at Albion Basin
The Devils Castle trail is an upper-intermediate to advanced
singletrack in Little Cottonwood's Albion Basin.
The ride has substantial climbing at higher altitudes and one short
advanced-technical section. The shortest loop ride is six miles with 1300
feet of climbing.
View uphill from the return
singletrack showing Devils Castle to the south. Photos and ride review
July 28, 2015 by Bruce.
|The climb via Albion Basin Road
By the most direct route, there's over 1000 vertical feet of climbing
just to reach the singletrack. Starting at the entry station at the end of
the Little Cottonwood Canyon road at 8700 feet elevation, you'll head up
the dirt Albion Basin road to the campground.
Along the way, there will be constant views of the basin and surrounding
Cranking up the Albion Basin road for
the loop ride.
||After riding straight up through the campground, turn a bit
east at the upper southwest corner. Go about 50 feet then turn right
uphill on a steepish unmarked doubletrack guarded by the big green gate.
Just over 1/4 mile uphill, make a hard right on the singletrack. You're
now at 9700 feet elevation on the Devil's Castle trail, but you're not
through climbing yet.
View west down Little Cottonwood from
the gravel road. You can see a piece of the copper mine tailings pile on
the west side of the Salt Lake Valley.
|Alternate longer tougher climb via Catherines singletrack
Riders who need a bigger challenge can exchange a bit of the dirt road
for some tough singletrack. At mile 2.1 from parking, there's a large
gravel parking area and a bathroom on the right of the road as the road
itself turns left. At the inside corner of the turn (to your left) is the
beginning of the Catherines Pass trail.
You're going to link the first section of the main Catherines Pass
trail to the campground connector (see the map). You'll bypass 0.8 mile of
the road climb, substituting 1.3 miles of expert-level singletrack.
||Catherines Pass is steep in spots and has some technical
rock to bang over. All but the toughest riders will find one stretch to be 100
feet of hiking. This singletrack option has some fun challenges on the uphill,
and rewards you with a nice slightly-downhill traverse to the campground where you'll join
the easier route.
Keep to the right at the singletrack trail fork, unless you want to
visit Catherines Pass itself as an
up-and-back. The price of admission to these awesome views will be 0.7
miles (one way) of very steep trail with more than a little push-a-bike.
The top of Catherines is 11000 feet elevation, over 300 vertical above
your current location.
The trail fork on the optional
Catherines Pass route.
|The connector to the campground descends a bit as it heads
south. Just after it turns westbound, it makes a right turn and drops 100
yards to the campground road. (At the apex of this turn, a smaller trail
heads straight. Although it aims towards Devils Castle, it dead-ends.)
Descending a bit as we head south
toward the campground on the Catherines Pass connector. Devils Castle is
||As you hit the campground, keep left onto the westbound
road. Pass a camp spur on your left, then at the pit toilet take the gravel road heading
left uphill. There's a green metal gate on this road. The road climbs
steeply uphill. Pass a spur to a building on your right, and the road
starts to veer left. (At this spot, the old steeper singletrack is being
naturalized. Stay on the road a bit longer.)
As you turn to the east, the newer singletrack forks hard right from
We've found the new trailcut and are
starting the Devils Castle trail.
|Devils Castle Singletrack
The singletrack continues a fairly stiff rate of climb, but on this
portion the surface is smooth and you should motor right along. You'll
pass through stands of fir and little meadows of wildflowers. You will
climb about 250 vertical feet over 0.6 miles to reach the ride's highest
point at around 9900 feet elevation.
Climbing towards the limestone cliffs
of the Devils Castle.
||You'll pass over and around outcrops of limestone from the
Mississippian or Pennsylvanian Period. This rock was deposited around 320
million years ago when western Utah was the bottom of an ocean basin.
There will be a few spots that have embedded rock or a short steeper
pitch, but overall, this portion of the trail is intermediate in tech
The trail winds through a rougher spot
of limestone outcrops.
|The altitude is the climbing challenge here. Take a few
breaks to check out the views around you, and behind you. If you grind
through this area too quickly, you'll miss some awesome scenery.
Looking back to the east at some
fairly buff trail. The lowest spot on the skyline is Catherines Pass.
||The trail climbs up near the base of the limestone cliffs of
Devils Castle. This is the ride's highest point at 9900 feet. From here,
you can see the trail descending through a rockslide and down into the fir
Looking up at the Devils Castle.
|For riders who skipped the Catherines Pass singletrack, the
rockslide will be the most challenging feature on the ride. But the pitch
is slightly downhill, and the slabs have been arranged to they form a
sorta-trail. Just keep your speed up and bang through. It's not as hard
as it looks.
Navigating the rockslide. Nice work.
||The trail now descends steadily through forest and meadows
toward Alta's base. Trail forks are unmarked (2015). When in doubt, take
the downhill option. (GPS navigation here is affected by the big trees.
Your display may show you to be off-course -- causing you to backtrack or
take the wrong trail fork -- then suddenly update to show that you were
on the right trail all along.)
At this altitude the wildflowers are at their peak for the last two
weeks of July. You'll see a lot of lupine and paintbrush, with some sticky
geranium and the occasional penstemmon and columbine.
Paintbrush on the left; columbine on
the right; lupine mid-upper right in front of the trees.
|When the trail joins doubletrack near a lift building, go
downhill to the singletrack at the bottom of the meadow. You'll see two
singletrack options. The lower (left) singletrack heads straight and
narrow down to the base. The right fork goes to the middle of the meadow,
where it joins the broad doubletrack route where you'll find most of the
hikers. (GPS track note: I rode the narrow route on the harder loop via
Catherines. The broad trail is used on the direct-up-Albion version.
Either one will get you downhill.)
Descending through the firs.
||When the two routes converge, keep to the right and join
pavement as you pass the service building and maintenance-vehicle parking
and head up to the road where you parked.
A note on climbing the singletrack: I don't recommend it. Yes,
it's a viable option, but very difficult. At the very bottom, the broad
hiking route is do-able but steep. The narrow singletrack has two non-rideable
hills that you'll have to push up. And once you're in the trees above the Germania turnoff,
the limited sight lines may keep descending riders from seeing you until it's too
Meadow intersection of the right
singletrack fork with the broad main trail, looking from downhill.
Beautiful and worthwhile ride. It requires good aerobic conditioning
and altitude acclimatization, plus a bit of technical skill and strong
Those looking for a monster ride can add an up-and-back to Catherines
Pass and to Germania Pass. See the map.
Paintbrush and lupine.
|Riding notes, loop including Catherines
0.0 Pass guard shack to Albion Basin road
N40 35.526 W111 37.865
2.1 L onto Catherines singletrack
N40 34.969 W111 37.102
2.3 Keep left and uphill at lift road fork
N40 34.958 W111 36.812
2.8 Stay R toward campground
N40 34.740 W111 36.476
3.2 R downhill N40 34.535 W111 36.522
3.3 Join campground road, keep L
N40 34.554 W111 36.602
3.4 L uphill, through green gate
N40 34.501 W111 36.711
3.7 R onto ST Devils Castle
N40 34.321 W111 36.684
4.5 L downhill N40 34.341 W111 36.976
|4.7 Cross Cecret Lake DT
N40 34.453 W111 36.903
Keep straight (right) at ST
N40 34.470 W111 36.906
5.2 Join DT above building
5.3 L downhill after building
N40 34.821 W111 37.182
R on ST N40 34.815 W111 37.211
then L on lower ST after 100
6.0 Cross main trail (caution, hikers!)
N40 35.271 W111 37.516
6.1 Join main trail then keep right
N40 35.365 W111 37.537
Pavement, pass L of building
then up through parking to road
6.4 Back at parking