After consulting maps, we decided Union Canyon could be a cool way to get to the reservoir from Carbonate Hill. The canyon was tight but the trail followed the river, so it would probably be an easy and short way out. We ended up being happily wrong about the difficulty of the trail.
We got to the Union Park Cow Camp and the gates were open. There were no cows or people, but the mud had lots and lots of cow prints in it. We must have just missed them, or they were left over from the last time the place was muddy. We passed through and found ourselves at the trailhead.
The trail was definitely narrower and less maintained, but it was marked with a sign and it seemed to get some use. We headed in on the loose rocks, appreciating the scenery around us. The canyon was gorgeous. There were yellow and green aspen trees in the pines, and a thin layer of snow covered the higher portions. It was lightly snowing, but it wasn't sticking on the trail. It was just making everything wet and muddy.
It was a really nice trip, and we kept expecting the trail to dead end even though we hoped it would go through. We got to the first creek crossing, and it looked like the trail had actually been washed out. Plenty of tracks from ATVs and 4x4 vehicles went through to the other side, so we followed. The mud wasn't very slick, so getting out of the water was pretty easy and no one had an issue.
The second creek crossing was even easier as the sides where we crossed were sloped. It was very pretty and fun to be crossing the water.
The walls of the canyon got closer and closer, and soon we found ourselves on a narrow trail with the river on one side, only yards away, and a rock wall on the other side. Then the bumpy trail got rockier and rockier the farther we went.
Eventually, we had to get out to check out an especially rough part of the Rock Garden. There were two big rocks on the right and a huge rock on the left, and we almost needed to weave around them. They were pretty close together, though, so there was some scraping. Both Julie and Monica scraped up the same rear passenger wheel rim in exactly the same way. Monica even sheared off the top part of a lug nut, and you could see the bolt. Fun!
We were grinning and talking about how cool the trail was after that. It was difficult to stand on the muddy rocks in the Rock Garden, though, so we didn't hang out for long. The trail then opened up and we saw a nice sign for a hiking trail. It was obvious that a lot of vehicles had been to this point, but they probably turn around at the hiking trail.
We got out to the kiosk to hang out and have snacks, but then we saw a group of cows hurrying our way. They must have thought we had food for them. Roger tried to slowly drive through the group of cows, but they wouldn't move. He got out of his Jeep and they immediately left. Roger is scarier than his Jeep.
We popped out into the Lottis Creek Campground and it was deserted. It was really nice, though. We aired up there, thinking Cottonwood Creek and the rest of the trip would be mellow. Out on the pavement, we turned right to head up to Taylor Park Reservoir. What a fun trail and a great find!