Flood Canyon is a highly interesting place on the Western slope of the Oquirrh Mountains. Although it is close to Tooele, it is not easy to find and seldom visited, but it actually has a decent footpath for several miles in it.
To get to Flood Canyon, follow SR-36 to Bates Canyon Road and head east on Bates Canyon Road to its end at the cattle gate just beyond the railroad tracks. Open the gate and pass through ensuring that you close it behind you so that the rancher’s varmints don’t get out.
Then follow the dirt road south along the bench of the Oquirrh Mountains for a good three or four miles until you come to the boundary fence of the BLM’s Limited Use Area against the foot of the mountain. This limited use area is closed to vehicle traffic from roughly Nov. 1 through June 1 each year. There will be one other cattle gate before this point that you will have to pass through, but just use the same courtesy as before and close the gate behind you.
Park somewhere in the area of the BLM Boundary Gate and then head east on foot through the narrow entrance to the canyon. There are some large rock faces and formations at the mouth of the canyon and the old road dead ends a short distance from the canyon mouth at the base of a large cliff.
About 100 yards before the end of the road, a lesser traveled path heads northeast and winds its way up and around the cliff obstacle. Once you emerge on top of it, you have an excellent view of Tooele Valley and the interesting rock formations on the south ridge of Flood Canyon.
Let’s talk about those rock formations for a bit. They are tall spires of rock that jut skyward from the top of the ridge in succession like a stegosaurus’s back. These rocks are not especially visible from the valley, but once you are in the canyon, they are impressive. The trail continues up canyon along the base of its south ridge and then heads north and east in a big “S” that goes around a minor peak in the middle of the canyon.
From here the trail enters some dense Gambel Oak and continues east for a good ways. The trail in this canyon, while obviously seldom traveled, is in decent shape. Sections of it are well defined while other sections are faint. It is easily followed from the canyon mouth for a good mile or two and the grade is not steep so almost anyone can follow it.
This canyon, other than the profuse Gambel Oak in the bottom, is mostly barren when compared to Pole or Bates Canyons to the north. That being said, there are interesting colored lichens on the rocks, and the Gambel Oak forest is unique in that it is pure and thick, and does not seem to be mixed with any other kind of tree in the middle portion of the canyon. It almost looks like scrubby tufts of hair when viewed from the ridge above.
The problem with Flood Canyon, like other canyons on the west flank of the Oquirrh Mountains, is access. While the canyon is primarily BLM land, roads leading to it are in poor shape. Like Bates, Pole, Big and Pass Canyons, Flood is not signed. To reach the mouth of the canyon, you will need a 4X4 vehicle. The main attraction here is a nice trail that is close to town that offers interesting views of the tortured rock formations along the south ridge, and an opportunity for more primitive off trail exploration.
In my opinion, the best time of year for this area is early spring and late fall. It will get hot during summer months and access to the canyon mouth could be problematic during winter, although if you could get to it, snow shoeing would be an enjoyable option. If you do go, take plenty of water, sunscreen and bug spray.
Hopefully in the future, the BLM and Tooele County will work together to provide better access to these canyons along the west side of the range so that citizens of Tooele Valley will have another option when it comes to outdoor recreation.
It is true that the Stansbury Mountains provide all kinds of opportunities, but the Oquirrhs are a different kind of range, and if there were a few decent developed trails, the community would realize a great benefit.
In the meantime, if you can make it to the start point, go check out Flood Canyon as it truly is an interesting place.