“A gorgeous alpine tour with views of a waterfall, glacial lakes, high peaks, and rocky canyons.
— Tomsen Reed
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This is an amazing tour with almost everything that the Bear River Range has to offer. It starts in one of the most beautiful canyons in the range, passes most of the high peaks, two of the gorgeous alpine lakes, and in early summer can have amazing wildflowers to see almost all the way along the route. It has some fun terrain as well, along with a good amount of elevation gain and loss. It also offers great views of Cache Valley and the rest of the surrounding mountains.
So the trail never closes, but the gates to get to the trailheads do. Usually the gates are closed either by November 15th or December 1st, and they don't usually open until June 15th, to get all the way back to either trailhead. You can add some distance to the trek, however, by traveling up the roads by other means (bikes, running, etc.) to get to the trailheads though.
Need to Know
Bring a filter for water.
There are several springs along the route, and therefore you should be able to get water at several spots, but make sure to bring a filter and extra water in case the spring isn't running (especially later in the summer). However, Tony Grove Lake and High Creek Lake always have water, so those are two guaranteed water sources along the route.
To see a more detailed description of the South Fork High Creek Canyon
trail or any other section of this trail, see its own page.
From the South Fork High Creek Canyon
trailhead, the trail starts ascending slowly through a forest and mostly along a beautiful creek. Some highlights of this section are at mile 3.5 the trail emerges from the forest and comes out by a series of small beaver ponds that usually have lots of wildflowers around them. Pretty soon after this, there is also a tall cascade that comes out of the west side of the canyon that is visible from the trail. Cherry Peak's north face is also visible from this point, which is pretty spectacular. At about mile 4 (soon after the trail turns to the East below Cherry Peak) there is a beautiful waterfall close to the trail, and soon after this the trail emerges into a large glacial valley that is usually full of wildflowers in the summer. Eventually the trail reaches High Creek Lake, a gorgeous alpine lake with a rugged glacial cirque headwall as a backdrop.
From the lake, the trail ascends to the head of the canyon, where there are beautiful views of Cherry Peak, as well as Smithfield Canyon and a gorgeous meadow just below the trail. Cherry peak is a short distance from this point, and offers amazing views. From this trail junction, the trail ascends toward Mount Naomi
along a large switchback, and eventually reaches the ridge just below the peak. The views from the peak are impressive and it's worth a quick jaunt to the top, if desired. From here, the trail drops through some rocky terrain as it heads toward Tony Grove Lake. This is another good section for seeing beautiful wildflowers in the summer, and there are a lot especially down by the lake. The trail passes very close by the lake and the Tony Grove Lake parking lot, so expect to see a lot of traffic along this section at most times of the summer.
After passing Tony Grove Lake, the trail continues along and then crosses the road and passes the Backcountry parking lot and then ascends through a dense forest toward the head of Blind Hollow, and then the trail traverses around the head of this canyon, past Coldwater Spring and then eventually drops down to the ridge that divides Cottonwood Canyon from Blind Hollow. From here, the trail descends down into Cottonwood Canyon and makes its way around to avoid too much elevation loss, and passes by Cottonwood Spring just before the trail starts to ascend again.
The climb from Cottonwood Canyon can feel pretty steep, especially after already having traveled 15 miles, and it gains about 1500' but then hits the ridge and the climbing becomes much more steady, and is interspersed with downhill as the trail travels along the ridge. This is another highlight of the trail, as the trail travels just below Mount Elmer's northwest side, which is a tall set of cliffs that tower just above the trail. It is a really gorgeous part of the trail, with great views of Cache Valley and the surrounding canyons.
After passing Mount Elmer, the trail continues along the ridge and then descends down toward Green Canyon
. Mount Elmer can also easily be summited, as can Mount Jardine from this trail, and both are worthy, beautiful peaks. This section of the trail can be somewhat undefined in places, and hard to follow. However, the terrain is pretty barren for the most part, and so it's still easy traveling even without a trail, as long as you are traveling in the right direction. The trail more or less follows the ridge for a while, but then descends down toward the canyon and follows the intermittent stream's bed all the way down to the parking lot in Green Canyon
Along this trail, there is another spring that is piped down into a trough, just a couple of miles away from the trailhead that offers clean water. After this point, the trail goes back into the forest and eventually passes through a section of beautiful tall grasses as it heads toward the end of the trail.
Flora & Fauna
Just about any kind of wildflower found in the Bear River Range can be found along this trail, including bluebells, columbine, indian paintbrush, glacier lily, and a bunch of others that I don't know the names for. It is also possible to see lots of critters like moose, elk, deer, etc. but this isn't necessarily common along this trail.