Pony Express Trail in Utah - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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Pony Express Trail in Utah

I've been visiting the original Pony Express stations in Utah. Nerd alert is probably warranted...

Anyhow, after seeing a blog by another rider on the topic I decided to use the Pony Express as an excuse and a framework to see more of my state and learn a bit more of our history. I'm using the excellent yet brief book "The Pony Express Stations in Utah" by Hearty and Hatch in addition to various web sources. The Pony Express Stations in Utah: Patrick Hearty, Dr. Joseph Hatch: Amazon.com: Books


There are sure to be many references for your own area if you live where the Pony Express ran.

The Pony Express ran during 1860 and 1861 between St. Joseph Missouri and Sacramento California. At any one time there were reportedly 40 riders on horseback riding the trail, 24/7! The Utah segment ran through mountainous terrain from the northeast near Evanston Wyoming down to Salt Lake City, then across the desert to Nevada. Stations were approximately 10 miles apart.

For my own simplicity I've broken it into several sections and will be riding it as time permits. Today I rode the Cedar Valley segment, and previously most of the Salt Lake Valley segment.

Northeast Segment: Leave out of Evanston south about 10 miles on back roads to first stop, then jog west to I-80 frontage road, ride down the canyon to junction with I-84 at Echo. Four PE stations on this section.

East Mountain Segment: From Echo northwest to Henefer then zig-zag westward past East Canyon reservoir and up to the summit of Emigration Canyon. Three PE stations on this section.

Salt Lake Segment: Descend from the summit of Emigration Canyon down into Salt Lake City, then follow State St. south to Sandy then to the prison at Point of the Mountain. Four PE stations on this section.

Cedar Valley Segment: From Point of the Mountain to Eagle Mountain, then out to Fairfield. Two stations on this section.

West Desert Segment: This is the longest, about 150 miles one way, much of it dirt road on the exact Pony Express trail, also used for the Overland Stage Coach, and used by pioneer wagon trains. Passes south of Dugway Proving Grounds across the desert to the Nevada border between Wendover and Ely. Remote with no gas or services. Fifteen PE stations on this section.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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So I'll start with the Sacramento, California monument which I visited while on a business trip recently. The monument is in Old Town. There's a lot of history in Old Town related to the gold rush, the transcontinental railway (a nice railway museum), and the Pony Express.

Here's a plaque on the monument and me in front of the statue. No V at this one.



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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
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If you're local and want some detailed info on finding the monuments or the actual trail, send me a message and I'll pass on my ride notes.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Today started at Rockwell's Station which is at Point of the Mountain and then progressed south and west into Cedar Valley. Rockwell's stood in what is now an excavated area just south of the prison. The marker is a few hundred yards northeast of the site and is currently inaccessible due to road construction.

Porter Rockwell is a famous and interesting Mormon who was a bodyguard for Brigham Young. Rockwell killed numerous men, though is quoted as saying he never killed anyone who didn't deserve it! His station was a brewery (yes they drank alcohol back then) and small inn. The actual site is across this excavation pretty much above the right mirror and just before the group of trees on the other side.



To the next stop, Joe's Dugout, leave Rockwells following Pony Express Drive, which is the west frontage road to I-15, south to Thanksgiving point. The first part of this is probably on the old Pony Express trail, but then obviously does not follow the direct diagonal southwest. But we'll catch it back later. Work your way to 2100N/UT85 and to west to Redwood Rd, then go south. Turn right onto Pony Express Parkway into Eagle Mountain.

Just past Sandpiper Rd on the left is the marker. Joe's Dugout main building actually sat where the road is now.

Me and the marker. Couldn't get a picture with the V in it due to the location.



A wider view looking to the west. The famous (dry) well was on the other side of the road, and nestled against that hill was the actual dugout which was where the riders stayed. Stables were also over in that cove somewhere.



Continue west just a mile or so and pull into the National Park Service's Eagle Mountain Pony Express overlook. Here you look west across the valley and can see the original trail to Fairfield, most of which can be ridden.



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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Head west about a mile, jog right onto Mid Valley Rd, then left onto the unmarked dirt road. You're now on the original trail.









This dirt road takes you all the way to Fairfield, site of Camp Floyd.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Camp Floyd is the site of a lot of Utah history, with the Pony Express being a small part. $3 per adult to get into the buidings administered as a State Park. Well worth it.

Camp Floyd was a US Army post established in 1858 to keep an eye on the rebellious Mormons after the standoff between Utah Territory and the USA. Up to 3500 US soldiers were stationed there, which was 1/3rd of the entire US Army at the time! Fairfield, adjacent to the camp, had about 7,000 residents, and was full of gambling halls, saloons, and hookers.

John Carson built a home which he then converted to an inn, serving the Overland Stage Coach as well as being a Pony Express rest station. This is one of the few remaining structures in Utah which served the Pony Express, and the only one open to the public and maintained as it was at the time. Most sites have at best some of the foundation remaining. All have a historic marker except for a few on what is now private land.

It was fun to walk through the Inn and see it how the Pony Express riders would have experienced it as they stayed there.

Here's the Inn and the current Pony Express marker. Also photos of the monument erected in 1939 to commemorate Camp Floyd overall.









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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-21-2016, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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I added another segment to the tour today from the east mountain area to Salt Lake city. Specifically, from Echo to Henefer then up and over Emigration Canyon. This route was created by the famous Donner Party in 1846 who ended up stranded in the Sierras that winter and resorted to cannibalism. The following year, 1847, the Mormon pioneers used the same route to emigrate to the Salt Lake valley. They arrived July 24th, so today (July 21) they were strung along this route 169 years ago. Things have changed since then! The route was used 2 years later by 49ers going to the Gold Rush in California, then by the Pony Express in 1860 and 1861.

The first marker today is Snyder's in Parley's canyon (very close to Kimball Junction) which was a temporary station during the spring of 1860 due to extremely deep snow in Emigration canyon. It sits in a modern subdivision today. This was an easy half hour ride east on I-80 from the Salt Lake valley.



Then on to a truly beautiful scenic location near Echo at the lower end of Echo Canyon. I-80 runs up the canyon to Evanston, Wyoming from here. The Pony Express trail also ran up Echo Canyon to Evanston. Weber Station was at the very bottom of Echo Canyon where modern day I-80 and I-84 intersect. The actual location of the building was in a field now in between the 2 roads on private land. You can get right to the edge of the field. There are no remnants of the building.





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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-21-2016, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
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From Echo go north to Henefer and then turn west. The route is well signposted through here.




It doesn't look too bad through this section but up ahead the Wasatch Mountains look intimidating to cross on foot with livestock and wagons.



The terrain starts to get hilly. No problem and a lot of fun on the Versys. This was the location of Dixie Hollow station, still on the east side of the Wasatch, about 9 miles from Weber Station.




One of the rare sights on the Pony Express trail is an original building used by PE riders. That's Bauchmann's Station cabin in the background, now on private property on a working ranch. The area is heavily signposted No Trespassing, so the closest one can get is a dirt forest road.



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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-21-2016, 07:52 PM Thread Starter
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Further up hill, after an emergency stop to avoid a deer which jumped out in front of me, there is the high point on the trail at a place named Big Mountain by the Mormon pioneers. This is the first view one gets of the Salt Lake valley on the trail. Elevation 8400 ft. The road down is a fun ride, except for tourists wandering across the centerline on the hairpin turns.




Down the hill one finds an authentic section of the original trail.




Descending most of the way to the Salt Lake Valley one comes to the Little Dell Reservoir where the Mountain Dell Station stood for the Pony Express. Academics argue about the exact location but generally believe it was situated in the upper area of what is now flooded by the reservoir somewhere down below me there.




A hard day's ride indeed! Fun but tiring in the heat of summer on the Versys. On horseback rushing along a dirt trail in the summer, or pushing through a snow storm in the winter would have been hard dangerous work.

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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-21-2016, 08:10 PM
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We live in Genoa Nevada. There is a pony express station in our town, and we literally live on the trail. Check out the riding on the northern Nevada pony express segment🐎
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-21-2016, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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I'll be riding the west desert section of the Utah Pony Express trail out to the Nevada border this September. Sometime in the future I'd love to ride it across Nevada, too.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-21-2016, 09:37 PM
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Really a neat project. Can never get enough history.
Interesting stuff, I appreciate that you posted all of that.

A guy could have worse hobbies!
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-22-2016, 07:58 AM
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Sig,
As you know I rode it from Faust out to Wendover last weekend and would enjoy riding it again. Awesome views and like 110 miles with no people! Send me a note if you want a ride buddy and I will ride with you out to Wendover for a ice cold beer!! The long way!!!
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-22-2016, 08:25 AM
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What a cool adventure you're on. I saw some of the Pony Express sites on my way out to Colorado last year. Thanks for the info and the pics!


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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 07-22-2016, 06:58 PM
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It's AMAZING how something that had such a short life-span, has captured SO MUCH of our imaginations over the years!!!
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post #16 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 10:06 AM Thread Starter
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I finally rode the final segment in Utah across the west desert. It was fun, challenging, and isolated! I won't ride it alone again, because help is hours or days away. But it was amazing to be out there alone, with zero light pollution at night. On the trail itself I only saw about 3 vehicles the first day, and just a cowboy the second day.

Round trip from Salt Lake City is 375 miles. From the last chance gas in Fairfield Utah to the first available gas (in Wendover) it was 210 miles. I was happy I brought along an extra gallon in a small can.

The backcountry route is a dirt road which is in fairly good condition. 40 mph was comfortable most of the way, though there are a variety of obstacles like rocks, ruts, rattlesnakes, large black beetles, pronghorn antelope, cows, and sheep which require attention even when the road seems otherwise good. In a few places it was challenging on 2 wheels, with soft sand, deep gravel, river rocks, or deep ruts in dried mud.

The road is not passable even with 4WD if wet. Don't go if it has rained in the past few days.

The west desert segment begins at Camp Floyd, proceeding for a couple of miles on paved road to 5 Mile Pass. Then turn at the sign onto the dirt road. You'll be on dirt all the way to Ibapah.

They aren't kidding around with the warning sign!



From 5 Mile pass the nature of the terrain changes abruptly. You know you're in the Great Basin. This is the East Rush Valley location marker.



Faust Station marker is the last intact monument going westward. The plaques have either been stolen or vandalized on all the others. Look at the picture above and you can see where the plaques used to be.




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post #17 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 10:17 AM Thread Starter
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After Faust you climb across a ridgeline where you find Lookout Pass. This terrain seems very unlike Utah, more like New Mexico. There were a few people camping in this area, which is very beautiful. It is all BLM land, so pick your spot and camp out. Notice the round plaque is still on the monument, but the square information plaque has been stolen.



The next stop is Simpson Springs station. A replica cabin has been constructed on the site of the original.





There's a campground uphill from the site at Simpson Springs where I spent the night. There was nobody else within many miles. Coyotes made a lot of noise at one point, yipping and howling.



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post #18 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 10:29 AM Thread Starter
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Pushing westward day 2, the road descends to the level of the old lake bed and mostly stays there until Callao. This is where you'll find surface challenges on a motorcycle. At times the surface is a beige colored powder which makes seeing the details (like ruts) very difficult. Also areas of sand, gravel, and river rock. The trail rises up over a few small ridges which have much better riding conditions.

There was no opposite direction traffic either day except for this cowboy.



Climbing over a small range of volcanic rock.



Black Rock station looking south.



Looking north towards the basin at Black Rock station.

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post #19 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 10:42 AM Thread Starter
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Fish Springs station marker. From the last station to this one there were definitely some challenges with soft sand and gravel.



The road runs a loop north around a mountain, then back south to Boyd's Station where there are the ruins of the original building. Because I'm a nerd I had to get a picture standing in the doorway.



The road rises from here, getting away from the worst surface conditions, but feeling even more isolated. Then you pass through the tiny town of Callao.



Climb the hill to Round House station. Apparently this was hostile country, with numerous Indian and bandit attacks. Other stations were also attacked and burned, but this one was the most threatened, so they built it as a fortress.



One of the gun ports built into the wall at Round House.

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post #20 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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From here it is a nice winding dirt road up over a pass and down towards Ibapah. In the high section there is a marker off the road which is easy to miss. To get to it you have to take a rugged jeep trail back around through the scrub, probably a mile. I chose not to attempt it because it could literally be months before anybody else went back there. My skills and confidence weren't up to the risk of getting hurt or stranded out of sight back there.

The last 5 miles into Ibapah are on a level paved but rough road. Ibapah has an interesting history, once being a major stop on the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway was one of first, if not the first transcontinental automobile route in the 1920's. There's a monument in Ibapah for the Pony Express and the Lincoln Highway, but that's not the actual Pony Express station marker. Continue about a mile (take the dirt road fork just south of the monument) to find the actual location marker. The Nevada state line is just down the road west from here.

The lump on top of the marker is supposed to be a beehive, the symbol of Utah, but it has either weathered or been shot up like the sign next to it.





Ride 55 miles north to Wendover for gas and to air the tires back up for the 120 highway miles back to SLC.



At the rest stop half way home this sign greets you. Two hundred feet to the right is a sign for the "Pet Relief Area"...


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