Bear Canyon - the long way!

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Trip Report
Utah, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 30, 2005
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Created On: Jul 31, 2005
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Directions to the new trail head are great except that the trail head is named "Orson Smith," not Orson Hyde. The sign posts mileages and indicates Lone Peak summit at 6 miles. Unfortunately, there are absolutely no directions on this large sign indicating where any trail begins.

We ended up ambling around for nearly an hour before meeting a trio of hikers who graciously gave us directions along the Bonnevills Shoreline road to a signed intersection which says "Cherry Canyon logging trail." This was the way we took, never knowing at what point we actually dropped down into Bear Canyon.

Having started our hike at 7:10 a.m., we finally felt that we were on the correct route and making progress by 8:30. We would suggest to hikers that they look for a couple of concrete irrigation-related "boxes" a few hundred yards after making the sharp turn off of Corner Canyon road. When you see these begin looking for a faint trail to the right and directly up the slope. This should lead one to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and, we hope, to the intersection with the aforementioned Cherry Canyon sign.

Be ready for some steep switchbacks with plenty of sandy scree-like surface. We were so happy to find plenty of beautiful wild flowers: Indian Paint Brush, Forget-Me-Nots, Horse Tails, etc. And we crossed over several streams where we replenished our nearly empty water bottles. Note: filter all water! We really enjoyed the many portions of the trail which offered shade from a hot summer sun.

At noon, soon after passing through the south end of a stikingly beautiful meadow lush with green shrubs, sage brush and thousands of tiny yellow flowers and ringed by 30-foot slabs of gray granite, we reached the Outlaw Cabin. But we never actually found a continuation of the trail. Instead, after 10 minutes of futile searching we just took off straight up the hillside behind the cabin and eventually found what looked to be another trail. It turned out to be the correct one and lead us further to several ridge lines.

At a ridge where a huge pointed granite rock was immediately to our right we could see the final granite-marked ridge which was the west side of the cirque below Lone Peak. Instead of following a trail down into the drainage we eyeballed a straight line to a tree-covered small saddle of the ridge and just made a beeline for the saddle. That was a good choice and saved is time.

Sure enough, at the saddle we could look down into the cirque and to the east at the impressive headwall below the pencil point which was Lone Peak. From here we could elect to drop into the cirque and navigate over and around numerous sizeable patches of consolidated snow or edge to our left and stay as high as we could to eventually gain the ridge which would lead us to the top.

We chose the second option and had a great time boulder hopping and route finding below towering walls of granite. Here and there in the cirque and above there were small rivulets of clear water cascading down through the boulders and rocks. When we gained the ridge at the north end of the cirque we made one more error by electing to skirt around the north side rather than stay to the inside of the ridge leading east and curving around to Lone Peak. That cost us more time, but it did give us opportunity to improve our high altitude boulder hopping skills!

The last couple of hundred feet to the actual pinnacle could give some who are faint of heart the heebie jeebies, and this portion of the route requires diligent concentration and good balance. It is not dangerous, but there is some exposure which could make one very nervous. We reached the summit at 2:30, more than 7 hours after our disastrous beginning. The weather had cooperated and the only thunderstorms we could see were 30 miles across the valley and moving to the northeast.

On the summit there is a small bronze plaque dedicated to the memory of a newly married couple who died near the summit a few years ago when lightning struck them as they attempted to escape a rapidly approaching storm. After the obligatory pictures and enjoyable conversation with 5 other avid hikers we began our careful track down. It was 3:05 p.m.

Happy to have made the summit after beginning with such frustration, we hurried yet relaxed on our descent, taking approprate breaks and filling our bottles both in the cirque and at the same stream we had used on our way up. Being tired we, of course, thought that the last two miles of sandy, dusty and steep switchbacks would never end, but finally we spotted the parking lot and could think of nothing but taking off our boots. We reached the Orson Smith trail head just before 8 o'clock, thus bringing to an end 13 hours' worth of mostly satisfying adventure and time in the great outdoors of the Wasatch Mountains.

We believe that anyone planning this hike should definitely plan for the entire day. Yes, the hike can be made in far less time than it took us, but it would require few stops and an exact knowledge of the trails and routes to take. Give yourself a cushion of time for wrong turns, rest breaks and time at the summit to enjoy the fabulous views.


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