Duchesne Ridge Adventure Ride – July 2015

July 10-11, 2015 Last year, for my first over-night adventure ride, I spent two nights camping in the Uinta Mountains. I wanted Jamie and Jason to enjoy a similar experience, but we only had time for two days of riding and one night of camping. I decided to explore the area around Duchesne Ridge since I have never been in that area before. The scenery turned out to be spectacular!

Beautiful mountain scenery

We spent a few evenings prepping our bikes and loading our luggage. On Friday morning, we were ready to depart.

Ready to ride

The plan was to leave from home (in Sandy), go up American Fork Canyon, take Main Canyon from Wallsburg to Daniel’s Summit and stop for gas and lunch, then on to the West Fork of the Duchesne River. Our original plan was to camp along the North Fork of the Duchesne, but we got behind schedule and didn’t make it that far. That turned out to be a good thing – I doubt we would have found a place to camp along the North Fork on a Friday evening. The plan for Saturday was to cut through Soapstone Basin on our way to Wolf Creek Pass. Because we were behind schedule we decided to skip the Soapstone section and just ride the highway to the pass. From the pass we rode along the Duchesne Ridge, dropped down to Mill Hollow Reservoir, then worked our way to Heber, stopped for lunch in Midway, then returned home via Guardsman’s Pass and Big Cottonwood Canyon. We had a good mixture of paved road, easy dirt road, and somewhat rougher Jeep roads. We even threw in a little bit of single track along the way. We encountered rain and had to take a break for about 45 minutes while a lightning storm passed by. We covered about 235 miles over the course of two days.

Our GPS track

Our GPS track

In general I don’t like riding on pavement on a small dirt bike – especially with heavy traffic. I therefore planned our route to stay off the main roads as much as possible. We worked our way south by taking the Dimple Dell road, then over Traverse Mountain to Highland, and then up American Fork Canyon.

American Fork Canyon

American Fork Canyon is fairly steep with a lot of switchbacks and turns, so it is perfect for a motorcycle. But to add to the excitement, we rode two sections of my favorite single track just to see what it was like with a fully loaded bike. These are some of the easiest single track trails in American Fork Canyon, so we didn’t have any problem, but we found that having a heavier bike certainly took some of the fun out of the ride.

Single track

Weaving through the brush

We then rode down to Cascade Springs and took the dirt road to Charleston. The road was in good repair this year – last time I was here it had severe wash boards. We took a short jaunt down the highway along Deer Creek Reservoir, and then turned east towards the small town of Wallsburg. This is where the rain started.

Rain in Wallsburg

The rain was a little annoying, but the scary thing was all of the lightning in the mountains – right where we were heading. So, we decided to seek shelter and found a bench under an overhang in the Wallsburg LDS Girl’s Camp (which was unoccupied).

Waiting out the storm

We let the storm front – and the lightning – pass us by, and then decided to press on and see how muddy Main Canyon would be. Main Canyon turned out to be quite rocky, with somewhat sandy soil, so the rain didn’t pose a problem.

Still raining in Main Canyon

There is one hill climb with bowling ball sized rocks that were a little slippery due to the rain. Jamie and I made it up fine, but Jason took a spill.

The rockiest section of Main Canyon (and our trip)

We arrived at Daniel’s Summit Lodge at about 3:00 PM. We bought gas (expensive) and had a wonderful, but late, lunch.

A late lunch at Daniel’s Summit

When we came out from lunch, the sun was shining and it looked like we might have some good weather going forward.

Closeup of the mountain trails

Closeup of the mountain trails

A short ways down the highway from the summit is a dirt road (#143) that heads over towards Currant Creek Reservoir. This road is somewhat rocky and the soil isn’t as sandy as Main Canyon. Luckily the mud wasn’t a problem. We continued east on #92, then turned north on #82 and #83, which leads to Mill Hollow.

Beautiful country


Scenic overlook

We turned east on trail #50, which follows the West Fork of the Duchesne River. I was surprised that the trail was rockier and rougher than I expected, since I was under the impression that this was a popular ride for those with large adventure bikes. With our smaller bikes the ride was quite enjoyable, and the scenery was great.

Starting down the West Fork of the Duchesne River

We decided to ride until about 6:00 PM, and then find a place to camp. Most of the good campsites were taken, but we finally found a site with a fire ring that was unoccupied. It turns out that this was probably the very last available campsite within an hour of riding.


The campsite wasn’t the best – but it would do. The only semi-flat ground was on the dead-end road – but that meant you ended up sleeping in the tire trough. We collected a bunch of firewood from downed Aspen trees, and then spent about 45 minutes trying to start a fire so we could warm up our pre-cooked tin foil dinners. Even with two Eagle Scouts in the group we could not get a fire going. We need to add a few essentials to our packing list! I did, however, have a small backpacking stove, so we were able to convert our foil dinners to beef stew, so we didn’t go to bed hungry. We even topped it off with freeze dried Crème Brûlée. It rained again during the night, so our tents were nice and wet in the morning. Rather than wait for them to dry, we packed up and pressed on. Shortly after leaving camp we came to a small reservoir. Beyond that point the road was much smoother and wider and there were far fewer campsites. But the scenery continued to amaze.

West Fork

After passing the Moon Ranch we arrived at Highway 35. We rode east, then north to scope out the North Fork Road. This road was paved about half way, then dirt. It was a very scenic ride.

North Fork Road

We returned to the highway and rode up to Wolf Creek Pass. After a short break at the pass, we took road #91 along the Duchesne Ridge. I planned on stopping for a snack while we enjoyed the view, but there was a cold wind blowing and we wanted to get off the mountain before an afternoon storm hit.

Mud along Duchesne Ridge

This was a fun ride, but there were numerous mud holes along the way. Some of them were much deeper than they looked. Luckily no one had trouble getting through.

Mud and meadows

Great views

The temperature warmed up as we dropped in elevation on our way to Mill Hollow. I hadn’t been there since 7th grade science camp many, many years ago. It didn’t look familiar at all. The parking area was extremely full, so we opted to press on.

Mill Hollow Reservoir

A few miles further down the road is an old guard station that is all boarded up. There was a nice fire pit with log benches, so we enjoyed our snack there.

Snack time at the guard station

After our break we took trail #122 up to trail #60. Trail #122 was somewhat rocky, but not too difficult on small bikes.

Trail #122 is somewhat rocky

Trail #60 was a blast! It was mostly smooth dirt that twisted through the pines. Frequent mud puddles added to the pleasure as we wove past them. This was the most enjoyable dirt road of the trip.

Fast cruising on trail #060

Trail #96 was also really fun. Our plan was to take trail #310 west, and then drop down into Heber. We quickly found that #310 is private property, so we had to take the pavement down to town. But that wasn’t all bad – this road was really fun on a bike. It was very smooth and wove through the trees and various cabin properties.

A fun ride down the pavement

We stopped in Midway for gas and another late lunch. We each got a nice hamburger and milk shake – which really hit the spot.

Lunch in Midway

Just as we were finishing our lunch a gust of wind blew my bike over – and just like dominoes, my bike knocked Jason’s over, which in turn knocked Jamie’s bike over. The bikes didn’t sustain much damage, but all three of our helmets did. The temperature really dropped as we climbed towards Guardsman’s Pass, and it began to rain once again. Luckily it was a small storm and quickly blew over. We arrived at home with just enough time to unload and wash our bikes before dinner. It was a great trip and a great introduction to moto-camping for Jason. We learned a few lesson and will go better prepared next time. Jamie also learned that the KTM 250 lacks the power of the KTM 350. She did fine except on steep climbs on the pavement. The bike just didn’t have the power to maintain speed in 6th gear. That will soon be remedied with a few minor mods. Until next time…

About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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3 Responses to Duchesne Ridge Adventure Ride – July 2015

  1. Marc Petty says:

    I have a boy on a missiona that will return Aug 2016. I also have a 16 yr old boy at home. I cant wait until we are all here together again to try some of these trips you have done. Just need to get the bikes street legal. Thanks for the great info. Looks like so much fun.

  2. Marc Petty says:

    Dee, when you have a minute can you tell me where you like to shop for the following:
    1 Dry bags
    2 Saddlebags
    3 Clothing for riding.

    I know you have posted it in some of your adventure posts but I can remember what ones.

  3. I have three different sets of luggage, as described in my luggage post (https://gardinerfamilyadventures.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/adventure-bike-luggage-for-small-bikes-sept-2014/). My first set was the Wolfman E-12 saddle bag. I like the concept, but the bags are too small. Wolfman now offers a slightly larger and waterproof bag, which is worth a look. But a much better is the OBR Adv Gear saddle bag. They are larger and much less expensive. With a saddle bag setup you can use just about any dry bag you wish for carrying your tent and sleeping bag. One nice thing about the Wolfman bag is that it is flat on the bottom so it doesn’t move around as much as a round bag.

    The Giant Loop Coyote bag is very popular. It is nice system – especially for rougher trail riding. My only complaint is that the zipper is a pain to open and close.

    My third set is the AltRider Hemisphere. Similar to the Coyote, but a better design. It is very nice, but expensive. If I were buying another set today, I would probably go with the OBR Adv Gear bag.

    I buy most of my motorcycle gear from Rocky Mountain ATV. They are quick to deliver, they give a 10% discount on your next order, and after spending a lot of money you start getting $50 gift cards.

    I bought most of my dry bags from REI. I bought a bunch of cheap bags of assorted sizes. I use small 10-15L bags to keep things dry inside the saddlebags. For my tent, I use a Sea-To-Summit 20L oval bag with some lash tabs. It works great as long as your tent poles are no longer than 18″. For my son’s tent with longer poles we use the 35L version.

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