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Monday, July 18, 2011

Little Emigration Canyon

I was reading a book earlier in the month on the best hikes for kids in Utah.  Most of the book I just glossed over, but one hike really stuck out to me: Little Emigration Canyon. I'm not sure what did it, but there were several factors that I think played a role:  4 miles all downhill, a segment of 3 historic trails, it was someplace new, and it has some old fortifications built along it by the Mormons to stop Johnson's Army during the 'Mormon War."  I've wanted to go and see the fortifications built in Echo Canyon, but having been turned back on at least 2 occasions, these ones tied in close enough. 
I called up one of my friends and invited him along.  It would be fun to hike with him, but also we needed a shuttle.  We drove to the top of Big Mountain, dropped off half the group, then drove down to Mormon Flat to drop off my car.  I hopped into his car, and we drove back to the top of Big Mountain to start the hike.  There's a big parking area at the top.  Some nights it's used for stargazing, but most days lots of bikers use it to start their rides from.  It also is the trailhead for the Little Emigration Canyon hike, and part of the Great Western Trail.
The hike starts down the hill and is really quite enjoyable.  Several small streamlets combine and pretty soon you're walking alongside a stream.  The trail follows the stream and crosses it occasionally.  It was pleasantly cool when compared to the heat down in the Salt Lake Valley. 
Most of the time we had the trail to ourselves.  We saw a few hikers, and a few mountainbikers, but most of the time we didn't see anybody.  About a mile before the end we came upon several beaver ponds. 
Near the bottom of the canyon we saw the site of an old pioneer camp.  I definitely was left wondering what it had to have looked like in the mid-1800's when 70,000 Mormon Pioneers trudged through here and when Pony Express Riders blazed through on sweaty horses.  I think it was hot and dusty instead of green and verdant when we hiked through. 
At the end of the hike, we detoured up the hill to the north of the trail to look at the fortifications and breastworks.  The trail doesn't go by them, so we picked our way through the sagebrush to the crest of the hill.  There was a low stone wall that went along the top of the hill.  I walked along it, wondering how long it took to build and how many men could take shelter behind it.  Fortunately, the anticipated battle never came.  Across the canyon is another similar wall, mostly forgotten and slowly decaying with the years.
We walked down the hill and gladly made it to the car.  It was a great little hike.  From the parking area at Mormon Flat, we looked back across East Canyon Creek at the fortifications.  They're there if you want a short and easy hike. 
Nearest City: Salt Lake City, UT
Location: Big Mountain Summit to Mormon Flat
Time Needed: Half a day
Difficulty: Moderate
Kid Friendly: Yes
Additional Info:  This hike is best done having an arranged shuttle. The trail is about 4.3 miles long with about 1000 feet of elevation change.  I think it's best done from the top, but I'm sure others believe that historic trails are more authentic when done in the original direction of travel. 

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