We’ve been talking about this run for at least three years. It was one of those runs I talked about doing all the time, but never actually planned it and then somehow find myself welted up from stinging nettle calling my husband for a rescue at the bottom of City Creek on a random Saturday in June.
This was supposed to be a reconnaissance run to see if we could find any semblance of a trail heading into City Creek off the Great Western Trail or we would have brought beer money. On trail maps of the Salt Lake City foothills, the City Creek Canyon trail tends to peter out a mile or two above Rotary Park, but on some older maps you can squeak out a faint dotted line that continues on from Rotary Park to Upper City Creek eventually connecting with the Great Western Trail.
The mouth of City Creek Canyon is just steps away from downtown Salt Lake City, and until the late 1800s, was the primary water supply for Salt Lake City. The headwaters are just 8 miles up canyon, and the creek continues to supply the Avenues neighborhood and much of downtown with water today. Due to rampant recreation use and pollution concerns, the canyon was completely closed to the public from 1952 to 1966 and public access was not allowed above the water treatment plant until 1975.
In the early 1900s, the water was forced underground along North Temple Street to the Fair Park where the water then entered the Jordan River and onto Great Salt Lake. Not to be relegated to the underworld forever, City Creek infamously turned State Street into a raging river during the Flood of 1983 and there’s a group working to unearth City Creek along the Folsom Corridor today.
Like many of the best adventures, I was in no way prepared for this run. Wheels, Watermelon, and I had (what I thought) simply planned an out and back run from Big Mountain Pass keeping an eye out for a trail leading into City Creek Canyon as preliminary research for a someday down the road adventure. Once we found a faint trail of sorts heading down into what appeared to be the top of City Creek Canyon, I quickly realized I had misunderstood the objectives of this run. Apparently, if we found the trail, we were going to take it and next thing I know I’m begrudgingly thrashing through scrub oak and getting needled to death by stinging nettle. I had only packed enough water and food for a 2-hour run and this was going to take all day. Plus I totally would have worn different shoes.
There was way more of a trail than I would have ever guessed considering we could find no information about such trail online and a hunting friend that spends a lot of time back there told us there was absolutely no trail. The trail was definitely overgrown and sometimes it was easier to just walk through the stream (to avoid the death nettle!), but there was in fact a trail from the Great Western Trail through Upper City Creek Canyon to Rotary Park. There was also plenty of bear scat, a rattling rattlesnake hiding in the weeds that we couldn’t actually see – eek, a Utah Rubber Boa sighting, a view of the Louis Meadow SNOTEL station, and a random rusted barrel that I’m hoping was from the clandestine City Creek distillery in operation during prohibition.
The run’s main objective was to see if we could get to the Beer Bar in downtown Salt Lake from Big Mountain via the Great Western Trail and bottom of City Creek Canyon (route GPS). If this was indeed our plan, why hadn’t we brought cash or arranged a shuttle because now we will need to do this whole thing again! But next time with pants and long sleeves since it took days to stop itching and I’m still waiting for the four-inch scar on my thigh to fade from getting impaled with a branch and summersaulting into a nettle bush.