About ten years ago, my son Gary, and I, accidentally discovered the 5th Water single track trail in Diamond Fork. We rode about 85 miles that day, exploring trails from Wallsburg to 5th Water and back. The 5th Water Trail was by far the most exciting trail of the day.
We later went back with some of Gary’s college roommates and explored some portions of the Center trail and 2nd Water. Then, a few years ago, I took Jamie on some of these trails. As we rode down the 5th Water single track, she said; “This is so cool!”
On Saturday, September 22, we managed to spend another day exploring this wonderful area. The autumn leaves were absolutely gorgeous, further adding to a great day of riding.
The idea for our trip started a few weeks earlier when Scott mentioned his desire to explore the Willow Creek single track trails that Jamie, Jason, and I attempted last year. I knew that Jamie and Jason wouldn’t be interested in that ride, so I proposed some easier trails over in Diamond Fork. Even with fairly short notice, we managed to line up ten people to enjoy the day riding together.
In 2008 an OHV trail map was published for the Strawberry & Diamond Fork area. This map, shown below, shows dirt roads (solid), ATV trails (dashed), and single track trails (dotted). Our primary goal was to explore as many of the intermediate (blue) single track trails that we could.
Part way up Spanish Fork canyon is a turnoff for the Sheep Creek/Ray’s Valley Road. This paved road climbs steadily as it works its way towards Strawberry Reservoir. When Ray’s Valley Road turns north towards Diamond Fork, a dirt road (42) heads east and eventually ties in to roads going between Strawberry Reservoir and Soldier Summit (131).
We parked at the Unicorn trailhead, which is at the western end of road 42, as shown on the lower portion of the map, just left of center.
A single track trail branches off about 5.5 miles from the trailhead. The trail going south (23) leads down to Tie Fork, while the north-bound trail is a portion of the Center Trail (09).
This single track trail is perhaps the easiest section of Center Trail. It is just over 2 miles long, with fast and flowing curves through meadows and forests.
Trail 09 ties into a rutted Jeep road (501) which leads to a junction of the 2nd Water Trail (18) and a fairly nice dirt road (518) leading north.
We traveled at a good pace on road 518, stopping a few times to enjoy the views and check out some possible trail access points.
A special thanks to Marc Schaerer for providing some of the video footage. We had two helmet cameras, which each recorded almost all of the single track, plus my camcorder for filming whenever we stopped. I estimate we had about 4 hours of footage to sort through, so I decided to split the video into three segments. Here is the first segment, which includes the beginning, some of the middle, and the end of our day. It contains the southern portion of Center Trail (9) and Strawberry Ridge.
We turned left on the 5th Water Trail (15) and began the fun descent down the tight and twisting trail. This marks the beginning of our primary single track adventure.
This section is my favorite in this area. The single track trails are fun. They are just challenging enough to be interesting, but not so hard they cause serious issue. Here is the video of this section of our ride.
Details of this portion of our ride are shown on the following GPS map.
The upper portion of trail 15 is pretty fun. The trail is narrow and somewhat rutted, so you have to pay attention, but there is nothing too difficult. Once you pass the first junction with the Center Trail (waypoint 15-9S on the map), the trail gets significantly more technical. The trail enters a narrow canyon with steep side hills. Some sections have exposed rocks that could easily bump you off balance and send you careening down into the small streambed. Everyone made it fine, but the tension level was noticeably higher.
We then turned north at the next Center Trail junction (15-9). I hoped to come back later and ride the lower half of 5th Water, but we ran out of time.
Center Trail is semi-technical with some loose rocks and exposed roots, but nothing too bad. In fact it was easier than my last visit because new trails have been cut around some of the nastier sections. This trail is also really fun. We stopped for lunch in a small hollow with some large downed trees.
After lunch, we continued in a clockwise direction on Center trail until we came to the junction with trail 14 (5th Water Ridge). From my experience with Gary many years ago, I knew there was a nasty hill climb on the advanced section of trail 09 going northward (shown in black or red). So, we opted to take trail 14, which is a really fun ride. It has one fairly long climb with loose dirt, but nothing overly challenging. Once past that hill climb, the trail curves smoothly through some gorgeous forests and meadows. The autumn colors were spectacular, even though this has been a very dry year.
Once we reached the 6th Water road (715), we took a quick trip up to the pass and rode a portion of the Strawberry Ridge trail (22).
This section is pretty quick and fun, and leads to a small peak with great views in all directions. This is where the group photo was taken.
After taking our fill of photographs, we zipped back down trail 22, then down 6th Water Road to the portal that feeds water from Strawberry Reservoir under the mountain into 6th Water creek.
By this time, it was getting kind of late. We were the furthest distance from the car, and some had commitments and needed to head for home. So, we considered our options and altered our plan to ride Center trail back the opposite direction.
We took the advanced portion of Center trail leading from near the portal to the junction with trail 14. The steep hill climb I remembered from previous ride on this trail was much more challenging than it used to be. These trails are getting fairly heavy use, and the steep sections tend to get torn up and rutted. Luckily, we were going down this hill. The ruts were deep enough that it was pretty easy to just put your feet on the ground and slowly walk our bikes down.
What I didn’t remember was the rest of this trail! This entire section is definitely an advanced trail! It had numerous steep climbs, steep descents, exposed tree roots and rocks, and tight switchbacks. Everyone handled it pretty well, other than one section with some huge exposed tree roots. That particular section gave almost everyone a hard time.
Everyone was relieved to finally reach the junction with trail 14.
From here, we turned east and rode the fun trail 14 again. It was a little easier the second time because we were familiar with the trail. The scenery was even more spectacular with the later afternoon sunlight.
After completing trail 14, we headed back to the car. The ride down the ridge trail didn’t take very long, and then we got to enjoy the southern portion of Center Trail again.
All that was left was the ride back on the gravel road (42). This road is mostly wash-board, so it just about rattles your teeth out. We all made it back to the car safely. We had a few minor ‘tip-overs’, but no serious crashes. I think everyone really enjoyed the ride. Good trails, good friends, perfect weather (other than some haze), and beautiful autumn colors. I am ready to go back…