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The Stansbury Front Trail is a challenging but beautiful trail near Grantsville, Utah. If you’re looking for a difficult hike with plenty of wildflowers and lush green mountain views, this is the trail for you!
Things we’ll cover in this post:
- quick trail facts
- trailhead options
- how to get to the Stansbury Front Trail
- best time of year to hike and backpack
- what to expect along the trail
- water availability
- Stansbury Front Trail campsites
Let’s dive into the details!
1) Quick Trail Facts
These stats are for the full Stansbury Front Trail. As we’ll discuss below, there are several other starting points that can shorten the hike.
- Length: 22-24 miles depending on where you park your second vehicle at the end (more on this below)
- Hike Type: Point-to-point
- Rating: Difficult
- Trail Use: hike, mountain bike, dirt bike, and horseback
- Elevation Gain: about 6,200 ft
- Permit Needed: No
- Water sources: NOT year-round (more on this below)
2) Trailhead Options
It’s recommended that you hike this trail from North to South.
Start: If you’re looking to do the full trail, the start is at the West Canyon Trailhead. If you want to shorten the hike, there are other trailhead options via Davenport Canyon and South Willow Canyon.
Ending: Trailhead at Big Hollow
Directions to West Canyon Trailhead:
Below are the Google map directions to the West Canyon Trailhead from Salt Lake City. Click on “More options” to see the full map in a new tab.
From Salt Lake City, the drive to this trailhead takes about 1 hour. The last few miles of the drive are on a dirt road which I think would be assessable by most vehicles.
Other Possible Starting Points:
It’s also possible to start this trail via Davenport Canyon Road (FR 542). There is a small parking area where the trail crosses the road. Starting here would cut out the first 5.6 miles of the trail.
Other possible options to shorten the trail even more are the North Willow Canyon Trailhead, and the trailhead at South Willow Canyon.
The Ending Trailhead at Big Hollow:
The trail ends at the Big Hollow Trailhead which requires you to drive down a narrow rough dirt road for about 2 miles. Most SUV’s and 4WD vehicles should be able to make it, but I would think twice about taking any other vehicle.
We had two cars and shuttled one to the ending trailhead before we started the hike. We have a Nissan Xterra and Toyota Tacoma and both had no problem on the road.
If you’re vehicle cannot make it down the road, there was a small pull-off right along the main paved road where you could fit one or two cars. Ending here would make the entire trail more like 24 miles instead of the 22 miles that I did.
The map above shows how to get to the dirt road. If you cannot drive down the road, park here. If you can drive down the road, continue driving for about 2 miles until you see a cattle guard. That’s where I parked.
Stansbury Front Day Hiking Options:
This trail is unique because it has several access points making it perfect for day hiking too.
You can start at any of the trailheads above and just do an out-and-back day hike. Some of my favorite section of trail is South of the South Willow Canyon trailhead.
If you still want to hike the Stansbury Front Trail, but don’t want to do an entire backpacking trip, that’s a great place to start a day hike!
3) Best Time of Year to Go
In my opinion, the Stansbury Front Trail is not a year-round backpacking trail.
The winter months can receive a lot of snow, and in the Summer months the temperature is extremely hot and water availability is very limited.
When you’re backpacking, it’s super important that you have enough water sources to fill up along the trail. (More on water below.)
Water availability may be limited or even non-existent late Summer through the Fall, which is why that’s not an ideal time to backpack this trail even though the average temperatures are nice.
Therefore, I think the best time to backpack the Stansbury Front Trail is May through June.
NOTE: The average temperatures in the graph above are for Grantsville, Utah. The temperatures along the Stansbury Front Trail will be a little colder.
In May, you’ll likely have to hike through patches of snow as you hike up and over the passes. The amount of snow will vary depending on how much snowfall there was that winter.
I went in the first week of June and we saw snow on one of the mountain passes, but the trail was already melted out and so we didn’t have to hike through any of it.
Not only will there be water along the trail in Spring, but it’s also the best time to see the wildflowers!
In addition to the time of year, when you go during the week might also be worth considering.
Since this trail is open to dirt bikers and the canyon campgrounds are a popular destination for car campers, the weekends are very busy in this area.
If you’re looking for more solitude and quiet, you might want to consider going during the week when there aren’t as many dirt bikers on the trail or people in the canyons.
4) What to Expect Along the Trail
The Stansbury Front Trail is a difficult backpacking trail, but it’s easy to navigate the entire way.
If starting at the West Canyon Trailhead, you’ll reach a fork in the trail at about 0.7 miles. At the fork, turn left to start along the Stansbury Front Trail.
From then on, there aren’t any major turns and you simply keep hiking South and following signs for the Stansbury Front trail.
In general, along this trail you hike up a pass, down the other side, and then up another pass…. over and over and over!
On DAY 1 we hiked about 7.4 miles and camped at the top of a pass.
On DAY 2 we hiked about 10 miles and this was definitely the most challenging day of the trip. We hiked up and over three big passes and hit a peak elevation of about 8,400 ft.
On DAY 3 we hiked the last 5 miles up and over one pass and back to the car! We were tired!
Dirt bikes are allowed on the trail and it’s important to be aware while you’re hiking so you can hear them coming, and step aside to let them pass.
On the weekends, there are a lot of dirt bikers on this trail, but I went during the week and I only saw a couple throughout my trip.
5) Water Availability
When I went in the first week of June, there was plenty of water available.
We mostly filled up in the streams from the snowmelt, but there were also a few cattle water stations that had flowing water. (See photos above.)
The smaller streams were all dried up.
In general, you hike down from a pass into the valley where you can fill up water and start another climb. That means that you’re starting each uphill when your backpacks are the heaviest with water!
Since it was the first time that we did this trail, we filled up at just about every water source that we saw.
Like I mentioned above, the water sources are pretty much all from snowmelt. Once the snow is gone, there won’t be enough water to backpack this trail, which is why the Spring is the best time to go.
I use and love the Sawyer Squeeze water filter. It’s small, lightweight, and reliable.
6) Stansbury Front Campsites
Along the trail, you’ll cross several canyon roads.
On these roads there are paid campgrounds that are usually very crowded on the weekends.
Since you’re backpacking, I’m guessing that you probably want more privacy and isolation from tons of car campers in the canyons.
Along the trail itself, there are some existing campsites, but not a lot.
On day 1 we camped on one of the mountain passes on a small patch of rock and dirt.
On day 2 we camped near a cattle water station. Both of the campsites we used are pictured above.
Nick and I use the Nemo Hornet 2P tent for backpacking and we love it. It’s a simple tent that’s lightweight and easy to set up!
That wraps up my hiking guide to the Stansbury Front Trail in Utah.
If you have any questions as you’re planning your backpacking trip or day hike, feel free to ask me in the comments!
If you want to see parts of the trail and how things went on my trip, check out my YouTube video below: