Bear Canyon to Salt Creek
Bear Canyon is a three-mile singletrack on the south slope
of Mount Nebo, about 10 miles from Nephi. I recommend this trail as a
12.7-mile loop ride by climbing the scenic Nebo Loop Road to the top, then
bombing down 2100 vertical feet on singletrack over 3.1 miles. There are
some very technical creek crossings.
View down Bear Canyon from near the top. Photos September 23, 2010 by Bruce
| The ride starts from the Bear Canyon Campground in Salt
Creek Canyon, found right at the end of the Salt Creek Road. This road
forks off the Nebo Loop near the southern end. Park just before the
bridge, outside of the campground, so you won't have to pay a fee. (Or
camp and ride the next day.)
Start by retracing the Salt Creek Road, two miles with a very gradual
downhill slope. Then fork left and begin climbing the Nebo Loop Road. The Nebo Loop is famous for its
beautiful trees and mountain vistas -- especially in late September to early October.
This is the bridge you'll cross at the
end of the ride.
||The slope of the Nebo Loop makes for an easy spin.
Constantly changing vistas will distract you from the steady uphill. Stop
at the occasional pullout. Take the quick hike to the Devil's Kitchen.
Before you know it, you'll have completed 7 miles of climbing, gaining
2200 vertical feet.
View of aspen and maple forest from
the Nebo Loop as we climb.
Watch for a log-fenced parking area on your right, just as
the road turns to the left. There should be a "Bear Canyon"
trail sign. The trail is on the left side of the road, right at the apex
of the turn.
Drop off the road and begin your downhill. The first mile
is fairly mellow, with aspen alternating with maple and fir.
Heading downhill on smooth singletrack
trail through a grove of white fir, with a scattering of maple.
||The middle mile of the downhill gets a little trickier.
There will be a few sudden plunges into the rocky creekbed, where outcrops
of rough conglomerate are ready to trip you up. All but experts will walk
a few of these crossings.
As the trail mellows, more pretty
|The last mile of the downhill is fairly pleasant cruising on
buff trail. At 1/4 mile from the end, you'll come to a metal gate. Go
through, and pass several primitive camping spots until you cross the
bridge to the parking area.
It's possible, but very difficult, to ride the Bear Canyon trail
uphill. It will average 700 vertical per mile. It's a fun climb, and can
be done with a few very short push-a-bikes, but only the strongest
climbers should consider this.
View of the hillside to the north of
the trail near the bottom, showing rough conglomerate outcrops.
|Note for the adventurous: On the big
sign at the trailhead, you'll see a nice-looking 4-mile "Salt Canyon
Trail" that looks like it could make a good loop ride when combined
with Bear Canyon. As of 2010, don't even think about it. The upper portion
has an impossible 850 vertical in a mile. And for about 3/4 mile, the
trail simply does not exist. The steep hillside is a jumble of deadfall,
pitted and torn up by horses and cattle with no visible trail. When (if)
the trail is restored by the Forest Service, let me know.
||Riding notes, from Bear Canyon Campground:
0.0 Head back down Salt Creek Road
2.1 L on Nebo Loop Road, begin climbing
8.2 Devils Kitchen on L (take a hike)
9.6 Turnout on R, drop LEFT on ST
Head down Bear Canyon
12.6 Through gate, past camping spots
12.7 Back at bridge
A trailside dead tree has chunks of
bark piled nearby, precisely chopped up like firewood. This is where a
bear has pulled the bark away to get at grubs.
Getting there: From I-15 in
Juab County, take the Nephi 100 North Exit. Turn east, toward the
mountains. Drive about 6 miles up the canyon, then turn left on the Nebo
Loop Road (Scenic Byway). Drive another 3.5 miles on the loop road and
turn left on the Salt Creek Road toward Bear Canyon Campground. Go 2 miles
up the road, and park on the right just before the campground entrance.
Water: At the campground
Toilets: At the trailhead, plus Hells Kitchen on Nebo Loop Road
Camping: Bear Canyon, nearby Cottonwood campground.
Nearest bike services: Payson