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Bench Creek Loop
Includes Camp Hollow, lower Little South Fork trails

The Bench Creek Loop is a pretty ride on the southwest corner of the Uintah Mountains. The loop climbs Bench Creek, descends a combination of Camp Hollow and Little South Fork, then catches Highway 35 back to complete the loop of 17.5 miles.

Bruce heads up the Bench Creek Trail. August 20, 2008. Photo by Mike.

Most of the ride is intermediate in technical requirement, but the trail is narrow with some tricky spots. The length, remoteness, and altitude limit this ride to well-prepared advanced mountain bikers. Lowest altitude is 6800 feet; peak altitude 8950; total climbing 2500 vertical.
The season for this trail is July through September. You'll be riding in mixed fir and aspen forest. There will be a few creek-crossings. Creek depth gets less as the summer goes on. In mid-August, one creek was still axle-deep. On the top, plant life gets thicker in late summer, hiding the roots and rocks you'll be hitting with your pedals.

Crossing Bench Creek on the way uphill. Photo by Bushwacker, August 3, 2008

Most of the trail is fairly narrow. In some spots brush and wildflower undergrowth makes it hard to spot your lines on the downhills, and you may get a few brush-bleeders on your arms on Camp Hollow and Little South Fork. One very short section near the top of Bench Creek (when crossing the doubletrack) was so overgrown we weren't able to see the trail. Know where you're going.

Mike pedals a typical section of Bench Creek. Firs predominate lower down; in the upper elevations it's mostly aspen. There's plenty of trailside foliage.

Cujo note, September 2008:  About half-way up the Bench Creek trail, a couple of angry-sounding sheep dogs came over to investigate us. Once they reached us, the dogs decided we weren't sheep-nabbing coyotes, stopped barking and simply walked away. Recently, two separate groups of riders report they've been forced to take protective action and back away from three snarling snapping dogs. So if you're headed that way this fall, consider packing some pepper-spray. Or a pistol.
The ride starts with a steady climb up the Bench Creek singletrack. The overall pitch is only 6% (300 vertical per mile), but it will feel a lot steeper. The trail narrows after the first mile or so. At 3.1 miles, the trail forks steeply down through the creek, then you'll scramble up over some steep rough sandstone outcrops for a short hike-a-bike. A bit later, the old trail up the draw is closed off, and you'll turn sharply left uphill on a loose stiff climb.

At the top, shoulder-high growth obscures the trail in spots. Photo by Bushwacker, August 3, 2008

When you arrive at doubletrack on top of the hill, cross it. If you're following old trail descriptions (as we were) you'll be suckered into thinking this DT connects to the top of the Camp Hollow trail. The ST on the other side of the DT was overgrown with black-eyed susans, so at first glance it won't look like the right way. Cross the meadow and find the continuing trail. A short ride after re-entering the trees, you'll drop through a dip and hit the connection to the Camp Hollow trail. Turn left and head downhill.

Bruce hits a water hazard on the Camp Hollow Trail.

When you arrive at Camp Hollow (dirt road with some primitive camping spots), you have two return options (see map). The traditional ride takes you left up the dirt road, where you'll climb another 700 vertical then drop steeply back to the trailhead over 4.3 not-particularly-fun miles. I recommend instead that you catch the Little South Fork singletrack: fork left on the dirt road, then catch the singletrack on your right about 100 yards later. This route is a few road-miles longer, but almost as fast and definitely more fun.

Descending the Camp Hollow Trail, photo by Bushwacker. The first couple of miles are straight, smooth and fast, then things get a bit more tech.

Little South Fork has some rough spots and one small hill to climb over near the bottom. Still, it's a fairly fast and fun downhill. At the Little South Fork trailhead, head left on the dirt road. Turn left again when you hit 35. Four miles later, catch the eastern end of Bench Creek Road, and a mile later you'll find the turn toward the National Forest.

This is a great ride for strong bikers who can tolerate a little altitude.

View uphill from a creek crossing. September, Little South Fork

Ride notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0   ST on R side of DT @ metal gate
        N40 32.309 W111 11.322 (6900 ft)
3.1   Fork L and cross creek
        N40 30.092 W111 12.438
        Rough sandstone hike
4.0   Fork L uphill (straight = old trail)
        N40 29.432 W111 12.460
4.8   Cross DT
        N40 29.000 W111 12.271
5.1   Fork L downhill (R = up to road)
        N40 28.720 W111 12.085
        On Camp Hollow Trail
8.6   L on DT, climb 100 yards
        N40 30.793 W111 09.969
8.7   R on Little South Fork ST
        N40 30.869 W111 09.917
12.0 L on DT
        N40 32.663 W111 07.561
13.0 L on Highway 35
        N40 33.480 W111 07.870
15.0 L on Bench Creek Road
        N40 33.346 W111 09.760
16.3 L uphill between two houses
        N40 33.346 W111 09.760
17.5 Back at TH
Getting there:  From I-80, take the US 40 exit south (toward Heber). A couple of miles later, exit and turn left (east) toward Kamas on US-189. In Kamas, turn right (south) at the stop sign, towards Francis. One mile later at the stop sign in Francis, turn left (east) and drive 4 miles to Woodland. In Woodland, watch for the Bench Creek Road on your right. Go 3.3 miles on Bench Creek Road, then turn right on a small broken-up semi-paved road between two houses. 0.9 miles later, there's a fence and cattleguard, which is the forest boundary. (If the road is muddy, park here.) Proceed another 0.3 miles on rougher dirt road to a meadow in a dip. Park here. As the road heads uphill at the meadow's end, there's a metal gate. Just past the gate, the singletrack forks off on your right (N40 32.309 W111 11.322).
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin      GPX     Map datum WGS 84
Medium-res topo (250 KB)     High-res topo (1.6 MB)
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to area resources

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