Utah

The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge – My Favorite Local Hike

I’m lucky enough to live at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in the southeast Salt Lake Valley. Beautiful hiking trails with amazing views zig zag through this whole area. Our favorite hike here follows the Bonneville Shoreline Trail from Hidden Valley Park to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge. This 3 mile round trip hike is part of our regular exercise routine. We generally hike it twice weekly. The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge is a popular hiking destination, and we are regularly stopped by other hikers asking for directions – therefore an obvious blog topic. Plus it’s a beautiful hike offering great views of the Wasatch Mountains and the Salt Lake Valley, in addition to the impressive Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge at the end.

Starting Points

You can reach the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge from two different starting points.

Hidden Valley Park in Sandy

This is where we start our biweekly hike to the bridge, and is the route featured in this post. Hidden Valley Park is located just off Wasatch Drive in southeast Sandy. Like it’s name, it’s somewhat hidden. Keep an eye open for the white-steepled LDS church and the small sign along the road. The church and the Park share the same entrance. Turn right for the Park. From Hidden Valley Park, it’s a 3 mile round trip hike southward along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to the bridge. While hiking this route, you’ll cross over from Sandy into neighboring Draper.

The entrance to Hidden Valley Park in Sandy Utah

Orson Smith Trailhead Park in Draper

Orson Smith Trailhead Park is located off Highland Drive in northeast Draper. The Orson Smith Trail climbs up a series of switchbacks to ultimately join the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. From there, you then hike northward to the bridge. This is a shorter route at 2.4 miles round trip, but it’s a steeper hike.

The entrance to the Orson Smith Trail Head Park in Draper Utah

Finding the Bonneville Shoreline Trail

The tricky part to reaching the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge from Hidden Valley Park is finding the right trail. As I mentioned earlier, lots of trails zig zag through this area, and an asphalt track circles the Park. No signage specifically mentions the Bridge. This is where we regularly come across confused bridge-seeking hikers.

So, first walk east up the hill along the asphalt track from the parking lot. It will quickly turn south. After a few hundred feet, you’ll come to a sign indicating a dirt track up to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Take this!

The start of the trail to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge from Hidden Valley Park

This trail ultimately connects to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Along the way, you’ll enjoy some great views into a nearby canyon while Lone Peak mountain towers above.

The trail to the Bear Canyon Suspension bridge looking up to Lone Peak

Next, you’ll come to a larger dirt road. Notice the fence. This canyon is closed to hikers. It’s part of the local watershed and is closed off to prevent contamination of the area’s drinking water. As you hike towards the fence, look for wooden steps on the right, leading down into a small ravine. This is the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. You’ll also pass the trail’s northward track on your left.

A gate blocks the entrance to one of the canyons along the route to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge

Walk down the steps, and you’ll come to a wooden bridge. This is not the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge 🙂 But you are now on the right path…..

Wooden Bridge over Little Willow Creek along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Skirting the Mountain’s Edge

From here, the trail skirts along the mountain’s edge offering great views out across the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Mountain range. It undulates up and down, but is never significantly strenouous. We regularly see hikers of all ages, and large family groups. My only complaint is that the trail is often rocky, necessitating a close watch of your step, rather than a constant appreciation of the great views. Also note that this route is very popular with mountain bikers too, so you’ll be sharing the trail.

A view out across the Salt Lake Valley from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail while hiking to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge

A landmark along the way is Mile Rock. This is my own personal landmark. The name is not official – but maybe it will be now. The large rock pictured below sits along the trail exactly one mile from the parking lot. I always touch it for good luck.

Mile Rock marking the 1 mile mark between Hidden Valley Park and the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge

Another landmark along the way is the Rock Tunnel. Several huge granite boulders stack on top of each other here to create a narrow tunnel. Once you pass through the tunnel, it’s only another quarter mile to the bridge.

The entrance to the rock tunnel along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Draper Utah
Walking through the rock tunnel along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Draper Utah

The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge

The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge crossing Bear Canyon in Draper Utah

The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge connects the Bonneville Shoreline Trail across Bear Canyon in the foothills of Draper Utah. It’s alternatively known as the Draper Suspension Bridge and is 185 feet in length. Bear Creek runs through the canyon below and can be seen from the bridge. The bridge does sway some when walking across, and even more so when sharing the bridge with joggers or bikers. We often come across hikers nervous to cross the bridge. I’m personally quite frightened of heights as regular readers know, but have never had any anxiety on this bridge. In fact, I always make it a point to stop in the middle and look at the water rushing down below.

The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge connecting the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Draper Utah

The Bear Canyon Loop

You can extend your hike in this area by taking the Bear Canyon Loop. This adds 0.35 miles onto your hike and takes you partway into Bear Canyon for alternative views of the bridge and past a small waterfall. The Bear Canyon Loop can be accessed on either side of the bridge and is well-marked. We generally start from the north side.

The beginning of the Bear Canyon Loop -

It’s a steep climb at the beginning, but the reward is a great view down to the bridge and out across Draper in the southern Salt Lake Valley. And in the spring and early summer you can spot a large waterfall high up in the canyon.

The steep initial ascent from the north side of the Bear Canyon Loop Trail in Draper Utah
Looking down from the Bear Canyon Loop Trail to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge and out across Draper Utah

The trail then drops down into the canyon with more views of the bridge from behind.

A view of the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge from the Bear Canyon Loop Trail

Ultimately, you will come to the floor of the canyon where a small wooden bridge crosses Bear Creek. Be sure to stop on the bridge to admire the small waterfall.

The wooden bridge over Bear Creek along the Bear Canyon Loop in Draper Utah
A waterfall as seen from the Bear Creek Bridge in Bear Canyon near Draper Utah

Final Thoughts and Tips

  1. This is a popular trail and it can be crowded at times. It’s also a narrow trail, so when crowded, expect to stop often to let hikers and bikers pass. We try and go early in the morning to avoid the crowds. The parking lot does easily fill on the weekends, but there is plenty of overflow parking at the church.
  2. I notice more families coming from the south approach. While shorter, it’s a steeper more strenuous hike, and I don’t think the scenery along the way is nearly as interesting.
  3. (At the same time, I’m hesitant to say that, because I prefer hiking without lots of people….)
  4. It’s not uncommon to spot wildlife along the way. We often see deer, rabbits, and birds of prey. I saw a coyote once early in the morning. Mountain lions have also been spotted, and if so, signs are posted urging awareness and caution.
  5. Dogs are allowed for most of this hike. But note, they are not allowed on the accessory trail from Hidden Valley Park to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. This is considered part of the watershed. Instead you must take your dog up the dirt access road to the canyon gate. This road starts at the south end of the park about 1/3 mile from the parking lot.
  6. If you are hungry after your hike, I strongly recommend Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen in Draper or Localz Bistro in Sandy.
  7. You’re always welcome to read about some of my favorite hikes in Southern Utah – The Petrified Dunes Trail in Snow Canyon, the Cassidy Arch Trail in Capitol Reef National Park, the Rim Trail at Dead Horse Point, and Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon near Kanab.
The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge in the Fall
My personal favorite photo of the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge

10 Comments

  • Sasha

    Thanks for posting this illuminating piece on the local beauty right here in SLC- how fortunate we are to be surrounded by all this!

    • thethoroughtripper

      Yep, I think that every time I am walking back along the trail and looking along all those mountain peaks!

  • Linda Kouwenhoven

    What a spectacular view of the canyon and area beyond…I can see why it would be a popular hike. Lovely photo with the colourful leaves…for some reason I didn’t expect to see a photo like that from Utah 🤷‍♀️😉

  • Stefan (Berkeley Square Barbarian)

    You are a thorough tripper. I love that line ” This is not the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge…” – better be safe than sorry haha…

    Despite the relatively short length you get the full hiking experience by the look of it, squeezing through between giant rocks, steep ascents, and those views.

    I can see why your favourite pic is your favourite. Autumn always makes for great photography. Can’t believe the leaves will start to fall a month from now here in the UK…. I still think they should delete 2020 and 2021 altogether and just move 2022 and 2023 a bit forward (or backward? this is the whole fortnight bimonthly discussion all over again lol) to the present time.

    • thethoroughtripper

      So how about this for confusing. It turns out that biweekly can mean either twice a week or every two weeks. This hike is too good to hike fortnightly. It’s definitely best for hiking the other biweekly way. And no one who looks at these comments is going to have any idea why you and I are even talking about this 🙂 But I’ll share the post on TBT eventually and I hope that Lannie sees this….

  • smalltownplussize Tom

    I can totally understand why you like this hike. Great views and a nice trail make me want to take this too. Besides, it has a cool bridge on it. I think if I lived there I would hike it often, maybe fortnightly isn’t enough so maybe each biweekly would nice. Which biweekly just depends on the weather. Either way, this is an excellent place to get out.

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