Little Rock to Rock Canyon Loop


I've had a goal to get at least one bag night per month.  May was going to be tricky because my wife, Jessica, was expecting.  I had planned a short local trip at the beginning of the month that fell through because we thought she was going into labor the night that trip was to take place.  I had also penciled in a quick trip even closer to home for Memorial Day weekend, a loop up Little Rock Canyon, up to Buffalo Peak, and down Rock Canyon.  Despite having a week old baby, Jess was gracious enough to let me go.  

- Day 1 -
Sunday - May 24, 2015

So as to spend as little time away from the family as possible, I stuck around Sunday until after dinner.  I then made the 5 minute drive up to Rock Canyon Trailhead where I would start my route.  It was 7:30 pm when I hit the trail.  I had over 6 miles to go and over 2000 feet to gain before I would arrive at my desired campsite.  Needless to say, there would be some night hiking.

My route would keep me low at first, taking me along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.  Along the way, it intersects the remnants of an old tennis & basketball court.  

Shortly after the court, the trail reaches a dead end at a barbed wire gate signaling that you've reached private property.  I was pretty much forced down into the neighborhood below where I had to travel on pavement for a few blocks before arriving at the mouth of Little Rock Canyon.  The hike up the canyon is a mixture of trail and scrambling up the stream bed.  With all the rain we'd received every day over the last couple of weeks, it wasn't long before the dry stream bed became a steady flow of water.  There were a few spots that required the use of my hands to get up and over.  I had a goal just to make it up and out of the canyon before all daylight was gone.

About half way up canyon lies a little coniferous forest.  There appears to be a little spring running out of pipe near the trail helping to feed the stream bed.  There are also a handful of campsites and old bushcraft shelter structures.  I did not think to take many pictures because I was focused on finding the trail up and out of the north side before darkness settled in.

It is possible to go straight up the stream bed of Little Rock Canyon all the way up where my destination for the night lied, but that would have meant a stretch of good bush whacking through some scrub oak and 50+ degree slopes at the end which, given the wetness of the terrain, was not something I wanted to attempt all by myself.  I opted to take the trail leading north out of the grove of conifers.  Shortly after crossing the stream bed and exiting the canyon, I was given another brief glimpse of the valley.

My next goal was to make my way out and up to Squaw Peak Overlook.  Along the way, I wanted to check out a labyrinth of rocks someone had set up.  Just before the spur trail that leads to the labyrinth, I was startled to look up and see two dogs charging at me and barking nervously, but no people behind them.  I instantly froze while I tried to piece together the situation.  

Both dogs were big, one looked like it could be rather vicious yet the other was a gentle looking husky.  The vicious looking one stopped short of me by about 50 feet while the husky moved on toward me and circled around me.  At this point I began to prepare myself to use my trekking poles as a defense, thinking the two dogs were going into pack attack mode.  I did not know whether to think they were strays or just dogs roaming around from the neighborhood.  I couldn't accept the thought of the husky being a stray and my mind was put to rest a bit more as it got closer and I could see that it did indeed have collar and harness.  

At this point I began talking to them and gesturing that I was friendly and called them over to see how they would respond.  The vicious looking one then came right at me and threw his paws up on my chest in big puppy fashion.  And that he was, a big pup now wanting to play a bit while the older looking husky just sat idly by.  After a couple moments of messing around with the puppy, I started back up the trail wondering if they'd be following me and for how long.  As I made my way up the trail to the labyrinth, I looked up to see the figure of a person standing there.  As I got closer, the man called his dogs over and secured them on leashes for moment while he asked if I had anyone else or any dogs with me.  When I told him I was alone, he let the dogs go again and informed me that his pup wasn't that nice with with other dogs yet.  He and a partner were up camping at the labyrinth for the night but welcomed me to check it out.

After the labyrinth, it was time to continue on toward Squaw Peak Overlook.  By now the darkness of night was settling in fast and it was time to break out the headlamp.  After a couple more miles, I was finally at Squaw Peak Overlook where I took a good break and took in the view of the night landscape and valley below.

After the rest, I had a little over a mile more to get over to Little Rock Overlook where I planned to camp for the night.  With it being a holiday the next day, I knew there'd be others there and I could only hope that those who would be there already would be friendly and social.  It was about 11 pm when I finally arrived at the spot and as it turned out, there was a group of BYU students, a few being on the cross country team, that had set up for the night and were very welcoming in allowing me to set up not far from them.  They also introduced me to some rectangular shaped marshmallows I'd never seen before.  After a little bit of chit chat around their campfire it was time to retire for the night.

Valley View from Little Rock Overlook

- Day 2 -
Monday - May 25, 2015

The night proved to be a great test for my hammock system's ability to shed rain and keep me dry.  Shower after shower passed over through the night and throughout much of the morning with a few of the showers being quite strong.  While dry weather usually makes everything more convenient, there's something to be said for how relaxing it can be to lay under a tarp or inside a tent and listen to the rain drops tap on the fabric barrier over head.  The tarp held up well and had no problems with leakage.  I stayed dry and warm.

I had hoped the rain would have cleared out by dawn so that I could pack out early and get up to Buffalo Peak before heading on back for home.  However, the rain continued through the first few hours of daylight until about 9:30 when it began to break for the remainder of the morning and most of the day.  I had breakfast while taking in the fantastic view Little Rock Overlook provides.

After breakfast and packing up, I was off toward Buffalo Peak, not more than a mile up trail from the campsite.  By now the trails were buzzing with all kinds of groups of people: runners, mountain bikers, high school hikers, college hikers, families of hikers, etc.   For all the rain that had just passed over and how wet, slick, and muddy the trails were I was surprised to see how many were still out and spending their holiday on the trail.

After struggling with some real slick and muddy stretches myself, I found myself atop Buffalo Peak taking in the views it afforded.

After Buffalo Peak, I made my way down into Rock Canyon and worked my way back down toward the trailhead.

On the way out of Rock Canyon, I took a little side trip up to a small little cave I've spied several times going into Rock Canyon before but never took the time to climb up to.  It became apparent that it was a very popular spot for others, given the variety of artwork and graffiti all over it.  After that, I was back at my car.

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