Snow still covers the tops of the mountains in northern Utah, but the weather in the valley has been beautiful. So we searched our handy Cache Valley hiking guide (Cache Trails, by Jim Sinclair) for a hike that seemed up to our level of fitness (not high) and that would be mostly clear of snow. We settled on the Five Hills Hike, which starts out in the Birch Canyon and climbs the ridge towards Mts. Jardine and Elmer.
The guide suggested we drive for about 1 mile on Birch Canyon Road before parking near the trail head, but we were unsure of the road conditions and our vehicle’s ability to navigate the road so we decided to park only a 1/2 mile into the canyon and walk the rest of the way. In reality, there are many opportunities to leave the road and climb the ridge, and at the end of our hike we realized that we had parked at a convenient place to begin the hike. If you are to attempt this hike, I’d recommend parking at the turn off approximately 1/2 mile on Birch Canyon road. This is immediately before a fork in the road. You can get the trail by walking up the road to the left. However, we first walked about 3/4 of a mile on Birch Canyon Road before ascending the mountain.
We are not sure what a typical ascent to the ridge line trail is like, but ours was quite difficult even though the vertical change was about 500 ft. Once on top we had spectacular views of the Wellsville Range, Logan, Smithfield, Preston, Id, and the more distant ranges in Southeastern Idaho.
We stopped for lunch on top of the ridge, on what is probably the third of the five hills (we skipped the first two). Sprout was possibly confused about our vantage point far above houses. In fact, she said “Look, boats!” We took her out of her carrier and held her in our laps to eat, making sure she stayed away from the ledge. The ridge trail is actually quite wide, despite the sharp drop to the north. After lunch we let Sprout hold our hand as we hiked. By the time we were climbing the fourth hill, she wanted to be back in her carrier where she immediately fell asleep.
We walked along the ridge, losing track of how many hills we climbed. The trail definitely got fuzzy as we walked farther, in part due to snow, but also because there are no markers, no trees, and little grass in the early spring season. As the terrain got steeper we decided to descend through a gully reminiscent of The Sound of Music scene in which Julia Andrews is singing the “The Hills Are Alive.“ There may have been some singing on these hills as well. A trickle of pristine mountain water led us toward the canyon floor again in a walking meditation. The brush became thicker as we neared the bottom, and the Birch Creek became louder. We emerged from the gully onto another trail paralleling the road, and we soon came to a bridge that allowed us to cross the creek. The remainder of our hike was along the road, which, so deep in the canyon, is basically two tire tracks in the dirt. The creek walk was pleasant and the wildlife was plentiful here.
It was a little disconcerting as the hike took as through several different private properties. Several times we had to cross barbed wire, almost tripping over it on one occasion. We would prefer to hike on public land because we do not want to risk being unwanted trespassers. However, it was the perfect hike for this time of year, when most of the public land is still snow-covered.