Several years ago Jamie and I attempted to ride the Stansbury Front single track trail. We had very little single track experience, and we didn’t know much about the trail. We started at the northern end, which is really rocky, narrow, and on steep side hills. We didn’t have much fun. We made it as far as North Willow Canyon, then abandoned the trail and took the roads back to the car.
With a lot more experience under my belt, I was anxious to go back and try the rest of the trail. It was a good thing Jamie and I quit when we did – the trail is much harder south of North Willow Canyon.
Bob Dawson also had a less than favorable first experience on the northern portion of the trail. We were both eager to finally conquer this trail.
The autumn weather was perfect all week long, so we took Thursday off work and headed out there. Here is our highlights video of our ride south, from Davenport Canyon to Big Hollow. More detailed trail videos can be found at the end of the report.
Below is our GPS track, starting at the base of Davenport Canyon.
Bob picked me up in his 4WD van so we could test out his newly built dual-bike rack. He did a great job designing and constructing it, and it seems very solid. It was kind of odd though, having two bikes on the back that were each worth more than the van!
Bob wanted to start at the north end and ride the entire trail both directions, for a total of about 50 miles. I wanted to start at the south end (which I have heard is easier) so that we would be riding the rocky north end during the middle of the day rather than at the beginning and end of the day. We compromised and parked at the base of Davenport canyon. We decided to ride south, and then, if we had time and energy, ride north later in the day. It turns out we had neither – we were running late so on the return route we bailed out in North Willow Canyon and took the road back to the car.
The trail has a lot of variety. It is all fairly narrow single track, but some sections are smooth and flowing, other sections are very rocky, there are steep hills to climb and descend, tight switchbacks, and an occasional exposed clump of tree roots. I would say the trail was not terrible difficult, but it was challenging.
The trail crosses 5 major mountain passes, with a total vertical gain of about 4800’. We even encountered snow and frozen ground on the north slope of Box Elder Pass. It turned out to be easier riding up on the frozen ground than coming down later in the day when the trail turned to slimy mud.
The scenery was gorgeous, and we were able to enjoy the final days of the autumn leaves.
The photo above shows Box Elder Pass in the distance. That is the highest point on the trail, at almost 8400’ elevation.
I would say that the hardest part of the trail lies between South Willow Canyon (near the Boy Scout Camp) and Box Elder Pass. Southern of Box Elder Pass is fairly easy.
As we started up the north face towards Box Elder Pass we ran in to muddy sections where the sun was shining. The ground was frozen in the shade, but muddy in the sun.
The following photo shows one wash crossing that caused me a little trouble going each direction. The trail on either side of the wash is slanted and slippery, and the wash itself is full of slippery rocks. Both times my rear wheel spun out on the slick rocks, turning me in the wrong direction.
Bob made it up the trail fine, but his bike also slid out from under him on the return journey. He ended up taking a nasty fall down into the boulders in the wash. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt. It took us about 20 minutes to get us bike back up the wash and onto the trail. The photo does not do it justice – the trail is much steeper than it appears in the wide angle screen grab from my helmet camera.
A short time later Bob somehow lost focus and veered off the trail. We were on a very steep side hill about 40’ above the creek bottom. I wish I had my helmet camera running. It was quite a sight to see. As the bike careened off the trail, Bob grabbed onto one of the small aspen trees in the background in the next photo. Bob was hanging in midair as his new KTM 300 went tumbling down the hill. Luckily, it snagged up in the brush about 25’ from the trail rather than going all the way to bottom.
The following screen grab, which was taken on our way up the trail, highlights the route we had to drag Bob’s bike. It is a little hard to follow, but assume the red line is lying on the ground and gradually working its way up the hill. We were able to use the motor while we were in the bushes, but once we got out of the bushes the rear wheel would just slide down hill, so we had to muscle it the rest of the way. We were sure glad it was his 300 and not my Husaberg 450 that weighs about 40 lbs more.
We tried to angle the bike upwards as we fought through thick brush and slippery muddy hills.
To make the last 10’ to the trail we tied a strap to the front and a rope to the rear. I stood on the trail and pulled the ropes while Bob would lift one end at a time. It took just about all of our combined strength because the foot peg would dig into the ground. It would have been really handy to have a third person with us.
It took us almost an hour to get his bike back onto the trail. We were both exhausted afterwards, so we took a break and ate some snacks. We could both tell that our arms were sore and tired for the rest of the ride. This is why we were running late and took the easy way back to the car.
It was a great day with perfect weather. The trail was fun, but very challenging. We basically had the trail to ourselves. The only other people we saw in the area were deer hunters. I think we passed four groups of hunters. We spotted a total of about a dozen deer on our ride. I wonder how many the hunters saw. In fact, we spotted four or five deer feeding in the field right next to a hunter’s pickup truck. We found that amusing.
The following three videos will give you a better idea of what each section of the trail is like. The first video contains the mostly intermediate level ride from Davenport Canyon to South Willow Hollow and the more advanced ride from South Willow to Martin’s Fork Pass. There is one gnarly rocky switchback between North Willow and South Willow, but I didn’t get any pictures of it.
Part two is also an advanced ride, from Martin’s Fork Pass to the highest point along the trail at Box Elder Pass. The northern approach to Box Elder Pass can be covered in snow or mud, so consider the weather before riding that section.
The third video is the easier portion of the trail south of Box Elder Pass to Big Hollow. Many people start their ride at Big Hollow.