Roper

Brett Roper

outdoors columnist

All it takes is a quick trip to Bear Lake on any weekend in July or August to see hunting and fishing are not the only forms of outdoor recreation in the region.

From a single viewpoint overseeing this azure lake, it is possible to see hikers, joggers, bikers, boaters and campers. Although nearly half of all Americans participate in some form of outdoor recreation, the rate is much higher in Idaho (79%) and Utah (72%). When you sum the economic benefit of all outdoor recreational activities together, they represent about 2% of the national Gross Domestic Product. In Idaho, consumers spend $7.8 billion on outdoor recreation each year while in Utah, this value is even higher, at $12.3 billion.

Not surprisingly, the No. 1 outdoor recreational activity is jogging. Fishing is second and biking follows. If you live in Logan, you don’t have to go far to bike or run. This spring, these trips were made safer as a trail was built connecting Utah State University and the Bonneville Shoreline, Hydro Park the Canyon Road Trails. Now, many people living east of Highway 91 can traverse most of Logan and all the way to Third Dam (when they’re not repairing it) and spend little time on surface roads. On the west side of Highway 91, there is a similar set of trails along the Logan River to Trapper Park.

If running or biking for joy and staying in shape isn’t enough, Cache Valley hosts many races. For a challenge, there is the Logan Peak Trail Run which occurs in June and covers more than 20 miles and thousands of feet in elevation. There is Ragnar, where teams of runners navigate their way from Logan to Kamas. This run also takes place in June. If you’re looking to run a little sooner, the inaugural Logan City Marathon will take place this fall on the backroads between Logan to Mendon.

For bike riders, there is Little Red (an all women bike race) which occurs in June and the Gran Fondo which takes place in a couple of weeks. Participants in these rides have goals that range from just having fun to being competitive and cover 20 to 100 miles, depending upon the rider’s choice.

There are an increasing number of great mountain bike trails in our area. The most utilized are Shoreline, Providence Canyon and Green Canyon due to their proximity to Cache Valley’s population centers. With just a little exploring, however, there are many additional trails scattered across the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

There’s also plenty of hiking opportunities around here. While many of the sidewalks and trails in our towns are great for quick walks, the mountains on both sides of the valley are where the real-day hike challenges are to be found. On the Wellsville Mountains, one can hike from Sardine Canyon to Mendon. This hike covers a little over 11 miles with the biggest challenge being the gain and loss of 4,600 feet. In the Bear River Range, there’s an equally long hike that starts at Tony Grove and ends in High Creek. Both hikes have great views but the advantage of this trail is you can use a vehicle to gain elevation driving up to Tony Grove.

The most noticeable outdoor recreational activity seen driving US Forest Service roads is camping. This is a wonderful way to avoid the summer heat and spend time with friends. An increasingly important component of camping trips is the use of off-highway vehicles. While these vehicles are great ways to increase mobility and see more backcountry, make sure you look up the local Forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Maps to ensure a road or trail is open to OHVs.

One reason outdoor recreation is so easy in Utah and Idaho is the presence of public lands. While many people recognize the value of federal lands, they may fail to understand that states own the land below the ordinary high-water mark of navigable lakes such as Bear Lake. This means that during high water years, like the current one, only a very small ring of shoreline can be used by the public.

As The Herald Journal does not have enough space for me to list all the great trails or camping sites in the region, take time to search online and in the field to find new places. I hope you all have a great Independence Day and make sure to take advantage of all the outdoor opportunities that surround us, even if it isn’t hunting or fishing.

Brett Roper is a fisheries biologist for the Forest Service who has been lucky enough to make a career out of thinking about and spending time outdoors. He can be contacted at roperguth@gmail.com.