Dry Creek is a very popular trailhead in the northeast corner of Alpine. It’s one of the few trails left in Alpine that doesn’t cross private land and is assured of never being cut off by development. It’s popular with both hikers and people riding horses. Beginners might consider it steep (it isn’t), but it’s a great place to get you hiking legs. (photos)
- History A few hundred feet after leaving the trailhead, you cross a large, mostly buried pipe. This is a penstock that fed water to a power plant that was once located just north of the trailhead parking lot. The book “Alpine Yesterdays” by Jeanie Wild says the intake for the penstock was located in a meadow on Dry Creek at the 8000ft level, which puts it right at the place where you cross the creek to go to Lake Hardy. This confuses me, because I’ve seen a pipe that looks like a penstock on the ridgeline between Dry Creek and Phelps Canyon. Either way, the penstock brought water from high down to the power plant. The power plant was completed in 1910, so it would have been 100yrs old this year.
Here’s another historical fact concerning Box Elder. If you look at the mountain from Alpine, you can see a gully running parallel with the south ridgeline. They call this the Sleigh Runner. Pioneers would watch the snowmelt in Sleigh Runner. They said if snow was still there on the 1st of June, they would have plenty of water that year.
- Trailhead to Horsetail Falls (photos) The first half mile is uneventful as you walk through an open maple/oak area. You enter a conifer stand (evergreen grove) at the half mile mark and the scenery suddenly changes. If you stop at the large rock that juts into the trail and turn around, you can see the Phelps Canyon trailhead taking off to the left. Continuing up the main trail, there is lots of sights and lots of sounds. Dry creek is rushing by in the canyon below you. At 1.7 miles, there is a fork in the trail. Walk up the left fork about 30ft for a great view of Horsetail Falls. At 1.9 miles, there is another fork. The trail to the left looks like an animal trail, but it actually takes you to the top of Horsetail Falls.
–>Miles from trailhead to Horsetail Falls viewpoint:1.7mi Elevation gain:1370ft
–>Miles from trailhead to Horsetail Falls:1.9mi Elevation gain:1600ft
- Horsetail Falls to Box Elder junction Continue up the trail to get into Alpine scenery. A third mile after passing the Horsetail Falls junction, you will come to another junction with a sign that points to North Mountain (left) or Granite Flats (right). The North Mountain trail will take you to Lake Hardy or the first Hamongog. There’s another unmarked trail where the North Mountain trail crosses the creek that goes up into Wishbone Basin. Back at the first junction, take the right trail – Granite Flats – to continue toward Box Elder. After another .8 miles you will come to a meadow with another junction – We’ll call it Box Elder junction.
–>Miles from Horsetail Falls to North Mountain junction:0.3mi (2.2mi) Elevation gain:250ft (1850ft)
–>Miles from North Mountain junction to Box Elder Junction:0.9mi (3.1mi) Elevation gain:820ft (2670ft)
- Box Elder Junction to Peak via North Saddle (photos) From the junction, continue following the trail in a north east direction. Now is probably a good time to tell you that you have an additional 1000 feet to climb by going to the peak from Alpine, rather then Granite Flats on the east side. Once you get to the summit meadow, you will be able to see down into American Fork Canyon, with Tibble Fork Reservoir below. Follow the trail to the south to get to the peak. Stay on the ridgeline as much as possible for easier hiking.
–>Miles from Box Elder Junction to North Saddle:1.5mi (4.6mi) Elevation gain:1310ft (3980ft)
–>Miles from North Saddle to Box Elder Peak:1.7mi (6.3mi) Elevation gain:1430ft (5410ft)
- Box Elder Junction to Peak via South Saddle (photos) From the junction, take the right trail heading east into the Box Elder Cirque. The trail wraps around the west face of Box Elder and will meet up with the Phelps Canyon trail near the bottom of Sleigh Runner. The trail goes diagonal from there, up to the far south end of the saddle, then follow the ridgeline up to the peak. This side is quite a bit steeper than the north side, but is doable – trekking poles recommended.
–>Miles from Box Elder Junction to South Saddle:2.7mi (5.8mi) Elevation gain:1810ft (4480ft)
–>Miles from South Saddle to Box Elder Peak:0.5mi (6.3mi) Elevation gain:940ft (5420ft)
- Phelps Canyon Trail (photos) This is a very scenic, but very steep trail. You go east up Phelps Canyon. When the ridgeline to your left turns and heads up the mountain, go to the ridgeline for a great view of Horsetail Falls. This is a good turning around point if you’re out for a short hike. The trail gets very steep from this point up to the ridgeline. After that, it’s not too bad.
–>Miles from Dry Creek Junction to Upper Box Elder Junction:2.4mi (2.8mi) Elevation gain:3730ft (4130ft)
- Box Elder Peak (photos) The views from Box Elder Peak are great. You can see Lone Peak to the northwest, the Alpine Ridge running east from the and Mount Timpanogos to the south. You might see mountain goats there. There’s a huge cirque on the north side of the mountain. The folded rocks look really cool.