info following is from the Tomahawk Drive location.
    Trailhead elevation ~5150 ft.
    Pool elevation ~6400 ft.
    Elevation gain = ~1250 ft.

    You will have 4 distinct segments to the trail.
    Limekiln Gulch. This segment is about 1/2 mile. It's from the parking area, past the old limekiln, and up to where it meets with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail at the saddle. This trail starts out in good condition, but degrades to moderate condition as it climbs the saddle.
    Bonneville Shoreline Trail. This segment is about 1/3 mile, and is all downhill slightly. It's a popular trail for bikers, so it's not to steep and it's in great shape. This segment is from the saddle to the sharp turn where the trail turns south.
    The Creek Section. This is up the bottom of Dry Fork Canyon. Expect to be wading in water. The trail is not used very much, so is in varying degrees of being a trail and being a walk in a small creek. This goes for about 3/4 mile from the BST to where the canyon takes a turn to the north. You will know it because it's a few hundred yards past a huge boulder in the bottom of the canyon
    The Deer Trails is the final segment. It's going to be about 1/3 mile as well, but it's hard to give an exact distance because there is no defined trail and you're following deer trails up to the pool locations. This is the steepest part of the hike. Leave the creek as the canyon splits and the creek is in the north fork. Look around and you'll find a trail through, but it's deer trails after this point. I would recommend staying north rather than south or east. Get your elevation out of the way, then find and follow the faint trail along the contour to the pools. This will also help you avoid the poison ivy that is abundant around the pools.

    Total distance is 2 miles one way, 4 miles round trip.