Willow Creek Single Track – July 2014

July 19, 2014

Back in 2011, I took Jamie and Jason on a ride to explore the single track trails up in Spanish Fork Canyon. The trails were very narrow with lots of steep side hill exposure. The kids did not like it.

Ever since that time I have wanted to go back and finish the trail. In the meantime, the Forest Service, along with numerous dirt biker volunteers, has greatly improved the trail. Most of the side hill portions have been widened from about 6” to almost 2’.

Ed Lamborn, Scott Barton, and Bob Dawson joined me on my quest. Our intent was to park at the Tie Fork rest stop in Spanish Fork Canyon, but it was closed due to road construction. So we ended up driving to Soldier Summit and starting our ride from there.

We rode approximately 75 miles in about 8.5 hours – almost half of that being single track (shown as dashed lines in the GPS track).

Our GPS track

We rode up #131 which is an easy dirt road that actually leads to the beginning of the Willow Creek single track (#083), but we wanted to include the Tie Fork single track (#023) in our adventure.

We went down #311 which still has a nice rut down the middle of the road. This rut caused Jason some grief last time because he got stuck in the mud. The trail was mostly dry this time, and it wasn’t too difficult other than dodging numerous small tree branches scattered all over the trail. This was a good warmup for what was to come.

Following Bob down #311

#725 is a dirt road that heads up Tie Fork. It has several stream crossings which could be a challenge in the spring. The road eventually turns to a single track (#023) which climbs the mountain side until it joins gravel road #042. This single track was fun and had a few semi-challenging climbs and switchbacks.

Bob on Tie Fork

Ed on Tie Fork, with Scott in the background

Once reaching the top, we decided to ride the southern end of the Center Trail (#09) and then back track on the dirt roads to the top of Willow Creek. Many of the dirt roads in the area have recently been graded, so portions of #131 had several inches of fine powder that was a little tricky to ride through.

Taking a break before starting down Willow Creek

We took a short break at the top of the Willow Creek single track trail (#083). #083 is fairly narrow and I noticed several rocks that have been kicked up since I was here last. It still has a few exposed side hill crossings, but they aren’t too bad. There are also numerous stream crossings as we ride down this valley.

Scott on Willow Creek

Willow Creek single track

The lower part of #083 and all of #025 has now been greatly improved. The side hills are not nearly as intimidating as they used to be. There was, however, one new section of trail that bypasses some beaver dams that had really loose and soft dirt. Our bikes tended to wash out on that section of trail.

Because we were making good time, we decided to ride up Buffalo Canyon (#026) and back down Racetrack Hollow (#025a). We stopped for lunch at the top of #025a since there was some shade.

Lunch stop

Racetrack Hollow

Once we reached the intersection with French Hollow (#027) we decided to ride up and back on the northern spur. This was by far the hardest section. The first part was fun as it rode up through the pine trees, but there was one really exposed cliff crossing that was pretty sketchy. We all made it up okay, but coming down was a different matter.

Some trees that caused a reroute

The sketchy cliff crossing

Beyond the cliff section the trail gets pretty steep and rocky, but eventually pops out on road #90. I don’t know why, but you can’t go west on #90 with ATVs or un-plated bikes. That is a really scenic road with great views overlooking Strawberry Reservoir.

On our return trip Bob suggested that we have two spotters on the cliff crossing. Bob and Ed got in position as I started across. The trail is slopped towards the gully with loose dirt and a diagonal ledge. It is further complicated by jagged rocks on the uphill side that could easily bump your handlebar and throw you off course.

Spotters ready

I carefully worked my bike across the slippery slope and got my front tire up the small ledge. I thought I was home free, so I gave it a little gas. Unfortunately, my rear end washed out and down I went – right on top of Bob.

The view from the bottom

Luckily the hill was very steep but not too dangerous. We just slid and tumbled down the hill together. Bob did break my fall and slow down my bike, which luckily stayed up top. Neither of us was hurt, so the four of us picked up my bike and worked it back onto the trail.

We decided that riding down this section was not a good idea, so Bob rode his bike down into the gully and worked his way through the rocks until he could rejoin the trail.

Ed was next, and he decided to walk his bike across. Scott and I helped, and we managed to get him across without incident.

Scott found the best route of all. Back up the trail about 50’ he found an easy entrance into the gully, and then followed Bob’s route. This section of trail needs some serious work before someone gets injured.

Looking down Willow Creek from the intersection with French Hollow

Once we got back to the junction with #025 we took a break to settle our nerves. We then proceeded up the southern spur of French Hollow. This trail also climbs up through the trees. There is one tricky turn that is easily missed. It looks like you make a 90º left turn, but you actually need to make a 180º turn and then cross a small stream. Bob missed this turn and ended up lost in the bushes for a while. I knew the correct way because I remembered this section from someone’s YouTube video.

#027s had some good climbs and some steep side hill exposure, but it was still pretty fun.

Single track through the trees

We eventually popped out on #147 and rode over to enjoy the views from Strawberry Peak. Unfortunately it was a very hazy day due to all of the wildfires.

Group shot on Strawberry Peak

I happened to have cell phone coverage up on the peak, so I sent my wife a text letting her know we were still safe, but running late. We left the peak at about 4:30 PM and decided to continue on our original plan and ride down Trail Canyon (#104). It turns out that Trail Canyon had not yet been cleared of downed trees. The top part is very steep with a few switchbacks.

The first switchback

When we reached the first downed tree we didn’t want to ride back up the steep part, so we rode over the tree. We did this for several other trees until we came to one that we could not easily get over.

The first downed tree

We decided to test out our hand chain saws. Luckily, Bob’s worked great as mine was a total piece of junk. By taking turns we were able to cut the tree and move it out of the way.

Lumberjacks at work

After tree removal

After finishing Trail Canyon, we enjoyed the easy and scenic ride #81 back to the car. We arrived at the car at about 6:00 PM, packed up, and headed for home.

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About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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