Third in a series of off-highway vehicle (OHV) articles by Lynn Blamires feature writer for My Local Utah
Veteran OHV drivers might overlook the Skyline trails above Farmington for the excellent riding opportunity they represent. Maybe that is because the veterans have ridden it a lot. Sometimes people think that they have to travel a long way to enjoy a ride. For new riders, this trail system is close and access is easy.
Two access points are Farmington Canyon and Ward Canyon. Farmington Canyon has improved parking in a new lot at the Farmington Pond. Ward Canyon has a parking lot below the Bountiful “B” that provides a large staging area.
Farmington Canyon presents a smoother trail to the Francis Peak Radar Towers. You may not be on this trail very long before the magic of Utah’s backcountry takes you out of the work-a-day world.
The trail up from the “B” is not as smooth as the Farmington Canyon Road, but the trail takes you around the west side of the mountain and presents views of Antelope Island and the cities below along the Wasatch Front that are amazing. I have pictures taken at dusk of the lights of the cities from the top of the mountain which are beautiful. Both of these trails come together at a point for the final climb to Francis Peak.
We have some of these trails in part because of the radar towers on top of Francis Peak. The 27-mile Farmington Loop road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was opened to the public in 1939. From this loop, the FAA built the road to the radar site.
The peak was designated for the radar installation in 1958. About 22,000 cubic yards of material were bulldozed off the top of the 9,547-foot Francis Peak to make a level place for the facility, lowering the elevation by 32 feet. A helicopter was used to fly pilings weighing from 800 to 1000 lbs a piece to the site for the purpose of shoring up the foundation.
While it is unusual to find rattlesnakes at this altitude, construction workers uncovered numerous nests of them. Forced to wear high-top leather boots and carry weapons to protect themselves, in 1958 some 100 rattlesnakes were killed during construction. In spite of all the precautions, two workers received snake bites.
The radar is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is used to identify aircraft within a 250-mile radius of the peak. The black dome houses the radar and was recently painted black to deal with the ice that builds up during the winter. The white dome protects various radio and other kinds of antennae.
The Farmington Loop provides access to the Bountiful Peak Campground. This is a primitive campground with vault toilets. Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire pit where with a campfire, family memories can be made.
From the campground, the trail goes around Farmington Flats on a trail that provides wonderful views from the east side of the mountain down into Morgan Valley. This trail joins up with the road to the towers further north.
Other riding opportunities take off from the main loop road. One I particularly enjoy is the Parish Loop which is found at a junction on the west side of the mountain from the parking lot under the “B.” It drops down off the main trail and takes you through a couple of loops.
Another spot on the trail I enjoy comes north of the Parrish Loop Trail. As you come down the mountain to the junction to either the Bountiful Peak Campground to the right or the Farmington Canyon Road to the left, the trail offers a beautiful overlook of the Farmington Ponds. These are not to be confused with the pond at the bottom of Farmington Canyon.
Just before you make the final climb to the towers, there is a more primitive trail that takes off to the right and goes under the radar domes. It meets the road that comes to the gate to the actual radar site. The views on either side of this place are worth the trip.
From that point, the trail winds through the top of the mountain passing two lakes with the trail dead ending at a third lake. These are known as the Smith Creek Lakes. The third lake is a great place for a picnic and a swim.
When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and enjoy this Davis County OHV treasure.