In Tooele Valley, we are blessed to have mountains and undeveloped bench lands near every community that are a nice place to recreate and shed the everyday burdens of life.
We often take these places for granted thinking they will always be there. In the case of the timeless mountains that is true, but the bench lands may be developed in our lifetimes, so now is a good time to enjoy them.
One of my favorite areas for exploring, or just getting away for a few minutes, is the bench area just east of state Route 36, and the railroad tracks above Stansbury Park, from roughly Droubay Road to the bench of the Oquirrh Mountains. There are fine views of the entire valley, the Great Salt Lake, the Stansbury Range to the west and the Oquirrh Mountains.
Unfortunately, the ease of access to this area also draws an element of society that is too lazy to take their trash and yard waste to the dump, so when no one is looking, they dump it in a heap behind a small hill, in a wash or depression for the unsuspecting person to stumble upon. It’s disgusting really. The good thing is that most of those areas are concentrated and once you are on Droubay road, you don’t see it as much.
There are several ways to get to this area. The easiest is to follow SR-36 to Bates Canyon Road and then head east for about a mile to the junction with Droubay Road. Turn left and north at this junction and you will drive up the hill to the railroad crossing. Once you are across the tracks the road turns to gravel and you top out on a bench that provides great views of the valley.
Stay away from the railroad tracks as they are private property and dangerous. Along the main dirt road and several side roads that spur off through gates, you can do any number of things, such as walking, running, mountain biking, 4×4/4WD (keeping on the established roads) etc. Just make sure that whenever you go through a cattle gate, be respectful and close it behind you so no livestock gets out. Similarly, if gates are locked and areas are fenced, stay out because it is private property. There is plenty of Bureau of Land Management ground up there, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
By parking somewhere that makes sense along this road, you can make longer treks into the Oquirrh Mountains by walking the bench to the canyon mouths or exploring the foothills that are full of interesting places, such as Oak Brush forests, limestone cliffs and old two-track roads to nowhere. The Lake Bonneville terraces are prominent in this area, and are another place that you could make a destination for a short hike or biking adventure not too far from home.
Once you reach the foot of the mountains, you will encounter a BLM study area boundary. Vehicular travel is prohibited beyond this point but there are great trails into several of the canyons — Big, Pole and Bates in particular, which are enjoyable for a hike or horseback ride.
In the vicinity of Big Canyon, you can see the remains of the old tram that used to take personnel all the way up to the top of 9,020 foot-high Farnsworth (Coon) Peak to TV facilities there. Again, this is private property but if you have your binoculars, the old towers are interesting to look at.
Several smaller canyons in between Big Canyon and Pole Canyon below Farnsworth Peak — Coyote Canyon in particular — are interesting in their own right with notable rock outcrops at their mouths with rock slides, conifers and aspen higher up.
There are animals in the canyons, like raptors riding the breeze, mule deer, coyote, badgers, skunks, jack rabbits etc., so your chances of seeing something in the hills are good, especially in and around the oak brush.
Do not go north of Big Canyon along the benches because that area north to the lake is Kennecott Utah Copper (Rio Tinto) property. This shouldn’t be an issue because it is clearly marked and fenced. Droubay Road eventually turns into Foothill Drive where it crosses the railroad tracks and drops down into Lake Point. A left turn on Canyon Road will bring you back to SR-36 in a few miles.
These bench lands are convenient to Stansbury Park, Erda and Lake Point. They are a great place to get outside and walk the dog, enjoy the view of the lake at sunset, or admire the stars after dark or before sunrise. They won’t be around forever because Salt Lake City continues to grow and Tooele Valley will likely grow as well. So get out there, take a breath of fresh air, take in the view, and enjoy it.