“Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”
One of my favorite places during winter is Coyote Canyon in the northern Oquirrh Mountains. The name fits. On hikes there at sunset, I’ve heard howls, cackles and yips from coyotes, giving the place a hollow, lonely sound.
Coyote Canyon is located on the west side of the Oquirrh Mountains in the North Oquirrh Mountain Limited Use Area (NOMLUA) and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is bordered by Big Canyon on the north and Pole Canyon on the south. There are several options to gain access to Coyote Canyon, but they require a good walk since motorized vehicles are not allowed in the canyon.
The first access point is reached by following Bates Canyon Road east to Droubay Road. Take a left and head north on Droubay Road. The road will cross railroad tracks and change from a paved to gravel surface. Continue following this road over a rise past a communications tower on the left.
The road will then head due east and hit a fence line, where it makes a 90-degree turn to the north and heads for the town of Lake Point. Beyond this turn, there is a gated road on the right. This road gains access to the North Oquirrh Mountains in the vicinity of Coyote Canyon.
Be courteous and close the gate behind you so that livestock will not wander where they are not supposed to go. Follow the road east across the flat with 9,200-foot-high Farnsworth Peak, its cliff bands and bristling communications towers looming large.
In winter only 4X4 vehicles can deal with the snow and conditions there. You will next reach a wooden rail fence that marks NOMLUA’s boundary. At this point you have to turn left or right. During winter, this may be as far as you can go without getting your vehicle stuck.
If conditions are good, turn right and head south along the road as it skirts a steep little hill and then bends to the east where it comes to another 90-degree bend in the road and heads south. In the crook of this bend is a good area to park your vehicle.
This is the main access point for hiking directly into the Coyote Canyon area. Cross the wooden rail fence and descend down through a draw lined with gambel oak thickets. In the winter there will be knee-deep snow here most years, so dress appropriately and consider using snowshoes.
You will know you are in the right place because there is an impressive limestone reef immediately east of this point that makes for interesting side explorations. Once you cross the draw, make your way through or around the dense gambel oak thicket and climb steeply up the edge of a sub peak to an elevation 5,620 feet, which overlooks some small cliffs.
The climb to this small knob is a knee weakener as you quickly gain 500 feet of elevation. The payoff is stunning views of the Great Salt Lake and Lake Point over 1,300 feet below.
My family and I have often made the knob a destination with a picnic and the dogs. It is enjoyable to sit up there, eat a sandwich, and contemplate the geologic eons or a sunset’s colors.
To reach Coyote Canyon from the knob, head due east up another steep, but more reasonable finger to the top of a north/south running ridge that obscures Coyote Canyon from view in Tooele Valley. Once on top of this ridge, you will be looking down into the canyon.
Coyote Canyon is different than Big Canyon or Pole Canyon, which both trend west to east. Coyote Canyon trends north to south and then hooks due east into the mountain. When viewed on the map it looks like a bent arm.
If you follow this access route to the canyon, you attain the ridge above the canyon in the vicinity of where the canyon veers east. The lower portion of the canyon is wide and choked with large thickets of gambel oak.
From there, take a moment to enjoy the scenery, as you have gained another 500 feet in elevation. From here you can head east and drop down into the canyon, or you can follow the ridgeline south up to a distinct sub peak with an elevation of 6,289 feet. When my black lab Duke and I climbed to this point last time, we spooked several mule deer out of scrubby, wind- bent oak brush just below the summit.
From this spot you can look directly east into the upper reaches of Coyote Canyon, where there are shelves of gray limestone cliffs, slides of broken scree rock and mixed aspen/ fir forest below the rim of the peak. I sometimes wonder if Ben Croslin wasn’t looking up this canyon instead of Big Canyon from the steps of the Benson Gristmill when he told his yarn in the mid-1800s about a ledge containing Brigham Young’s forbidden gold.
Coyote Canyon offers rugged outdoor adventure only minutes from many residents’ doorsteps in Tooele County. Hopefully, the BLM and Tooele County Trails representatives will someday work together to establish better access to these public lands.
For more information about public access and NOMLUA, contact the BLM Salt Lake District Office at 801-977-4300.
USGS Farnsworth Peak 1:24,000 quad
USGS Mills Junction 1:24,000 quad
Jessop grew up exploring the mountains and deserts of Utah and has traveled to all 50 states, U.S. Territories and a dozen foreign countries. He and his family live in Stansbury Park.