The Back Country Horseman of Utah Mountain Ridge Chapter is based in the Salt Lake valley, tucked between the beautiful Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains. With a county population of 1.1 million people (one-third of the state's total population) compressed within 807 square miles, we are lucky enough to have approximately 8,540 acres of open space dispersed throughout the county in the foothills surrounding the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. Most of these trails are open to equestrians, and some of these trails offer year-round riding.
In the spring and cooler months, we work in lower elevations with city and county parks and recreation departments doing trail maintenance and other projects that help maintain access to the inner city trail systems. When the snow melts and the valley gets hot, we head for the mountains.
The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest boundaries the salt lake valley on the east side and offers 2.2 million acres of dense forest, quaking aspen groves, and pristine alpine lakes. There are six designated wilderness areas within these forest boundaries. With elevations ranging from 7,000 – 13,200 feet, this forest offers many different types of access, from minutes away to hours away.
Our chapter is one of five Utah chapters located in northern Utah that utilize the trails, campgrounds, and access to the backcountry. Through partnerships with the local forest districts, our chapter is able to contribute service work and volunteer hours to help ensure that trails are accessible to all and that these public lands remain open to stock use.
Over the life of our chapter, we have packed in tons of materials and equipment and cleared miles of trails for the local forest districts. We have built fences, repaired barbed wire, and installed hitching posts in campgrounds. In the last couple of years specifically, we have packed in several tons of material (mostly lumber) into two specific areas in what we call the Uintas. The North Fork and Highline trails are in need of many bridge repairs due to age and fire damage. We have continued to prune, and clear miles of trails and have begun to build corrals to increase equestrian use.
Packing stock is a valuable asset to our group. It’s how materials get delivered to areas with no vehicle access or into wilderness areas where packing in is the only option. Learning to pack stock and teaching stock to pack is a priceless art that is becoming harder to find. We have been fortunate to collaborate with other BCHU chapters and with the local chapter of the Rocky Mountain Mule Association on some of our pack projects in order to complete the larger projects.
Our chapter began working with the Heber-Kamas Ranger District last year, helping familiarize new employees with basic horsemanship and packing skills. This ranger district has an awesome herd of pack stock, but with recent employee turnover, they lost the experience that is required to utilize them. With a little bit more of additional training, this district plans to utilize their own stock this year in addition to our help.
We feel it’s important to encourage horse and mule owners to continue the practice of packing stock. To teach the next generation would help insure the continued ability for forest service employees and volunteers to be able to access backcountry locations and wilderness areas in order to conduct service, which in turn helps keep forests healthy and provide continued access for all.
For information about joining the Mountain Ridge chapter in Utah, please visit bchutah.com
For more information about how to join a local chapter near you, visit the BCHA website at bcha.org