Now that Jamie is attending the University of Utah, she gets to enjoy a fall recess. This year she wanted to spend two days dirt biking. We opted to spend our time exploring some of the Paiute ATV trail system in central Utah.
At the last minute we had to alter our trail plans due to a storm that moved into the area. Nevertheless, we had an enjoyable – and memorable – experience.
Friday, Oct 12 – Max Reid trail (#01) and Dry Canyon (#76)
It rained during most of our drive down to the Paiute area. In fact, it rained very hard much of the way. But we lucked out – the storm abated just before we got there. We were able to enjoy a short afternoon ride between storms.
Our trailhead is just across the freeway (I-70) from the Fremont Indian State Park several miles west of Richfield, Utah. As the clouds lifted, we were surprised to see snow in the higher elevations. We knew that would be an issue for our planned ride.
The last time we came to this area we also endured rain. In fact the trail we wanted to explore had a river running right down the middle, so we abandoned that idea. We also had frequent thunder and lightning.
This time we were able to complete at least a portion of our planned ride, and we got to explore the trail that was washed out last time.
It was cold when we started; 39º according to my car thermometer. But at least it had stopped raining. We bundled up and began our adventure.
The trailhead is at the bottom of the Max Reid trail, which is a portion of the main Paiute loop, trail #01. It starts at about 5800’ elevation and climbs to the Silver King Mine.
Our GPS track is shown below.
The Max Reid trail is a fun ride. It has numerous small stream crossings as the trail twists and turns through beautiful pine and aspen foliage. This portion of the trail has an intermediate rating (blue).
From our prior trip we knew the trail could be ridden after a rain storm. The soil is somewhat rocky, so it isn’t too slick for dirt bikes.
We began to encounter snow at about 7500’ elevation. The white snow really accented the final stages of the autumn colors.
The trail continued upward to about 8000’ where it meets the top of trail #76 – the one that was washed out last time.
We thought trail #76 would take us back down to the freeway, but instead it continued to climb. The elevation profile on the GPS track is for trail #76. We peaked out at an elevation of about 8300’.
At one point, Jamie actually threw a snowball at me! Can you imagine that?
She has good aim too. I slowed down so the snowball hit my front tire and splattered. If I kept a steady pace, she would have caught me right in the face.
Some portions of the trail were entirely covered in snow. It was really quite exciting to ride in fresh snow. It wasn’t overly slippery, but we did ride with care. In fact, this entire trip was a good exercise in ‘smooth’ riding technique to avoid slipping.
The trail eventually began its descent toward the slot canyon through Dry Canyon. (An ironic name since it rains every time we come here).
The slot canyon is not very long, but it is kind of neat to ride through. There is one section that has off-camber tracks for ATVs, but there is a bypass road for those not up for the challenge.
Trail #76 comes out a few miles east of the trailhead, but it is legal to ride ATVs and dirt bikes on the pavement to return to the trailhead or connect with other trails in the area.
When we returned to the car, the weather was still okay and we had a little extra time, so we decided to ride trail #78 which goes from the trailhead to a campground a few miles up the canyon. This is an alternate to taking the easy gravel road, #13.
Trail #78 turned out to be more advanced than I expected. It had several steep and tight switchbacks. After completing this trail we took the easy way back to the car. It began to hail just as we were loading the trailer, so it was time to get out of there. We quickly loaded up and drove to Richfield to get cleaned up at the motel and enjoy a nice dinner at Pepperbelly’s.
Saturday, Oct 13 – Trails #01 and #15
It rained again during the night, but not hard enough to clean off our bikes. We took our time getting ready, hoping the trails would dry out somewhat before we got back to the trailhead. The storm was moving out and the sun was shining brightly.
Our original plan was to explore some trails up on Monroe Mountain at around 10,000’ elevation. With the recent snow, we knew that wasn’t a good idea. So we decided to return to the Max Reid trailhead and explore one of the more difficult sections of the main Paiute loop where trail #01 goes north from I-70. Our intent was to do a large loop to the north and then the west. The following GPS track shows what really happened.
Trail #01 going north is steep and rocky. It is rated as an advanced trail, but I have noticed that the Paiute rating systems tends to over exaggerate somewhat. The trail was challenging, but not overbearing.
The south facing slopes were just slightly damp, while the north facing slopes were still wet and in some cases snow covered. As we continued north, we were hoping we wouldn’t have to turn around and go back the way we came. We thought some of those north facing hills would be tough to get back up.
All went well for about 5.5 miles. We had climbed about 2500’ during that 5.5 miles. The trail then opened into a large meadow with greasy clay. It was so slick it was difficult to even stand up. And the mud stuck to everything.
Hoping that the mud wouldn’t last long, we struggled our way up a slight incline.
We were not sure whether to press on into the unknown, or turn back and attempt those steep north facing hill climbs. After a short prayer for inspiration, a couple came down the trail in a Polaris RZR. I asked them how the trail was up ahead. They said it was mud like this for miles. So turn around we did.
The return climbs weren’t actually too bad. The rocks would throw you around some, and the slick mud made it tricky at times, but Jamie and I both made it up fine. The return back to the trailhead actually went fairly smoothly.
We enjoyed our lunch at a picnic table in the warm sunshine while we discussed our options for the afternoon.
We decided to try out trail #15 which parallels I-70. It is lower in elevation than other trails in the area, and it is rated as easy to intermediate.
The first part of the ride was kind of boring. It was a wide and fairly smooth dirt road. But as we got further west, it turned more to an ATV trail that wound through small canyons and crossed a beautiful small stream.
Trail #15 eventually turns north and goes underneath I-70. It then joins the paved road that leads back to the Fremont Indian State Park and our car. The ride back was swift, but very scenic. The road goes through a beautiful small canyon with a clear stream and pretty trees. One section even goes through somewhat of a slot canyon.
We ended up riding about 34 miles on Saturday. We loaded up our mud-covered bikes and headed home, arriving home with just enough daylight to hose the mud off our bikes.
In spite of the weather, it was a fun – and certainly memorable – trip. And forging good memories is what this is all about.