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Deer Creek South Fork Loop

View north to Box Elder Peak and Pfeifer Horn.

This 6.6-mile singletrack loop is great fun, and not too tricky. There's about 1200 vertical feet of elevation gain, split between the first and middle sections of the trail. Like the Timpooneke Loop and the Tibble Fork Loop, this trail uses a portion of Ridge Trail 157 as its middle section. The South Fork portions of the trail are quite narrow (around 18 inches) with elevated sidewalls, requiring good bike handling. The Ridge Trail portion is wide and well-travelled.

Above:  View north from the first section of the South Fork trail. Beginning elevation is 6900 feet. Photos October 2, 1999 by Bruce Argyle

Many riders begin the ride from the Cascade Springs Road in the North Fork of Provo Canyon. That way, you complete 1.75 miles of steady uphill right away. Beginning from the Elk Camp parking area on the south side of the road, ride uphill 1/4 mile and join the DCSF trail. Keep straight and uphill. The narrow singletrack trail climbs gently, passing through meadows between aspen and pine.

View of the trail as it skirts a meadow on the way to the Alpine Loop summit. Although the trail isn't tricky, it's narrow, requiring good handlebar action to keep on track. October 2, 1999

A moose was in this meadow!

Moose and deer are present in the early morning. When you reach the gravel road, look for the continuing trail straight ahead. You'll come out right at the paved road intersection. Straight ahead is the continuation of the trail, which will take you up to the Alpine Loop summit parking area.
Jackie, checking for Powerbars. On the north end of the parking lot (GPS N 40 25.837' W 111 36.837'), to your right as you bike into the parking area from the trail), is Ridge Trail 157. Head out on the trail, across the road and up the hill. After following the Ridge Trail for 3 miles (be sure to catch the right turn at Mud Springs), the Deer Creek South Fork trail branches off to the east (your right) at a 4-way intersection where Ridge 157 meets the Tibble Fork Trail (left) at GPS N 40 27.918' W 111 36.532'.

Jackie, the Doc's terrier, stands guard over the Powerbars she knows are in the backpack.

As the South Fork trail reaches the ridgeline, stop and look south at the awesome views of Timpanogos and the saddle between American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon. Then zip down a curving narrow singletrack that's absolutely incredible. When you reach the paved road, find the parking area where you started -- right across the road.

Dominic Bria, part-owner of Mad Scientist Software, exults on the ridgeline, with Mount Timpanogos in the background. Highest elevation on this ride is 8100 feet. Photo June 30, 1999 by Bruce

Dominic - The DOMinator - on the Ridge Trail.

The ridgeline is the remains of a col, a sharp fin left standing between an eastward-flowing and a westward-flowing glacier. Glaciers, dating from the last Ice Age, are responsible for many of the flat-bottom, rounded valleys in the higher Wasatch. The American Fork Canyon area falls on the edge of a massive igneous rock intrusion, where the sedimentary limestone (Oquirrh formation from the Pennsylvannian Era, 300 million years ago, seen on Mt. Timpanogos, and the older Mississippian Limestone on the tall gray walls of American Fork Canyon) gives way to granite in the Lone Peak-Little Cottonwood area. The igneous rock of 26 million years ago brought with it minerals that left deposits in the Mineral Basin area of American Fork Canyon and (later) the Park City area.
View south towards Timpanogos Portions of the trail are usually snowbound until mid June. Snow usually covers the trail again in late October, but even then, hard-core riders can be found thrashing the snow on the Ridge. Late September is an excellent time to ride this trail, as the fall colors change.

View over the aspens and spruces towards Mount Timpanogos. Awesome! The Mad Scientist's bike "Banana Thunder" sits among bitterbrush in the foreground. October 2, 1999

An excellent riding option is to begin at the Timpooneke campground (see the Timpooneke Loop), ride up the Great Western (Salamander Flat Trail #150) and continue uphill on the Pine Hollow Trail to Ridge 157 (2.6 miles) and turn left. Then you ride the loop: north 1.5 miles to the South Fork trail, right 1.5 miles to the bottom of the canyon, then up 1.75 miles to the top of the Alpine Loop. Now ride the southern part of the Ridge Trail back to the Great Western/Pine Hollow trial, and back to Timpooneke. Your total distance will be 12 miles, with around 2400 vertical feet total climbing.

Major Air Time! Matt Flygare launches off a rock on the descending limb of the Deer Creek South Fork Trail. October 9, 1999 by Bruce.

Kowabunga, Dude!

Brakes? We don't need no steeenking brakes!

Even in November and early December, fanatic bikers can still grab rides on this trail. In fact, some of the most fun mountain riding is when you combine hardpack trail, a couple of inches of soft Utah powder snow, a few icy patches. For the ascent up the southern end of the South Fork trail, we recommend early morning while the ground is still frozen hard -- you don't want to bog down in mud or leave big ruts in the trail.

Encore! Remember the rock in the picture above? Here Mike Engberson (UtahMountainBiking.com's CEO) flies up into the crisp November air.
This photo available as wallpaper.

Bottom Line: This is one of the greatest little loop trails we've found anywhere. Since discovering this trail (which is not described on other web sites nor in mountain biking books) we can't get enough of it. And, lucky you, we're sharing our secret.

The Mad Scientist aka Doc A  posts a turn on the Ridge Trail near the descent into Deer Creek South Fork. Photo June 30, 1999 by Dominic Bria.
A similar photo is available as wallpaper.

The Doc enters a tunnel of trees, with Timpanogos as a backdrop.

Deer Creek South Fork Map Getting there: (Cascade Springs Road trailhead) 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, turn right at the North Fork junction. Drive up to the summit of the Alpine Loop. (The summit trailhead is on your right just before you reach the top of the loop.) For the lower trailhead, drive further to the Cascade Springs Road, where you'll turn left. About 1.5 miles later, turn right on a gravel road and go 100 feet. The trailhead is in the trees straight ahead. GPS N 40 26.801' W 111 36.489.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX DCSF Standard Loop
     DCSF From Timpanooke TH
High-res topo loop (250 KB):  View   Topo via Timpooneke:  View
For a color-coded map of trails linking to Ridge Trail 157,
see the Ridge Trail Page.
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to AF Canyon resources

Copyright 1999 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2004, new track 2012