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Bunker Creek Trail

The Bunker Creek Trail is one of two epic downhills at Brian Head. The trail begins atop Brian Head Peak at 11,300 feet, and heads east to Panguitch Lake 3000 feet below. (The other downhill is Dark Hollow, dropping west to Parowan for 5,000 feet vertical.)

Bunker Creek has been severely affected by the summer 2017 forest fire and is closed. UMB will watch for the re-opening of the trail, but you can contact the bike shop for current status.

View from the ridgeline, about 3 miles down from Brian Head Peak. Photos July 19, 2001 by Bruce Argyle.

The trail is 12 miles long, and is done with a shuttle vehicle. The bike shops in Brian Head provide shuttle service for (2008 rate) $20 per rider, which includes the trip up to the Peak, then picking you up at Panguitch Lake after the ride.

Brian Head Peak is formed of a light-colored soft volcanic rock, deposited during last 20 million years. The bright pink cliffs of Cedar Breaks are formed of Claron-formation limestone from about 40 million years ago during the Tertiary Era. This limestone was deposited at the bottom of a large fresh-water lake, before the plateau area was uplifted away from the valleys of the Great Basin.

Occasionally, there's a little bit of gentle climbing to roll over a small ridge, but in general it's a downhill cruise that's fast, furious, and fairly straight. Technically, it's not tough, but there are a couple of sections (just above the Sidney Valley Road, and Bunker Creek's Left Fork) where there are loose and slightly rough downhill steeps.

Handlebar view of the trail at 11,000 feet, heading along the high ridge.

The first few miles on ridgeline, coming down from Brian Head Peak, is unlike any other ride. You're cruising through a world of odd rocks, tiny flowering alpine phlox, mosses, and stunted spruce trees.

The first fork you'll encounter is at 1.5 miles, where the Dark Hollow trail forks left and Lowder Ponds forks right. As you drop off the ridge, wide meadows alternate with dense spruce forest.

About 4 miles into the ride, looking east down the canyon towards Panguitch.

After crossing the Sidney Valley road, the terrain changes to aspen and spruce forest, with small meadows. The turns are gentle, so there's not much tree-dodging.

Bunker Creek's Left Fork (turning right at mile 4.4) is steeper and more technical; the Right Fork is a cruise.

Deep forest on the Left Fork of Bunker Creek.

When the Left Fork and Right Fork trails recombine, you'll ride 5 miles on high-speed doubletrack. As you head down, the air will get warmer, and the ecosystem will change to larger pines. The temperature at Panguitch Lake may be 30 degrees warmer than it was at the top at Brian Head Peak.

Penstemmon blooms in one of countless small meadows alongside the trail.

Be prepared for cold. July 19, the 10 a.m. temperature at the trailhead was 52 degrees F, with a 20 mph wind, despite clear sunny skies. Thunderstorms can pop up quickly, and they're very ugly at this altitude. Bring a rain jacket. I suggest full-fingered gloves. Also come prepared for some serious sun exposure.  Use a potent sunscreen and UV-protective sunglasses.

Lower down on the Left Fork of Bunker Creek, nearing the doubletrack.

Trail notes, starting at Brian Head Peak (11,300 feet elevation)
0.5 turn left uphill on singletrack across from parking lot
1.5 intersection with Dark Hollow (4-way), continue straight on Sidney Peaks Trail
4.3 cross Sidney Valley Road
4.4 trail fork: go Right for technical, Left for easier
7.3 trails rejoin, continue on doubletrack
12.0 reach highway, turn left to head for store

Jackie takes a breather near a cluster of Colorado Columbine.

Getting there:  On U-143, head up the canyon from Brian Head to the summit. Just 1/4 mile past the summit sign, turn left on a gravel road (GPS N 37 40.136' W 112 50.350'). Drive 2.5 miles to the peak of the mountain to start your ride. (Note the parking area to your left at 1.8 miles. Once you start riding, you'll turn onto the singletrack across the road.) 
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin     National Geographic     Google Earth    GPX
Medium-res topo: View  
High-res topo map (1100 KB): View
Lodging, camping, shops:     Links to Cedar City - Brian Head area resources

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