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 Utah Travel Center ActivitiesHikingWellsville Ridge

Coldwater Canyon Trail,
below Wellsville Ridge
Distance: 7.5 miles (plus 6.5 miles by car or bicycle)

Walking time:
5 3/4 hours

Elevations: 2,960 ft. gain, 2,520 ft. loss
Deep Canyon Trailhead (start): 5,420 ft.
Stewart Pass: 8,380 ft.
Wellsville Cone: 9,356 ft.
Coldwater Canyon Trailhead: 5,860 ft.

Trail: Good trail all the way

Season: Summer through mid-fall. Parts of the trail are usually covered with snow from November until mid-June. Also, the road to Coldwater Canyon Trailhead is unmaintained and inaccessible in wet weather. For current conditions call the Logan Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, at (801) 755-3620, or the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in Salt Lake City at (801) 538-4700.

Vicinity: Wellsville Mountains Wilderness, near Logan

     The Wellsville Ridge is very well known among Utah’s bird watchers. It is probably the best place in the state to see such birds of prey as the Cooper’s hawk and the red tailed hawk. These raptors are especially prevalent on windy days during the fall migration, when they can be seen riding the updrafts along the western side of the ridge. There are also a number of fine views from the top of the narrow summit ridge. The fertile Cache Valley lies below the mountains on the east side, with its settlements of Logan, Mendon, and Wellsville. On the west side the meandering Bear River makes an interesting picture, as it winds its way lazily toward the Great Salt Lake.
     The people who live below the Wellsville Mountains should be remembered for their valiant efforts in the early 1940s to save their beloved mountains. At that time the grass-covered ridges were suffering from decades of overgrazing, and much of the vegetation in the lower canyons had been burned out. In 1941 a few concerned citizens in Cache County formed the Wellsville Area Project Corporation, and soon, even as the United States was becoming embroiled in World War II, private contributions to save the mountain began to accumulate. The money was used to purchase land, which was then deeded over to the Forest Service for protection. The Wellsville project was a huge success, and in 1984 a final tribute to its participants was paid by the U.S. Congress with the creation of the Wellsville Mountains Wilderness Area. These 23,850 acres of wilderness stand today as a monument to a group of people who, fifty years ago, cared about their environment and their children's heritage.

     From the trailhead the trail climbs steadily up Deep Canyon for a distance of 3.2 miles, finally reaching a small saddle on the summit ridge after an elevation gain of 2,700 feet. The trail splits at the saddle, with the southern branch going to Stewart Pass and the northern branch proceeding along the ridge to the top of a small unnamed peak 0.7 mile away. This peak is supposed to be an especially fine place to watch the hawks, but in fact if the conditions are right they can be seen almost everywhere along the ridge. The best time to see the hawks is during the fall migration on days when there is enough wind to create good updrafts on the western side of the mountain.
     The Wellsville Ridge is surprisingly devoid of vegetation. Perhaps the dry winds that blow across the mountain from the Great Basin desert leave the rocky soil too dry for the forest to flourish. Whatever the reason, the absence of trees along the ridge makes for some marvelous views of the valleys below.
     From the saddle above Deep Canyon the main trail proceeds southward for 1.7 miles to Stewart Pass. Along the way the route traverses around the west side of Scout Peak (8,687 ft.), another good place for hawk watching. There are no signs to let you know when you arrive at Stewart Pass, but there is a stone monument marking the place. This is where the ridge trail intersects the Coldwater Canyon Trail, and where you must start your descent back to your shuttle car. Stewart Pass is the lowest point on the Wellsville Ridge between Scout Peak and the Wellsville Cone.
     The hike down through Coldwater Canyon is much like the hike through Deep Canyon, except the trail is slightly steeper. You will loose 2,500 feet in 2.6 miles. About 0.6 mile before you reach the trailhead you will pass by Coldwater Lake, a small pond about 100 feet long.

Wellsville Cone
     If time permits, you really should make a side trip to the top of the Wellsville Cone before starting down the Coldwater Canyon Trail from Stewart Pass. The Wellsville Cone is 1.6 miles from Stewart Pass, over an excellent trail, with an elevation gain of 980 feet. The side trip to Wellsville Cone and back will add about 2.5 hours onto your total hiking time.
     Wellsville Cone, which can be clearly seen from the top of Stewart Pass, looks like an old volcanic cinder cone with its northern side eroded away. The mountain is made of sedimentary limestone, however, so the cone could not have been formed by a volcano. The Cone has two summits with the eastern peak being the higher one. The ridge trail passes between the two peaks. You will probably see another faint trail coming up through the bowl below Wellsville Cone on the west side of the mountain. This trail originates at the bottom of West Coldwater Canyon, but it is little used now and hard to follow.
     For still more ambitious hikers it is only another 0.9 miles from the Wellsville Cone along the last part of the ridge to Box Elder Peak (9,372 ft.). Box Elder is the highest point in the Wellsville Mountains, but the views are not much different than the views from the summit of the Wellsville Cone.

Content provided by David Day of utahtrails.com. Click here to order his book Utah's Favorite Hiking Trails.

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