Nature on your doorstep

I used to hear all the time when we lived in Boise that people had moved there because it was so close to nature. Since moving to the Salt Lake City area, though, I’ve decided if Boise is close to nature, then nature here is practically on your doorstep. We found out how true that is over the weekend when we went hiking as a family.

We last went hiking on Memorial Day, and thought we would try some of the closer trails we’d seen on a Parks and Recreation map. The trouble is everyone else had the same idea. It would have been a mile or two hike from where we would have had to park to the trail head. We ultimately ended up driving up the canyon to another, slightly less busy trail.

But this time we thought we’d try that first trail again. Even though the parking lot was full, traffic overflowed only a tenth of a mile down the street this time. We parked and began our hike. The trail is called Bell Canyon Trail, and if you didn’t know what you were looking for you’d miss it. It starts just off a main road, in the middle of a upper-class subdivision.

After heading up through the subdivision on the walking trail for a short distance you reach the main trail. All the nicely manicured lawns disappear, and you’re quickly in the wild. It’s not a gentle trail, either. It heads right up the side of the foothills, and if there weren’t logs placed across the trail to help minimize erosion it would be a steep, slippery trail. Instead you climb a lot of “stairs”. It’s not for the short-legged. Our seven-year-old struggled in spots.

But after cresting the ridge, the trail drops back down again briefly to cross over Dry Creek before it heads back up the other side. Eventually the trail flattens out somewhat, and soon you reach Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir. It’s a man-made lake that is part of the city water supply, but it’s a beautiful little spot. The water is glassy smooth, and surrounded by trees. There are trout for catch-n-release fishing, and a fair number of ducks (and ducklings).

We stopped on the lakeshore long enough to eat our snack, and we finally figured out where the people who had come in all those cars had gone. It seems everyone stops by the lake sooner or later. We don’t much care for crowds, so we hurried on as soon as we finished our snack.

This beautiful butterfly was at least as wide across as my hand. It’s body was as long and thick as one of my fingers. I’ve never seen a live butterfly so large–and it just sat there and posed!

It turns out the Bell Creek Trail doesn’t end there. Besides one trail that loops off to the north and comes down into another subdivision and another that works its way around the lake, the main trail breaks off from the others on the other side of the lake and heads up the canyon for at least five or six times the distance we’d hiked to the lake. Even had we known this we wouldn’t have attempted it. We’re not tough enough yet.

Instead we took the north branch for a way, then turned around to head back. It was good timing, as not long after that our youngest declared he was getting tired. By the time we got back down to the trail head we were all tired. Coming down is at least as hard as coming up, and my legs are still telling me off for that one.

It’s a very nice trail, though. And it’s only a ten minute drive from our house. You’d be looking at 30-45 minutes to reach a trail like that even in my hometown in Idaho growing up. So of course we’ll be back. We’ve set a goal that someday we’ll all be tough enough to go all the way to the top. It may take awhile, though. The majority of us don’t quite have long enough legs yet.

The entire trip took us just under two hours from when we left the house to when we returned. Bell Canyon Trail packs a lot of adventure into a two-hour family outing.