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Silver Lake Flat

Silver Lake Flat Reservoir is an absolutely beautiful alpine lake surrounded by granite and limestone peaks. Families can fish, picnic, paddle their boats, and ride around the lake. Hard-core riders can use the climb to the lake as a training ride, or grab one of the singletrack options. The Lake is at 7300 feet elevation. It's usually clear of snow and ready to play by early June.

Photo above:  Looking north over the lake, as granite peaks on the left merge into limestone in the middle of the photo. The minerals from igneous rock intruding into limestone created the gold and silver deposits mined here 100 years ago. Photos July 27, 2006.
Here are a few options for enjoying Silver Lake Flat:
Kiddie-ride:  Drive up to Silver Lake. Ride the bikes around the lake, 1.25 miles, little elevation change.
Classic beginner (or training) ride:  Park at Tibble Fork. Ride from Tibble Fork up the Granite Flat/Silver Lake road (0.8 miles pavement, remainder is dirt road), around Silver Lake and back, 8 miles round trip, 1050 feet of climbing.

We're just starting from Tibble Fork. The first 3/4 mile is paved. That's Box Elder Peak on the right.

Singletrack addict:  Park at Tibble Fork. Climb up on Horse Access singletrack, loop Silver Lake on dirt road, return by Old Sheep Trail singletrack and North Fork road. 8.5 miles (5 on ST), 1050 feet climbing.
Combo:  Up via road, down via Old Sheep Trail. 8.8 miles.

Climbing up from Tibble Fork, you're surrounded by changing alpine vistas. After 0.8 miles, you'll turn right on gravel road (the paved road continues into Granite Flat Campground). Now you can look back down the valley at Mount Timpanogos and Tibble Fork Reservoir on the south, or look up at towering granite mountains bordering Little Cottonwood Canyon on the north.

The surrounding forest mixes maple, oak, choke cherry and fir. But somehow it never gets in the way of the views.

Looking south from the Silver Lake road toward Mount Timpanogos.

If you don't want to ride up the road, you can take the Horse Access Trail. (Although labeled for hiking and horses at the middle trailhead, there's no posted rule against riding your mountain bike up this trail. I suggest you NOT ride the horse trail downhill -- speeding DH riders who spook horses could get bikes officially banned from this trail.) 

Handlebar view as Pfeiferhorn looms above the Silver Lake road.

The Horse Access trail starts right at Tibble Fork, just to the right of the paved road as it turns upward from the reservoir. At the fork about 1.4 miles up, you'll want to keep right. Left takes you to the Wilderness Area.

There are bathrooms at Tibble Fork, at the Horse Access parking area 1/2 mile up the road, and at the far end of Silver Lake. The water in Silver Lake is crystal clear. Go ahead and take a plunge -- it's allowed. Silver Lake is a day-use area. There's no camping here.

At the north end of the lake, cross the creek. (It IS possible to ride right through, but not without taking moisture.) To explore further, go left uphill on DT. (Note: the narrow trail that heads uphill, west of the doubletrack, is a hiking-only trail to Silver Lake.) To loop the lake, go right. 

We're at the far end of Silver Lake, looking towards Timpanogos. On weekends, you'll find a few more souls enjoying the lake. 

After looping the lake, you can bomb back down the road. Or you can catch the Old Sheep Trail singletrack. That's my recommendation!

You'll find the Old Sheep Trail at the corner of the first switchback of the road, one mile downhill after leaving Silver Lake (N 39 29.572 W 111 38.740).

Jackie cools off at the shore of Silver Lake.

The Old Sheep Trail is 1.8 miles of singletrack. It drops you to the North Fork of the American Fork River. The first mile veers northward, following an old road-grade. This area an easy-technical ride. The last bit gets steeper and trickier -- how tricky depends on the amount of springtime erosion.

The singletrack will deposit you on the bank of the river. Depending on the time of year, you may need to scout up- and down-stream for the best river crossing. There's usually a makeshift log bridge or two in the area, but springtime floods may wash them away. In early summer, the water may be very high, cold, and fast. Pick your spot carefully.

We're looking down the Old Sheep Trail after it's turned back northward.

After crossing the river, you'll turn right downhill on the gravel North Fork Road. There's about a mile and a half of downhill cruising along the river.

On weekends, there may be a fair amount of traffic on the North Fork Road. Depending on your tolerance for the roar of ATVs and sucking in dust, the road can be an unpleasant section of "trail" on a holiday weekend.

As we near the North Fork of the American Fork River, the trail becomes more steep, with an occasional tricky spot. Many sections of the trail have a "fall line" orientation, so they're subject to washing out. It's usually pretty easy to hold a side-wall line above the wash-out.

Riding notes, up road to Silver Lake, back via Old Sheep Trail:
0.0   Head uphill from Tibble Fork Parking.
        N 40 28.995 W 111 38.648
0.05 Follow pavement left uphill.
0.8   Leave pavement, R uphill on gravel road
        N 40 29.382 W 111 39.171
1.9   Horse Access Trail crosses road
        N 40 29.623 W 111 39.073
2.4   Pass Old Sheep Trail as road turns L
        N 39 29.572 W 111 38.740
3.3   Arrive at lake, keep L
        N 40 29.999 W 111 39.448
3.9   Cross creek, R at fork to circle lake
        N 40 30.407 W 111 39.399
4.5   After crossing dam, turn L on road
5.5   At corner of switchback, go L on ST
        Old Sheep Trail
        N 39 29.572 W 111 38.740
7.3   At river, find way across
        R downhill on gravel road
        N 40 29.978 W 111 38.169
8.8   Back at Tibble Fork parking

Jackie takes a break under the "bridge" where the trail crosses the North Fork..

Getting there: From I-15, take the Alpine-Highland exit just south of Point-of-the-Mountain. Go east towards the mountains on UT-92 and continue up American Fork Canyon. There's a $6 fee (as of 2009). About 6 miles up the canyon, turn left at the North Fork junction and drive 2 miles to Tibble Fork Reservoir. Park at the far end of the paved parking area. To start the classic Silver Lake ride, head uphill and left on the paved road. To ride the Horse Access Trail, go to where the paved road turns left uphill, but go a few feet onto the gravel (North Fork) road. Find the singletrack that runs left uphill a few feet away from the paved road. 

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin     National Geographic     Google Earth 
    GPX Silver Lake     GPX Sheep Trail
Large-format topo map (300 KB): View map
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to north Utah County resources

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