June 28, 2013
The last time I rode single track trails in American Fork was in October of 2006. It was a cold morning, but my daughter and I were both drenched in sweat within ten minutes. We picked some trails that were well above our skill level. But later in the day we found some trails that we thoroughly enjoyed.
My friend, Bob, was anxious to gain more experience riding his new KTM on tight single track trails. In order to avoid another negative experience, I reviewed my notes from our previous trip and consulted with friends who have been there more recently than I. That preparation paid off well – we had a fantastic day!
It was also obvious that a lot of effort has been put into maintaining these trails. I offer a big “thank you” to all those that donated their time and effort. The trails were in much better condition than they were in 2006.
I recorded our ride on GPS, as shown in the following two diagrams. The first diagram shows the northern portion of our ride, which includes the beginning of the day and the end of the day. The second map contains the southern portion. Normally I show single track trails with a dashed track line, but in this case I used a solid line so they would show up better. All of our rides were single track except our warm-up ride to Silver Lake Flat.
Silver Lake Flat
We parked at the Tibble Fork Reservoir staging area. After getting ready to ride, I practiced some “slow ride” drills to help me with my balance (important for us old people) and use of the controls. We decided to take a quick warm-up ride up to Silver Lake Flat. It was seven miles up and back, but didn’t take very long since the road is in pretty good repair. This is the first time I have been to this reservoir since I was a teenager many, many years ago.
Tibble Fork (#041)
Our first single track was the Tibble Fork trail (#041). I was glad for our warm-up ride because this trail starts off with some of the more technical portions of the trail.
You ride across the dam and take the trail just to the right of trail sign. It starts off fairly steep and narrow.
The first portion of the trail is on a steep side slope with lots of thick vegetation on both sides of the trail. I don’t know why, but steep side hills really seem to mess with my balance. I was riding just fine – but I had a death grip on the handlebars. I finally started reminding myself to relax, and then I did much better.
Most of the trail is actually very nice and not too difficult. There are a few rocky sections and some exposed roots, but they tend to be fairly short. In some areas, the vegetation makes it difficult to see very far ahead on the trail. We were not in a big hurry and we don’t like to ride too fast, so we just cruised along at a leisurely pace (as you can see in our video).
South Fork Little Deer Creek (#252)
At the summit the trail comes to a four-way intersection; left takes you to the more technical northern portion of the Ridge Trail (#157), right takes you along the easier portion of the Ridge Trail towards the Alpine summit. We opted to go straight over the ridge onto the South Fork Little Deer Creek trail (#252). This is one of my all-time favorite trails. It is less technical than the Tibble Fork trail, so I could relax and enjoy the ride. It goes through pine trees, aspens, and open meadows. We even saw a flock of wild turkeys and a deer in one of the meadows.
Since I was here last, they have re-routed the portion of the trail that crosses the highway to Cascade Springs. It now crosses a little ways west of Elk Camp.
This trail drops from the ridge, crosses Cascade Springs road, and then climbs back up to the Alpine Summit. It is fun going either direction.
Lame Horse (#055)
After a brief rest at the summit, we decided to explore trail #055 which leads down to Aspen Grove. I was curious to see if this would make a better staging area for my family than Tibble Fork.
The first two-thirds of the trail are similar to trail #252, but the vegetation was noticeably thicker and taller. In some places the brush was above my handlebars.
The lower third of the trail was significantly more technical. As the trail opens up with some nice views of the mountains, the terrain becomes steep and rocky.
This portion of the trail also has some extremely narrow switchbacks. I always struggle with tight switchbacks, but these even gave Bob a little trouble.
At one of the switchbacks the trail joins the Timpanogos Trail (#052), as shown below. The trail to the right enters wilderness area and is not open to motorized travel. To the left, more switchbacks, and eventually you come out at Aspen Grove. Due to these rocky switchbacks, I decided that Aspen Grove would not make a better staging area for my family.
There is, however, an access point part way up the trail which can be used for those with street legal bikes.
After another rest stop, we rode back up to the summit. The switchbacks were not much easier going back up, but we both made it without incident.
Willow Hollow (#159)
From the summit, we now rode out the west side and down the Willow Hollow trail (#159). My daughter and I rode this a few years ago on our mountain bikes. It was just as fun on a dirt bike. The trail is kind of narrow, but it is not very difficult.
Once the trail crosses the pavement it gets a little rocky, but nothing too bad. It emerges into Salamander Flat. After crossing through the parking area, we came to a junction with the Salamander Flat trail (#150).
Salamander Flat trail (#150)
This trail was also pretty easy and short. I believe this trail actually starts at the Timponeeke trailhead, but from our mountain bike ride I concluded that the southern portion of the trail was kind of rocky. We rode north until the trail tees onto the Pine Hollow trail (#047).
Pine Hollow (#047)
When we arrived at the Pine Hollow junction, I noticed that my helmet camera memory card was full. So, we decided to stop for lunch and swap in a new card.
Pine Hollow is a portion of the Great Western Trail. I believe the trail leading down the mountain to the west is fairly challenging, but the ride up to the summit is easy and fun.
Ridge Trail (#157)
Near the top we came once again to the Ridge Trail. We turned north, but did not ride it all the way back to the top of the Tibble Fork trail. Instead we turned left on the more difficult Mud Springs trail (#173).
Mud Springs (#173)
Trail #173 is the trail that caused my daughter and I so much grief back in 2006. The trail is now in much better condition than it was back then, but I could still see why we struggled. This trail is much easier going down (riding north), as we did on this ride, than going up (riding south), like we did in 2006.
The trail contains a lot of water bars, exposed tree roots, ruts, rocks, and steep sections. Going down requires good braking skills. Going up requires confidence (which we lacked in 2006 – and maybe still) and good skills riding up ledges and steep climbs.
At one point the trail opens into a wide meadow with some gorgeous views of Mount Timpanogos. When my daughter and I first saw this several years ago, it was a very impressive sight after struggling to make it that far. Luckily for us, on that particular adventure our day improved significantly after this point.
On this trip, we continued on to the north. My hands got a little tired from braking so much, but there was nothing too technical or steep for me to handle. In fact, I would like to go back some day and see if I can now ride up this trail.
Mill Canyon (#040)
Trail #173 crosses the Tibble Fork trail and later tees into the Mill Canyon trail (#040).
Trail #040 is more technical than #041, but this lower portion is less technical than #173. There was one large rutted area that felt a lot like going down a bobsled run.
In 2006 we forged the stream that enters Tibble Fork reservoir. My daughter and I both got stuck and got our socks wet. Now there is a bridge about 100 yards further upstream. At least, I don’t think the bridge was there in 2006. The bridge makes access to this trail much easier.
Unfortunately, my helmet camera battery died before this junction, so I did not get any video or photos of this trail. That is a good reason to go back – right?