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Bald Mountain - Little Dell Loop

This is a challenging loop ride for seasoned bikers with leg to spare, but it's not anybody's favorite. The loop takes you up the Mormon Pioneer (Donner) Trail to Big Mountain Pass, then south along the ridgeline on the Great Western, where you'll be treated to great views. The loop finishes by dropping down a rough ridge above Little Dell that's barely a trail. Portions of this loop are remote and primitive, so trail conditions can vary dramatically depending on ridership and infrequent trail maintenance.

View from Bald Mountain, looking towards Little Dell (middle) and Mountain Dell (just up and to the left), and on to the mouth of Parley's Canyon. In the distance, the Bingham Canyon mine occupies a large portion of the Oquirrh Mountains. Photos by Bruce, August 2002.

Altitude change is 1400 feet, starting at 5600, but total climbing will be just over 2500. This loop is 18.2 miles long. Many bikers will want to shuttle, driving to Big Mountain Pass for an 11-mile ride with about 1100 total feet of climbing.

The ride begins just off I-80 on the road to East Canyon (U-65). After a couple of miles on pavement, you can duck downhill off the road to catch the Mormon Pioneer Trail. This is your uphill route, and it's a plush, easy singletrack. Grinding out your initial vertical will be a pleasure on this pretty, shaded trail.

Looking up the Mormon Pioneer Trail, we see large ferns among tall maples.

(I would discourage you from riding the loop counterclockwise. The run up the ridge above Little Dell has some brutal steeps, and the climb up Bald Mountain from this direction ain't fun.)

The Great Western starts as a forested ride. Clearings with low brush and wildflowers alternate with groves of aspen, maple, and oak, with an occasional fir.

Serviceberry (Hawberry) is ripe and ready for snacking in late August. 

Reaching Bald Mountain, the trail becomes a bit rough. (Trail maintenance is rare here, and at its best the trail is far from plush.) Admire the views from the ridge. After descending a steep loose trail from the peak, you'll enter forest again. Cresting the next mountain, watch for the critical right turn that takes you down the ridgeline toward Little Dell. 

Mahogany grows among the aspens in a cooler section of the GWT.

The ride down the ridge is a fast and furious descent. There's a little technical stuff at first, then it gets easier. (2016: a recent rider reports that the ridgeline trail is barely a trail -- rough and overgrown.)

The ridgeline ride takes a hard left turn at the gas pipeline and power pipeline. After a mile of "yawner" straight trail, you reach the Alexander Creek Trail, where you turn right to ride along the creek back to the trailhead.

We're half-way down the ridgeline towards Little Dell. We'll drop off the left side of this mountain to Alexander Spring.

You can shorten the distance by shuttling to the top of Big Mountain Pass, for an 11-mile ride. Or for a more brutal ride, you can continue on Great Western to Jeremy Ranch, then fight your way back over Parley's. See the descriptions below.

We're passing by Little Dell on our right, nearing the end of a great ride.

Getting there:  On I-80 in Parley's Canyon, take the Little Dell Recreation Area exit (East Canyon, U-65). Turn north towards the golf course. Drive about 0.1 mile. On your right, spot a gate on a doubletrack, just past a ravine and before the first hill. There's a wide spot on the right for parking. N 40 45.336' W 111 42.590'.  Start your ride by heading up highway U-65. The doubletrack will be your return trail.

For the Shuttle Ride, leave one car at the trailhead and drive to the top of Big Mountain Pass. The Great Western Trail is found on the far side of the parking area, heading uphill near the small shack.

An alternative ride using the Great Western over Bald Mountain is to loop down above Jeremy Ranch to the East Canyon Road, then come up the Mormon Trail in Little Emigration Canyon. Click here for information on the Bald Mountain Loop.

Riding resources:
One-page (printable) riding guide
GPS track file (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
     Garmin MPS     GPX
Topo map for printing:  View
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to NE SLC resources

Standard Loop, Ridgeline above Little Dell
0.0   Start north on U-65
2.3   (Approx) just past Little Dell Reservoir,
        find a pullout on R, drop down trail heading to
        the Mormon Pioneer Trail, then L uphill
3.85 Trail reaches roadside parking, continuing trail
         is on your left downhill across road
4.6   Affleck Park. Straight on DT, R across creek,
        then L on DT to end of park, continue on ST
5.7   Cross road
7.3   Big Mountain Pass. N 40 49.680' W 111 39.227'
        Turn L to end of parking to find continuing trail
        (Climbs hill south)
10.8 Top of Bald Mountain, start rocky descent
12.4 Crest hill, join DT, watch for rockpile where
        ST forks R (west) - critical fork
        N 40 46.418' W 111 38.951'
        Stay on top of ridge for 2.8 miles
15.2 At 3rd pipeline crossing, fork hard L just
        before power line, go east
       
N 40 45.769' W 111 41.668'
16.2 Fork R (downhill) in meadow near springs
       
N 40 45.638' W 111 40.435'
        (Don't follow pipeline uphill)
18.2 Back at parking.

Shuttle Ride:
Park at return trail, drive to the top of Big Mountain Pass.
Find the trail on the far southeast end of the parking area.
0.0   Climb uphill to start ride
3.5   Top of Bald Mountain
5.1   Crest hill, join DT, watch for rockpile where
        ST forks R (west) - critical fork
        N 40 46.418' W 111 38.951'
        Stay on top of ridge for 2.8 miles
7.9   Hard L at gas and power line (east)
8.9   Hard R (west)
10.9 At parking!

If you're determined to ride all of the GWT,  here's an option. Warning: This is a big and brutal ride!
Long Loop, GWT into Jeremy Ranch

0.0   Start north on U-65
2.3   (Approx) just past Little Dell Reservoir,
        find a pullout on R, drop down trail heading to
        the Mormon Pioneer Trail, then L uphill
3.85 Trail reaches roadside parking, continuing trail
         is on your left downhill across road
4.6   Affleck Park. Straight on DT, R across creek,
        then L on DT to end of park, continue on ST
5.7   Cross road
7.3   Big Mountain Pass. N 40 49.680' W 111 39.227'
        Turn L to end of parking to find continuing trail
        (Climbs hill south)
10.8 Top of Bald Mountain, start rocky descent
12.4 Crest hill, join DT, keep straight at rockpile
        where ST forks R.
N 40 46.418' W 111 38.951'
13.3  Cross game trail on saddle, start climbing up again
13.8  At crest of hill, keep straight (L goes 0.2 to viewpoint)
        N 40 45.783' W 111 38.238'   Alt 7800
14.9  Microwave towers, singletrack goes to R of structures
        Joins gravel road
15    At first turn in road, hop singletrack on L, heading east
16.3  Fork "Main"gy Mouse, turn R onto Switchback Trail
        N 40 45.789' W 111 36.009'
16.7  Go R as ST joins doubletrack N 40 45.754' W 111 35.898' 
17.1 ST veers L off DT
17.3 R on cindered trail (west), becomes narrow ST
        N 40 45.343' W 111 35.913' 
17.9 Paved road, L (west) down to Parley's Exit
        Straight on dirt, past gate
18.5 L off road on pipeline clearing, straight W
        (Trail becomes more obvious after first hill)
        Follow pipeline down
21.6 Fork L, cross creek N 40 45.638' W 111 40.435'

23.6 Back at parking.

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc