As many as 200 bald eagles roost in the trees along the south side of Northrup Canyon each night in winter. Get to the trailhead early to see the squadrons of majestic birds flying out of the canyon as they head to the fishing areas of Banks Lake. Even without the big baldies, the area offers a great experience with nature. While the eagles focus on fish, the local populations of red-tailed and Cooper's hawks hunt inland for upland birds, rodents and small mammals. The prey animals find shelter in the rich ground cover of the canyon. Ever-present sagebrush provides the best cover, but the little beasts also scurry under the clumps of balsamroot and other desert vegetation.
The trail climbs into the canyon, which holds the only native forest in Grant County. The forest is mostly pine (ponderosa and lodgepole), but some Douglas-fir also is in the mix. Those trees make this canyon a logical home to birds of all kinds, and the result is a bird lover's paradise. Following the track as it meanders through the heart of the canyon, look and listen for avians such as the great horned owls and barred owls, woodpeckers and flickers, grouse and quail, swallows and sparrows, hawks and eagles.
Hike up the canyon for a good 1.5 miles, and you'll find the forest diversifying with the inclusion of willow and aspen trees. Continue up the canyon to find an abandoned farmhouse, and scramble around the forest at your leisure before heading back the way you came.
WTA Pro Tip: Hikers can continue past the farmhouse to Northrup Lake, a further 1.5 miles, making for a 6-mile roundtrip hike.