Red Butte Gardens Trails

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pages 24-26

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Red Butte Gardens Red Butte Gardens

     The Red Butte Gardens were born in 1985 when the University of Utah signed an agreement that dedicated over 230 acres of land on the southern slopes of Red Butte for the purpose of creating a botanical garden. Today the popular park is different from most botanical gardens, however, in that more than 80% of the land has been set aside as a natural area. The park still has all of the floral displays, arboretums and theme gardens that one might expect, but it also has some four miles of walking trails through the undeveloped natural area where visitors can enjoy Utah’s native plants in an undisturbed setting. The result is a diverse walk that includes a large variety of desert flora as well as the more riparian habitat along Red Butte Creek on the west side of the park.
      There is even a bit of history on display on one of Red Butte Gardens' walking trails. The southern slopes of Red Butte were once an active quarrying site for the distinctive red sandstone that still graces many of Salt Lake City’s older historic buildings, and one of the trails will take you to the remnants of the old abandoned Quarry House that once housed the stone workers. It is interesting to note that the Red Butte Sandstone was used initially for the foundation of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake. It was later discovered, however, that the sandstone was not strong enough to support the weight of the building’s upper walls, so it was removed and replaced with blocks of granite quarried from Little Cottonwood Canyon.
      Upon entering the Red Butte Gardens from the visitor center you will immediately be confronted by a colorful panoply of flowers and imaginative landscaping that will probably make you want to linger awhile before moving on to the natural area. Be sure to pick up a map in the visitor center and visit the Fragrance Garden, the Medicinal Garden, the Herb Garden, and especially the Children’s Garden before continuing. You will also find hundreds of small, unobtrusive signs along the way telling you the names of the plants and other interesting details.
      Bearing northeast from the theme gardens you will soon enter the natural area, where you may be confused by the number of possible trails to choose from. My advice is to not be too concerned about exactly which trail you choose, and to be open to surprises along the way. That said, I will suggest a general plan for your hike:

       (1) The Quarry House is due east of the visitor center and theme gardens, so as you enter the natural area try to stay on trails that head east. If you can find a trail marked by a sign that says “Quarry Road” follow it. The Quarry Road Trail ends after 0.3 mile at the Quarry House.
      (2) Try to stay on the east side of the park as you work your way uphill from the Quarry House toward the Red Butte, the most prominent hill northeast of the park.
      (3) When you reach the park’s northern boundary you should turn northwest and descend down to Red Butte Creek on the western side of the natural area.
      (4) You can then follow a trail south along the creek, back down to the southwestern corner of the garden. From there, walk east back to the visitor center.

This general plan will allow you to experience most of the diversity that the Red Butte Gardens have to offer, and to enjoy some great views looking down across the city from the northern side of the park.

Note to web developers: You may copy this material onto your site, but in return please include a link to my home page Thank you, David Day (utahdavidday at gmail).com

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