Riders warn others after popular Bountiful trail washout causes several crashes

Jul 26, 2023, 7:57 PM

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — Two riders are warning people about a popular off-road trail in Bountiful after several crashes in one spot on the trail that’s only getting more dangerous to ride on.

On any given day up by the Bountiful’ B’ and Skyline Drive, it’s common to see trucks parked with empty trailers as people ride dirt bikes, ATVs, side-by-sides, and Jeeps on the trails on the hillside.

On Wednesday morning, Tyson Zesiger and Luke Sowby parked in a spot called “Dead Man’s Curve” and walked into one of the main trails near the curve. Usually, you’d find them riding in the area. But they were visiting a specific spot.

“It’s not even visible from this point,” Sowby said, pointing out in the distance. “You won’t have time to slow down until it’s too late.”

The trail appeared to continue up a hillside without indicating something wrong. Walking a little further up, it became apparent what he was talking about. Suddenly the trail gave way to a deep, wide wash.

“It’s pretty steep,” Sowby said, peering over the edge. “It’s a long ways down.”

The trail, which riders have been enjoying for decades, is now completely washed out in that one spot, probably thanks to the wet spring. It only recently became completely impassible.

Tyson Zesiger and Luke Sowby stand above the washed-out area of the trail (KSL TV)

“Just last summer, I rode my dirt bike past it quite a few times last year,” Sowby explained. “And the first time I came up this year, it was gone.”

The washout is taking riders by surprise, as it keeps growing.

“Our friend’s little brother actually had an accident where he fell down into this ravine here, unfortunately,” Zesiger said.

The two recently recovered that person’s dirt bike from the bottom of the wash. It was quite the operation to hook straps to the bike and hoist it up.

That rider, Will Smith, explained he was riding up the trail and didn’t see the drop-off until the last second.

“I’m downshifting on my bike and trying to stop. And it was just too late, and I flew off the edge of it,” Smith explained.

Smith was knocked unconscious and stayed overnight in the ER. He has some large scars on his arm but will be okay.

“I gashed open my elbow, and it sliced my tricep tendon,” he said. “Which is very lucky. I could be dead.”

Volunteers recover a bike after rider Will Smith crashed over the edge and was severely injured (Luke Sowby)

Smith is extremely lucky, considering the Davis County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that they’ve received calls to that spot nearly a dozen times in the last few years for rollovers, as the wash has grown.

In one incident, search and rescue responded to an ATV rider who died after rolling down the wash.

Davis County officials said the trail is not a sanctioned trail and is considered a “trail-by-use” with no maintenance. The county said people ride at their own risk.

The sheriff’s office recommended that people know the trails they plan to ride and be ready for trail conditions to change.

The U.S. Forest Service said that the trail, including the washout area, is not on their land and is a mix of private land and unincorporated Davis County.

That’s why Sowby and Zesiger returned to the washout recently and installed a stop sign they found at a swap meet to warn others. They’re hoping to install a warning sign on the other side as well.

“We kind of want to spread awareness, and help other people know,” Zesiger said.

The stop sign Tyson and Luke installed to warn others (KSL TV)

After standing out at the site for a little while Wednesday, a dirt bike rider pulled up on the other side, clearly surprised by the drop, using an expletive to describe the washout.

“That wasn’t on the map!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah, don’t ride off that,” Zesiger told him.

“You got to go all the way back around,” Sowby explained to the rider.

Turning around, he took off and rode back to a safer area.

“We just want to keep everybody safe up here,” Sowby expressed.

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Riders warn others after popular Bountiful trail washout causes several crashes