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Bear Canyon Loop

The Bear Canyon Trail is found on the north slope of Mount Timpanogos in American Fork Canyon. This ride is for strong, advanced bikers only. It's a beautiful trail with lots of fun stuff, but it's not for the weak or inexperienced. The short-loop ride is 8.4 miles, with 1700 feet of climbing. Low spot is 6400, peak altitude 7700.

Looking across the valley from the Mutual Dell Trail, the forested area is Bear Canyon. Look easy? Just wait. Photos July 17, 2006. Trail review by Bruce, of course.

You're riding in forest most of the time, with occasional breakouts for views. While much of the ride is only intermediate-technical, the downhill in Bear Canyon is steep and tricky, plunging 1300 feet in two miles. And the stiff 2-mile climb up Pine Hollow is tough for casual riders.

You can make it longer by extending the loop both in miles and vertical feet by climbing up to the Ridge Trail, and/or by climbing the Timpanogos Perimeter before hitting Bear Canyon.

We're on the Mutual Dell trail, climbing from the scout camp up to the Pine Hollow Trail.

Check the rock outcrops as you climb the Pine Hollow Trail. Bring your fossil book. In the limestone, you'll find organisms from the era when Utah was under the ocean, about 320 million years ago. In the photo at left, I'm pointing to crinoid stem.

On the right are various gastropod shells (clams and snails). The brown lace-like fossil is a bryozoan, a type of colonial animal.


To ride as a loop, you can start the ride at Mutual Dell, the Pine Hollow Trailhead, or the Timpooneke Trailhead. My suggestion is to start at Pine Hollow. There's plenty of parking there, and it will put the big uphill at the start of the ride.

Another option is to do the ride as a straight-DH with a shuttle. Drive up Timpooneke, watching carefully for the trail markers where the East Fork and West Fork cross the Timpooneke Road.

Typical section of Pine Hollow, with box elder, maple, oak, and some big firs. There are a couple of root-cliffs and two tough switchbacks. Otherwise, it's mostly straight-ahead uphill cranking.

If you're doing the shuttled ride, I suggest you add the West Fork section above the road. You can catch it in two places:
(1) Drive further uphill on the Timpooneke Road. Shortly after the road turns south, watch for a doubletrack on the left (N 40 26.210 W 111 39.762). At the end of this short DT is a singletrack trail going uphill. About 100 yards later, you'll find Trail 179 branching left. Watch for it, about 20 feet uphill from where 151 (Timpanogos Perimeter, GWT) turns away from this short spur (N 40 26.186 W 111 39.680). This trail takes descends to the West Fork of Bear Canyon.
(2) Continue uphill past a couple of spurs on the left, to find the Timpanogos Perimeter crossing the road (N 40 26.054 W 111 39.925). There's parking just downhill from the trail crossing. Head north downhill on the GWT, and find the fork described above. (If you find you've turned east and are continuing more than a tiny bit uphill, you missed Trail 179.)
The Pine Hollow trail is a granny-gear climb for much of the way. You follow a small creek up to the Great Western Trail. Here, you turn right for the small loop You're now on the Salamander Flat Trail #150.

On the Great Western, you'll head south toward Salamander Flat. You won't actually enter the Flat. Just before Salamander Flat, you'll turn right at the 4-way after crossing the bridge to stay on Trail #150. There are a couple of short uphill sections on the GWT, but most of the cruising is downhill.

View on the Great Western trail heading south toward Timpanogos.

As the GWT reaches a bridge in a narrow valley, turn right to the Timpooneke parking area. Go to the road and turn left (west) uphill. Keep on the main road, and it will turn to gravel.

After around 1-1/4 mile on the Timpooneke Road, you'll see a sign on the right titled "East Fork Bear Canyon." There's a narrow singletrack heading downhill. Jump on it. It's pretty nice at first.

We're starting down the Bear Canyon trail. Ahead, it gets steeper and rockier.

(You'll notice a less-used trail on the uphill side of the road. Although I haven't taken this route, I believe it's the same trail that forks off the Timpanogos Perimeter higher on the mountain. You can use this as a longer ride. If you miss the Bear Canyon Trail high on the mountain, you could continue on the Perimeter trail until you hit the Timpooneke Road again, then backtrack a mile or so.)

Bear Canyon will test your downhill control skills. There are some cruiser areas, but they're few. Many areas are rough and loose. Switchbacks tend to be tight and bumpy. Scary to do fast, but with boulders too big to creep around the turn slowly.

Near the bottom, there are many railroad-tie waterbars. Some are about 18 inches high, with depressions on the downside. Huck the front end well, pilgrim. If you try a simple rollover, you'll end up face-first in the rocks 10 feet down the trail.

Looking down a switchback. This is an easy one. The hard areas were too hairy to stop and snap a picture.

Clockwise short loop from Pine Hollow parking area
0.0  Uphill out of parking lot, left onto ST before gate
       N 40 26.99 W 111 38.58
1.9  Right on GWT         40 26.77 W 111 37.50
2.4  At 4-way, go R uphill       N 40 26.43 W 111 37.62
2.6  On ridge, ignore trail going L downhill
3.2  Cross road        N 40 26.097 W 111 37.827
3.3  Keep R
4.0  Cross creek, go R         N 40 25.82  W 111 38.33
4.1  Arrive Timpooneke parking, go L uphill
       N 40 25.89  W 111 38.40
       Keep on main road (ignore campgrounds)
5.4  R on East Fork Bear Canyon ST    N 40 26.08  W 111 38.91
5.6  Meet West Fork, go R downhill    N 40 26.13  W 111 39.05
7.6  Into Mutual Dell, L downhill
7.7  Cross road, find ST uphill         N 40 26.90 W 111 38.68
8.2 Arrive at road, go uphill        N 40 27.03 W 111 38.70
8.3 At parking

We're looking back uphill as Jackie enjoys a fairly typical section of the Bear Canyon trail.

Longer ride options: 
at the GWT, go uphill to the Ridge Trail. Go R (south) to the summit parking. Take Horse Flat down to the road. Go 200 feet L downhill and go L on GWT toward Timpooneke.  
Just before the Timpooneke bathroom, turn L on a smaller trail. Follow the Timpanogos Perimeter uphill a couple of miles, and find the Bear Canyon trail on the right. 
Go on Timpooneke as above, but continue past the first Bear Canyon fork. Ride the steep uphill climbing the ridge. After crossing Julie Andrews meadow, begin the descent. When you reach a trail fork and a GWT sign, pick the less-prominent trail heading slightly uphill to your right. (Straight ahead takes you a tiny distance to the Timpooneke Road; left is the continuing Timpanogos Perimeter..) The trail on the right (Trail 179, unmarked during my ride in 2006) will take you downhill to the West Fork Trailhead on Timpooneke Road.

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, keep right at the fork and drive up the south fork. Pass Mutual Dell (this is where you'll cross the road on your return). Park at the Pine Hollow trailhead (restroom available).

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin     Nat Geo     Google Earth     GPX
Larger topo map (200 KB): View
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to AF Canyon resources

Copyright 2006 Mad Scientist Software Inc