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
dropping west to Parowan for 5,000 feet vertical.)
View from the ridgeline, about 3 miles
down from Brian Head Peak. Photos July 19, 2001 by Bruce
|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
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
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.
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
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
||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
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
Lower down on the Left Fork of Bunker
Creek, nearing the doubletrack.
Trail notes, starting at Brian Head Peak (11,300 feet
0.5 turn left uphill on singletrack across from parking lot
1.5 intersection with Dark Hollow (4-way), continue straight on Sidney
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.)