Cove Trail

It occurs to me that my enthusiasm for old stock trails might be a little unusual. This hike, however, was one of the best I’ve done in some time. The Cove Trail came to my attention about three years ago, and shortly thereafter something more came to my attention. I originally noticed the trail on the 1948 USGS topo map for Woodside, Utah, but it’s omitted from later maps. I don’t remember what led to me finding an archaeological report related to nearby mining activities, but that report mentioned some cultural sites at the top and bottom of the trail.

Cove Trail shown on the 1948 USGS topo for Woodside, Utah
Cove Trail shown on the 1948 USGS topo for Woodside, Utah

Alan and I finally put this hike on our calendars and set out on March 11th to get ‘er done. We took my Jeep and drove as close as we could to the bottom of the trail, first along an old railroad grade and then following an old bulldozed road, neither of which have received any official maintenance in many years. I shifted into 4-low, more to take it slowly over very rocky sections than for traction. A washout kept us from driving as far as I’d wanted–it was passable by ATVs but I didn’t dare attempt it in my WJ. After some road-walking we began searching for a boulder shelter that had been discovered and excavated by archaeologists in the early 80s. The report I’d read mentioned several metates and manos that had been left behind, as well as many stone tools and potsherds that had been collected. A couple of metates and a mano were still visible there, along with a couple of worked stone tools. The report concluded that this was primarily a plant processing location. Standing in that spot, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of existence could be made there with no water available.

Washed out road
Washed out road

Walking the bulldozed road
Walking the bulldozed road

South face of boulder shelter
South face of boulder shelter

Mano
Mano

Pecked metate
Pecked metate

Rock shelter
Rock shelter

Small biface
Small biface

Cracked boulder metate
Cracked boulder metate

Biface
Biface

Working our way back to the road we discovered some historic junk: an old cowboy camp and some apparent leftovers from when the road was originally bladed. The road crossed a steep wash and there we departed the relative ease-of-travel in favor of a rocky path leading to the steep escarpment of the Book Cliffs. Vestiges of the old sheep trail were barely discernible in the lower clay layers. Above the narrow clay ridges the potential path widened and we began seeing relic cans, bottles, and jars. Alan suggested a snack break, and so while looking for a spot to sit down I discovered an old coyote trap three-quarters buried in the dirt. What a neat find!

Top of a syrup bottle
Top of a syrup bottle

Bulldozer food
Bulldozer food

Alan starting up the trail
Alan starting up the trail

Mason jar under a tree
Mason jar under a tree

Old can stamped with Uruguay Inspeccionado 1
Old can stamped with Uruguay Inspeccionado 1

Interesting seam on an old can
Interesting seam on an old can

Old trap that I found while stopped for a snack
Old trap that I found while stopped for a snack

Upward we continued, ascending the mountain while only occasionally seeing definite signs of the trail. I imagine that in many stretches there was no single trail but, rather, a general route that the shepherds followed. Only through the more rugged portions was a trail constructed. We reached the bottom of a large cliff band and followed it generally south until we were below the “notch.” Here, a fault or some other force of nature has created a rare cleft that breaches the cliff band. At the bottom of the notch were a couple of rock walls that once served to keep livestock constrained to one end or another of the trail.

Wasatch Plateau covered in snow
Wasatch Plateau covered in snow

Cove Trail cairn
Cove Trail cairn

Typical section of trail
Typical section of trail

Alan overlooking the lower trail
Alan overlooking the lower trail

Cairn with post
Cairn with post

On the trail
On the trail

Book Cliffs to the north
Book Cliffs to the north

Rock wall below the notch
Rock wall below the notch

One final steep but smooth climb led us to the top of the Book Cliffs. A huge, eight-foot-tall cairn greeted us there. Alan (I think half-jokingly) mentioned that I should place a geocache there. I thought about it for a few seconds and decided it was actually a great place for one and pulled a small container out of my backpack and placed it at the base of the cairn. We ate lunch nearby and then, just for the helluvit, walked a little way up Little Park Wash. Twice in the past [1, 2] I had searched Little Park Wash, both upstream and downstream from this area, for a petroglyph panel that I had read about in the mining report but didn’t locate it either of those times. I only wanted to quickly walk through the wash on this trip to rule it out–I wasn’t actually expecting to find any rock art. But that we did! Alan was walking just ahead of me and said something like, “Is this it?” Sure enough, once I got within a few feet I could make out the badly weathered and faded petroglyphs. Very few of the petroglyphs could still be distinguished even though the panel was originally very large.

Up the notch
Up the notch

Panorama from the notch
Panorama from the notch

Cairn at the top of the trail
Cairn at the top of the trail

Walking up Little Park Wash
Walking up Little Park Wash

Lingering snow near a spring
Lingering snow near a spring

Faded and weathered petroglyph panel
Faded and weathered petroglyph panel

Faint bighorn sheep petroglyphs
Faint bighorn sheep petroglyphs

One of the better bighorn petroglyphs
One of the better bighorn petroglyphs

Finding the rock art was the cherry on top of an already satisfying hike. We headed back toward the trail and enjoyed the view from the top before descending. We were able to more closely follow the trail on the way down due to our high vantage point. Alan found an old pair of shed antlers, and I found an old 7Up bottle while we dropped in elevation. It took us a fraction of our ascent time to get back to the bottom of the trail. The road-walking back to the vehicle was a bit of a drag, but spirits were high in light of the success of our excursion.

Guzzler near the top of the Cove Trail
Guzzler near the top of the Cove Trail

View south from the top of the Book Cliffs
View south from the top of the Book Cliffs

A pair of old shed antlers
A pair of old shed antlers

Old 7Up bottle
Old 7Up bottle

Alan at the lower trail marker
Alan at the lower trail marker

Back at the Jeep after seven miles
Back at the Jeep after seven miles


Photo Gallery: Cove Trail
GPS Track and Photo Waypoints:
[Google Earth KMZ] [Gmap4 Satellite] [Gmap4 Topo]

2 thoughts on “Cove Trail

  1. Very cool, I know the way there from the top the though turtle canyon. But would have never guessed that there was a trail from the bottom.

  2. OK, so first there was the buried spur you found, then the perfect “pointy rock” at my feet, a few mason jars and 7a -Up bottle, now a leg-hold trap under 2 inches of pine needles……………..and all I can find are tent stakes!
    Thanks for all the adventures and for proving that there are still many “treasures” yet to be found.
    AJP

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