Marysvale: Miners Park and ATV
If you were to journey up Bullion Canyon from the town of Marysvale, Utah, it would seem quiet and peaceful — a small, pretty gorge lined by fir trees and rocky slopes with a burbling creek running through it. But well over a century ago, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was a very different scene. Sometime around 1865, prospectors discovered gold in the canyon, and miners flocked to the area in droves. Miners’ Park, and the self-guided driving tour on the road that leads to it, is a fun way to learn about the heyday of gold mining activity in Utah’s “Canyon of Gold.” You can also stretch your legs and hike out to a beautiful 50-foot waterfall while you’re at it.
To get to the canyon, turn west onto Center Street in Marysvale — this street becomes Bullion Canyon Road. Drive for about five miles and you will see a sign marking the start point for Canyon of Gold Driving Tours. There is also a box of related brochures that will explain what you are seeing along the main road as you travel up the canyon. (The brochure is free to borrow – $1 if you want to take it home with you.) While the drive itself is less than three miles, plan to spend about 1-2 hours on the tour.
There are nine marked tour stops along the 2.5 miles to Miners’ Park, including an old toll road, the remains of a mine built by prospector Witt Tate around 1920, and a 10-foot long stone that was once an arrastra. Introduced by the Spanish, the arrastra was a mill used to grind ore into a thick slurry. Once the ore was pulverized, mercury was added to the mixture to retrieve the gold.
The seventh stop is the remains of Bullion City, one of the abandoned old mining towns, which was the focal point of miner operations. During its height, Bullion City was a town of 40-50 buildings and primitive shelters, including canvas tents and dugouts. In 1880 Bullion City’s population was surveyed at 1,651 people, nearly a metropolis when compared to the population of less than 400 people in Marysvale today.
Shortly after you reach the Bullion City stop, you will cross a bridge over Pine Creek and come to a junction with Cottonwood Canyon Road. Miners’ Park is located about 0.25-miles further up Bullion Canyon Road, along which you will see some cabins and the Bully Boy Mill, constructed in 1922. While this mill was cutting-edge technology at the time, it shut down 16 years later because the cost of refining the gold was more than its value — the government regulated the price of gold to keep it at $35 an ounce. The U.S. government ceased to regulate the price of gold in the 1970s, and today, an ounce of the stuff costs more than $1,000.
At the road’s end, take the 0.25-mile interpretative walk on the Miners’ Park Historical Trail. The trail has 16 informative displays, including mining equipment and a refurbished cabin. Once you’ve explored the historical trail, get a good dose of nature by taking a side trip and hike to Bullion Falls. There are two trails, a two-mile trail from Miners’ Park and a one-mile route that starts just before the bridge over Pine Creek, which will both lead you to an overlook with good views of the waterfall. If you would like a longer, more strenuous trek, check out Bullion Pasture, three miles west of the waterfall, in an open space that lies beneath the 12,137-foot Mount Belknap.
Bullion Canyon Road is not plowed during the winter, though it may be possible to hike on the packed snow. Beyond the bridge over Pine Creek you would likely need snowshoes to pass.
The town of Marysvale regards itself as the heart of the Paiute ATV Trail with good reason: Every direction out of Marysvale ties into the thousands of miles of the historic off-road trail system, which is highly regarded for its maintenance and scenic beauty. Although the popular UTV Jam officially took a year off in 2016, riders hope to bring the event back to celebrate this unique trail, which is quite possibly the largest system in the nation. Of course, once the snow melts, the trails are wide-open and ready to ride. Inquire locally about rental opportunities, or if you're hauling your machines behind your RV, consider Lizzie and Charlie's RV and ATV campground, where you can ride your ATV straight from camp onto the trail and back.