Hi! I'm Elise from @3KidsTravel. I love to hike and adventure around Salt Lake City with my three girls (ages 7, 5, and 3) when we aren't traveling the world. One of our friends recently told us about the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge Hike in Draper and we knew we needed to check it out.
We were going to wait until spring to go on this hike but we've been going stir crazy with the unpredictable weather this winter. So, we decided to just try it on a sunny Saturday even though there was still a layer of snow on the ground. We were not disappointed! It’s an easy hike but the views and the bridge were spectacular.
Here’s just a little background on the bridge that I didn't know until I started researching the hike. The Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge was finished in 2015 and was a labor of love by Ralph Wadsworth of Wadsworth Construction. The construction of the bridge was quite tricky given the challenging and dangerous terrain. It was constructed to withstand the elements and is made of weathered steel and treated lumber. One of the main purposes of the bridge is to divert hiker traffic away from the upper canyon, which is a watershed.
If you look closely you can see the Bear Creek Suspension Bridge in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range as you are driving along towards the trailhead on Highland Drive in Draper. You can begin the hike in a few different places but we opted for the shorter trail because it was a cold day. The trail we took was approximately a 2.3-mile hilly loop. We parked at Orson Smith Park in Draper (12625 Highland Drive) and the trailhead starts right behind the bathrooms. There is plenty of parking but make sure you go to the bathroom before you get to the park because the restrooms are closed for the season.
The hike begins with an uphill climb along a clear pathway. We weren't sure whether to expect snow on the trail so originally we planned to hike in snow boots. At the last minute we decided to hike in sneakers, which ending up being a good decision because the trail was mostly cleared of snow and was only muddy in a few areas. The Orson Smith Trail had switchbacks up the hill for about 0.26 miles until we arrived at the Aqueduct Trail where we stopped for a water break and to look out at the valley.
The Aqueduct Trail basically looks like a wide road and we had the choice of continuing north along that trail or hiking further up the hill toward the Bonneville Shoreline Trail on a narrower trail. We opted for the steeper narrow trail, which was fun but also harder and muddy. The trail we continued on was well-marked but at some points we were walking south (away from the Bear Creek Suspension Bridge) so I kept checking the map to make sure we were still on the right path. The major upside to this trail is that we had cell service the entire time so we looked up the map to refresh our memory.
Eventually we met up with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and continued north along the trail for about a half-mile until we got to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge. While we walked we occasionally had to move over for mountain bikers along the trail. We could see the tip of the suspension bridge as we walked so my girls got excited to run on the flat trail. Of course, one of them tripped on a rock and landed in mud and another one had to stop for a bathroom break along the way (luckily the trail was pretty empty because there weren't very many place to hide). We also enjoyed eating fresh snow while we hiked and had an informative lesson on not eating yellow snow.
When we arrived at the suspension bridge we celebrated with lollipops I had brought along as a hiking reward and then we headed across. The bridge was covered with snow and ice that had been packed down by bike riders, so we held hands on the way across and I kept my 3-year-old in my hiking backpack the entire time. The bridge seemed really safe and the sides of the bridge are pretty high so the girls couldn't lean over the railings. We stopped to peak through the holes in the bridge to see how high we were off the ground. At first, we walked slowly across and we could barely tell we were on a suspension bridge. Then, my husband started crossing the bridge and it began swaying a lot more and scared us to death. We had a good laugh about that once we made it across. The wind was strong up at the bridge and we definitely felt cold, even though we had been sweating before on the hike uphill to the bridge. The bridge spans 185 feet across Bear Canyon. When you look down on the east side you can see a small stream below the bridge in the canyon.
On the north side of the bridge we followed the signs west towards the Aqueduct Trail and it was an easy 0.35 miles back down to that trail. The views were beautiful of the Salt Lake Valley and we had some great views of the suspension bridge above us as the trail switched back down the mountain. The trail is narrow and there are some areas that are closed for restoration so you'll want to stay on the path. We played "I Spy" while we walked to pass the time and only ran into one other family along the trail. Once we got back down to the Aqueduct Trail we just followed it south for 0.41 miles. This part of the trail is wide and basically like a road and our girls stopped to pick up rocks along the way while we enjoyed looking at the houses and backyards below us. We could see our car in the parking lot below us as we got to the Orson Smith Trail and that helped to motivate my little hikers to finish strong.
Overall, the hike took us about 1.5 hours, mostly because we added in some potty breaks, snack breaks, and had a few slow walkers. Hikers without slow children could probably do the hike in about 45 minutes. We like that this hike offers a variety of options for which way to hike and that we could make it longer or shorter by adding in different starting points. If you start at the Hidden Valley trailhead further north instead of the Orson Smith trailhead you can turn it into a 5-mile hike. Also, you can hike the loop like we did or just hike out and back along whichever trails you prefer.
We hope you enjoy this hike! We can't wait to go back again in the spring! Feel free to follow along on our other local adventures at @3KidsTravel on Instagram.
- Here is the map we used for this hike.
- While the trails are pretty well marked, it can get a little confusing, so make sure you bring the map with you or have it accessible on your phone
- There is not any shade on this trail so in hotter months you'll want to make sure to put sunscreen on and hike earlier or later in the day
- Watch out for bikes along the trail because it is a popular area for mountain biking
- You'll want to dress in layers and wear appropriate footwear depending on the weather, it can get windy up at the bridge
- Restrooms are only open seasonally
- Dogs are allowed on these trails, but please clean up after them! We kept stepping around dog poop.
- Bring water and snacks!!
- There are signs to watch out for cougars in the area. We didn't see any, but stay aware.
- Be respectful on the bridge and follow posted rules about how to behave.
Directions to Orson Smith Park Trailhead
- From the North
- I-15 South to 11400 S Exit
- Head east on 11400 S to 1300 E
- Turn right on 1300 E
- Drive south on 1300 E
- Take 3rd exit at traffic circle onto Pioneer Road
- East on Pioneer Road
- Turn right onto 2000 E/Highland Drive
- Park will be on left at 12625 Highland Drive
From the South
- I-15 North to Bangerter Exit
- Head east on Bangerter
- Turn left onto 13800 S
- Turn right onto 1300 E
- Turn left onto Highland Drive
- Park will be on right at 12625 Highland Drive
Thank you for doing this! Very informative.