Big Willow Canyon - June 11, 2022


Dec 23, 2013
A couple of weeks ago @Ugly invited @regehr and I to join him on a hike up the Sawmill Trail in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley. Ugly said that he had the 4th and the 11th open if we were interested in going. I had plans in Cache Valley for the 4th, but told him that I could join him on the 11th. So yesterday morning I got up bright and early to make the trip down to Sandy and Hidden Valley Park where the trailhead is located, to meet up with Ugly at 6:15 am. This would be my first time meeting and hiking with Ugly.

For some reason, Ugly had picked the hottest day of the year so far with highs in the upper nineties, and while I had never hiked the Sawmill Trail before, Ugly's description of never ending calf and quad burning joy had my interest. :)

I arrived at the trailhead around 6:10-ish and shortly thereafter Ugly showed up. We began to hike towards Sawmill Trail when I realized that I had left my water bottle in the fridge at home. :eek: I had packed my frozen water bottle and a bottle of Gatorade, but that wasn't going to be enough, and my frozen bottle would be worthless for the first few hours. So We returned to my car and retrieved a small 16 oz Nalgene bottle that I use to take a drink before the hike and then usaully finish it off after a hike on my drive home. Ugly said that we crossed a creek a few times, so I would just refill that bottle at the crossings. We had our Steripens, but this Nalgene has the small mouth opening, so I just drank without any purification. Wow, what a way to make a first impression. :) After feeling a bit silly, we then headed out again from the park on what appears to be an (old?) service road which quickly turns into the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Not long after being on the BST, we arrived at the intersection with the Sawmill Trail. Now once on the trail, it got extremely steep real fast. The trail would take us from near the mouth of Big Willow Canyon, south over the ridge into Little Willow Canyon, before eventually leading us back into Big Willow. At this point it was essentially straight up the canyon to the saddle and a beautiful overlook down into Bells Canyon, with North and South Thunder Mountains across Bells, and Lone Peak above us to our right.

Even with the steep sections of the trail, we found ourselves passing through stands of conifers, and groves of aspen trees that were just delightful. And of course, the canyon being bound on either side by granite made a favorable impression too. With the trail paralleling the creek for a good portion up the canyon, we got hear the rushing of the water as it made its way down to the valley floor. I always love hiking by a stream, creek of river. And being able to hear it rush past us was an added benefit.

Once at the head of the canyon we enjoyed our lunches with spectacular views down into, and across Bells Canyon. The view made the calf burning and dealing with the heat worth it. After taking a bunch of pictures, we returned to the trailhead the way we had come.

Of course, the wildflowers were showing off again with and abundance of Mule's Ears and Taper-tip Onions, as well as others.

Here are some shots of our hike:

Leaving the Shoreline Trail the junction with the Sawmill Trail

A small meadow of Mule's Ear

Taper-tip Onions

Diamond Clarkia

View up Little Willow

I told Ugly that if he took me on this trail that I'd get @Rockskipper after him! :D

Lots of picture taken on this hike

One of the creek crossings. The logs were really wobbly, and I ended up in the creek
on our return.

The Guardian - an impressive piece of granite on the north side of the Big Willow Canyon

Staring to see some snow on the north slopes of the south ridge

Just heaven walking through the aspen

Just can't get enough

Cascades of Big Willow Creek

View west, back down into the valley

Ugly, heading towards Little Valley

Looking up towards the shoulder of Lone Peak

Taking the perfect shot

More granite in the vicinity of Lone Peak

Ugly, in Little Valley

Approaching the saddle

A look down upper Bells Canyon, north towards Broads Fork Twin Peaks

Looking across Bells Canyon towards North and South Thunder Mountains

A peak through the trees at the north side of Lone Peak

Obligatory saddle shot. :)

Heading back down

Another look down to the valley

Admiring the granite

More cascading falls on Big Willow Creek

I just wanted to take a picture of everything

Another look at the Guardian on our way down

Baneberry - poisonous

Miner's Lettuce - I had never seen these before, and I was surprised that we hadn't noticed them on our way up

Grand Collomia - I don't believe I've seen this before either

Getting closer to the valley floor - back in Little Willow Canyon

A lone Mountain Mahogany at the trail's bend

Looking north along the Wasatch with Mount Olympus in the distance. It's not often I get a southern shot of Mount Olympus. :)

Yarrow in the foothills

The mule's ears had wilted a bit even since this morning on our way up.

Okay @Ugly, time for your side of the story. Be sure and tell them how you had to hike behind a slow, chubby old man. And if I got any of the story wrong, be sure and make corrections, because the heat just might have gotten to me. :D Oh, and don't forget to show some of your wonderful pictures too. A great hike, with great company. :thumbsup::thumbsup:Thanks for the invite.

The End.
I think you got most of this right. My quads are saying that the @Ugly guy was fibbing the whole time about the steepness as I forget those kinds of things within a day or two. Especially that, "Oh yeah, there is one more, or maybe two more straight -up- ball -bearing -hills, before we get to the saddle" kinds of things. There were also probably a few other slips on the way down.

These photos are excellent! I will put up some tomorrow and add some color including the initial success shot of crossing the bouncy logs. Or the time I led offtrail just to see how well you can scramble over toothpick logs compared to the real scrambles up north.

I will also start to memorize a few plant names like baneberry, miner's lettuce and diamond clarkia.
Let's see some extras to add...

Well Friday night, I was a grip for a camera at a sporting event and the cameraman asked me what I was doing that weekend. I told him I was hiking with someone I met on the internet and he said "Well, nice knowing ya."
Boy won't he be surprised when I show up to work on Wednesday.

Honestly it really was a great time, so here are some notes:
When I said the first mile was the worst, it probably was, but mostly when it is mile 8 or 9 on the way back down.
@scatman says he was slow, naw, he charged uphill and through the brush with nary a complaint.
It was nice to go through snow on the hottest day of the year.
This trail is getting too cushy: now that there is a bouncy bridge crossing the creek, someone hacked out some of the brush, and the trail is pretty defined, so we had to at least post hole a little bit up to the knees and climb over a little deadfall off trail. I think it is also why he got his feet wet on the way down, just to add more adventure. Of course there are a couple places the trail is about to wash away and will make it more exciting.
I tried to trip, skid and even rollerskate on the way down highlighting my ability to be accident prone.
I did not break out into song since I was so winded going uphill.
Eating crackers and cheese and granola bars overlooking Bells and over toward Thunder was a great lunch.
The aspens were neon green with their new leaves and the birds were singing over the cascading creek, so that was a better accompaniment than me singing.
Whether heat or the brutal uphill torture of the trail, there were only a handful of people we saw and they were much fitter than I.
I think the brush grew after we passed it, because it grabbed at my legs a bit more on the way down. Not as bad as the trail was a few years ago, where I posted my scratched up legs somewhere on here in a trip report.
Sadly no megafauna. We scared up a mule deer on the way up, but besides some squirrels, birds, lizards and flies, we were only interesting animals on the trail.
I learned a few plants that hopefully stick in my memory. Especially miner's lettuce. I guess it is actually quite the delicacy for the foraging types.
All with some great company and stories of other hikes and places.

I have a few additional photos.
More flowers.
__ Vetch
RCM03812-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-8.jpg

RCM03818-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-12.jpg

RCM03813-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-9.jpg

Fluffy cottonballs, as opposed to the unfluffy kinds
RCM03808-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-6.jpg

More Muleys
RCM03959-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-21.jpg

Bouquet wilting in the heat.
RCM03970-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-26.jpg

The bright side of life.

Some photos from the trail.
A bouncy bridge
RCM03823-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-15.jpg

"I thought the first mile was the steep part?"
RCM03826-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-18.jpg

RCM03836-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-26.jpg

RCM03863-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-46.jpg

Neon Aspens require a photo or 45.
RCM03851-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-38.jpg

See him?
RCM03872-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-53.jpg

RCM03825-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-17.jpg

RCM03893-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-66.jpg

RCM03903-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-71.jpg

Just a couple more climbs to go.
RCM03905-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-73.jpg

RCM03886-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-63.jpg

"Let's add a little challenge" and more in his element.
RCM03911-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-76.jpg

RCM03920-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-83.jpg

Now we go back down
RCM03952-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-16.jpg

RCM03947-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-12.jpg

I forgot these from the morning. Rocks.
RCM03803-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-3.jpg

RCM03806-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-5.jpg

Not sure if a window or an arch is the name for when a rock falls and creates a window, but still pretty cool.
We will call it Big Willow Window
RCM03845-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-33.jpg

Snapped this on the road back, the tree blocks most of the Little Willow portion, but gives an idea of the route with Big Willow dead center.
Also shows the scar where they slid the logs, and the trail takes on a portion of that too.
RCM03980-2022 Wanderings 2022-220611-29.jpg
I'm glad I didn't have to get after Ugly on Scatman's behalf, because I don't think I would've been able to catch up with you guys. As for drinking the water, my brother did that in Oregon and got a bad case of Giardia. Now that I think of it, has anyone heard from the Scatster lately? :)
I'm glad I didn't have to get after Ugly on Scatman's behalf, because I don't think I would've been able to catch up with you guys. As for drinking the water, my brother did that in Oregon and got a bad case of Giardia. Now that I think of it, has anyone heard from the Scatster lately? :)
I sure hope that is not the case!
We drank a bit from the streams and no issues so far.

I mean, I did make us go down past the Extreme Danger sign. Those signs are all overrated and they mean Extreme Danger just for everyone else.
I had some concerns you would track me down if anything happened so I came prepared with a first aid kit and duct tape, and figured I would have to craft a way to slide us down the log slide if we got into too much trouble.
Beautiful shots @Ugly. Way too many of the old man though. You'll lose this audience if you put to many of those in. :D I appreciate the shot of me climbing over the downfall. I've got a reputation to live up to you know. :)

Those small pink flowers are Tiny Trumpets I believe.
I'm glad I didn't have to get after Ugly on Scatman's behalf, because I don't think I would've been able to catch up with you guys. As for drinking the water, my brother did that in Oregon and got a bad case of Giardia. Now that I think of it, has anyone heard from the Scatster lately? :)

Sorry it took so long to reply, but I've been in the restroom all day! :( Just kidding! :p So far I have had no ill effects from not treating the Big Willow Creek water. Doesn't it usually take a few days to grab hold of you?

You'd definitely not have any problem catching up with me on the trail - my middle name is sloth you know. :scatman:
My brother was deathly ill - mostly a flu like thing. He would get better, then sick again. He came to visit me and I took him to the doctor. Not sure how long for the onset, but it took him several weeks to decide he might die before agreeing to be treated - he didn't know what it was. I tried to be sympathetic...

If you decide you might die, let me know and I'll call an ambulance. I'm too far away to be of any help except to harass you for drinking from a stream. We used to do it all the time, but not any more.
I'm glad I didn't have to get after Ugly on Scatman's behalf, because I don't think I would've been able to catch up with you guys. As for drinking the water, my brother did that in Oregon and got a bad case of Giardia. Now that I think of it, has anyone heard from the Scatster lately? :)

Uh-oh! Looks like I've come down with a case of Giardia after all. I got to work this morning and didn't quite feel myself. After an hour or so, I started to get intense abdominal cramps, and began to feel a bit nauseous, though I never threw up. By 10:00 am, I was beginning to shiver and started belching, and the shivers lasted the rest of the day. When I got home, I took a nap for an hour and twenty minutes, and when I awoke, I was burning up, so I went down to my local instacare and the doctor prescribed me some Tinidazole. I just took the four pills all at once, so we will see if that does the trick. I still have to provide the lab with a stool sample tomorrow so that they can rule out other parasites. So the moral of the story is don't forget your water bottles in the fridge! I think. :D
Last edited:
I hope you're over it soon. He would get better and think he was OK, then get really sick again. Yikes. As soon as he was on the treatment, he recovered pretty quickly.
Well, that is the shiz. That's terrible! do not drink the water straight in Big Willow. That really is awful news. I hope you recover quickly so it does not throw off your other plans.
That is great. but still, Terrible.
Maybe you need some pink mints? maybe they really were pepto bismol.
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
MtnMatt Willow Lake Fall Colors in Big Cottonwood Canyon Hiking & Camping 2
Ugly Big Willow 2014 Backpacking 10
scatman Rockskipper's Big Adventure Backpacking 8
wabenho Big Pine Lakes – John Muir Wilderness Backpacking 6
J Hopewell Big Woods Southeast PA Trails, Jan 1, 2023 Hiking & Camping 0
wsp_scott Big South Fork Bikepacking Backpacking 1
SteveR Big Spring-Elephant Canyon dayhike. With free bonus vacation pix! Hiking & Camping 13
T How big are the Mirror Lake campgrounds in the Porkies? Trip Planning 6
BJett Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area Packraft/Backpack Loop (TN) Backpacking 6
Jackson Big Agnes Tent Durability Gear 11
Rockskipper Big Day - Please participate, esp. Scatman! General Discussion 9
LarryBoy SLC: Terrace Hills Drive to Big Mountain Peak Trip Planning 16
CodyL Winds- Big water slide Trip Planning 3
Outdoor_Fool A week in the Big Belly Backpacking 20
WasatchWill WRHR: Day 1 - Big Sandy to Cirque of the Towers Backpacking 19
regehr Lower Horseshoe Canyon and Big Spring Trip Planning 7
wsp_scott Honey Creek (Big South Fork) Backpacking 9
J Death Valley Natl. Pk: Funeral Pk, Slit Canyon, and Big Dune. Dec 21-22, 2020 Hiking & Camping 1
wsp_scott Big South Fork Views Backpacking 14
Gunnahafta Green River <> Big Sandy WIND RIVER RANGE Trip Planning 1
norwegianxplorer Big SEKI loop, Sequoia Kings Canyon Backpacking 1
J Pahranagat Country: Big, open, room to roam Nov.9-10, 2019 Hiking & Camping 0
Tim Valentine Big Pine Creek Eastern Sierra Backpacking 10
NorthwestWanderer My Yearly big timelapse video 2019 General Discussion 10
pstm13 A Family Trip in the Winds: Big Sandy and the Cirque Backpacking 11
misSOULa Montana's Bitterroot Mountains: Big Creek Lakes and Ranger Point Backpacking 2
stevecochranephotography Desert Winter Run Off - Big Dominguez Canyon Hiking & Camping 2
NorthwestWanderer Big Four Ice Caves Hiking & Camping 1
toddrparr Easy family backpacking in Big Thicket Preserve, Texas Trip Planning 0
Scott Chandler Starting Out 2019 in Big Sur Hiking & Camping 10
Born to Hike Windriver 36 mile loop: Skull Lake, Washakie Pass, South Fork Lakes, Lizard Head Trail, The Cirque, Big Sandy Lake Backpacking 6
Bob Big Agnes coupon Gear 1
Mike Jones Big Sur or Zion Next Week? Trip Planning 20
B Upgrading Big Agnes tent question Gear 10
Perry Posting Panoramas - File Too Big Questions, Suggestions & Support 4
Tim Valentine Biking Big Sur Everything Else 6
wsp_scott Packrafting the Big South Fork (KY) On The Water 7
Seamus NYC weekend tripper, occasional big treks! Noobs: Introduce yourself! 2
Perry Gregory Zulu 30 - Too Big for a Day Pack? Gear 6
S White Cloud route, Big Boulder Lakes to Boulder Chain Lakes Trip Planning 3
Eugene Paria Canyon from White House to Big Spring Backpacking 3
kimbur96 Tarptent Double Rainbow or Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2? Gear 2
hamtron5000 Big Dominguez Canyon Overnight Backpacking 0
SKLund Big Agnes Bag Gear 6
SKLund Dromedary, Platypus, or Big Soda Bottle? Gear 27
Adventure monkey Steve Allen's exit out of Happy Canyon to the Big Ridge. Trip Planning 17
piper01 Big Bend National Park, Thanksgiving 2016 (part 2) Hiking & Camping 4
piper01 Big Bend National Park, Thanksgiving 2016 (part 1) Hiking & Camping 0
Scott Chandler Highlights From a Week in Big Bend NP Hiking & Camping 11
SKLund How Big a Pack for Long Trips Gear 32

Similar threads