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Dowd Mountain Trail

The Dowd Mountain Trail is a 10.5-mile loop ride on the southwest corner of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The trail is 1/3 singletrack and 2/3 double-track. The trailhead is on the plateau south of the reservoir at 7500 feet elevation. Peak altitude is around 8000. Overall climbing will be about 1000 vertical.

View of Flaming Gorge Reservoir from the midpoint of the ride. Original review and ride instructions 1998. Updated June 27, 2010 by Bruce.

The trail is OK for strong novice riders. Most of it, in fact, is downright easy. Beginners may not be able to ride the singletrack west of the viewpoint due to loose and embedded rock in the trail. This depends on the amount of TLC given to the trail versus erosion and horse-traffic conditions.

Beginners can ride the counterclockwise loop to the viewpoint, then bail out on the graded road from there. Fast expert riders will be able to hammer the whole loop ride in around an hour.

Typical singletrack meanders among widely-spaced pines for the first couple of miles.

I recommend riding the trail as a counterclockwise loop. As you head uphill on the dirt road from the parking area, watch for singletrack on your right about 100 yards past the cattle guard. The trail heads fairly straight northeast. The trail passes through ponderosa pine with an under-story of grassy meadow as it climbs uphill.

After a mile, the trail becomes less distinct. If you loose the trail in grass, pine needles or rock, look for a blue diamond on a tree. If you don't see one, just keep heading straight and you'll pick up the trail in 100 feet or so.

Navigation wasn't too tough, but wasn't straightforward, either. I suggest you print the topo map (see below) or ride with your GPS using my track file.

Brian Argyle works his bike up a gentle grade through longleaf pines. This photo was taken on our original trail review August 29, 1998.

At mile 1.5, the trail joins a faint old doubletrack, then forks right on a larger, well-traveled doubletrack trail at mile 2. (Note: there were NO diamond markers and carsonite posts at this intersection in June 2010. But once you go the right way, you'll spot a blue diamond within 1/4 mile.)

The slope goes away and you'll do some high-speed cruising for a few miles on the doubletrack.

Typical section of high-speed doubletrack on the outgoing limb of the loop. Very little altitude change here; in fact it's mostly downhill.

At mile 4.7, the doubletrack forks to the left then turns northwest toward the viewpoint. At mile 5.7, turn right on the main gravel Dowd Mountain Road and pedal 1/2 mile to the overlook.

August 29, 1998. Mike Engberson  pauses at the Dowd Mountain overlook with his old hard-body Giant Iguana. Ooh, check out the tech bike clothing and the beanie-helmet. You've come a long way, Mikey!

At the overlook, there's a bathroom and picnic tables. The continuing trail is the singletrack on the left. The terrain gives way to juniper and sage. The trail surface becomes rocky. Follow the ridgeline west for about a mile, then turn back southeast at the fork. (The right fork at the westernmost corner of the singletrack goes down to the reservoir. Unless you have a boat meeting you, I don't think you want to go there. 1700 vertical down and back up.)

View west on the singletrack just heading out from the viewpoint.

To the west are the peaks of the Uinta Mountains. These mountains slowly rose up between 40 and 80 million years ago, warping the layers above them into a giant dome. Looking north over the reservoir from the top of the mountain, notice how the exposed layers of rock tilt upward as they come towards you. The further north you look, the younger the rock layers are.

Looking to the southwest at the quartzite peaks of the Uinta Mountains.

As the overlying layers eroded away, the underlying Precambrian red rock is exposed below Flaming Gorge Dam. This quartzite is over 500 million years old. To the north, successively younger layers are exposed, from the Permian (age of amphibians, 280 million years ago), to the Triassic (later age of the dinosaurs, ending about 65 million years ago) just past the furthest northern corner of the reservoir.

View north just before the singletrack turns away from the reservoir, looking toward Beehive Point at the west end of Hideout Canyon.

At mile 7.4, the trail approaches the Dowd Mountain Road, right where you turned onto it near the viewpoint. Just before the road, fork hard right on Forest Road 613. Climb gently uphill for a mile. A short distance after the road begins to descend, it will turn 90 degrees to the left at mile 9.2. Keep straight and enter the descending singletrack.

Wildflowers bloom along the singletrack of the ridgeline.

The trail will now head in a straight line downhill toward highway 44. It will hit the gravel Dowd Mountain road right by the cattleguard.

Note the faint trail along the edge of the sage. The singletrack lies on an old road-cut. Just keep heading downhill.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0   Start up gravel road, pass over cattle guard
        N40 52.937 W109 41.535
0.1   Fork R onto ST N40 52.892 W109 41.461
1.5   Merge L onto faint DT N40 52.513 W109 40.455
2.1   Fork R on doubletrack N40 52.658 W109 39.926
4.7   Fork L on DT, turns northwest
        N40 53.025 W109 37.748
5.7   Fork R on graded road N40 53.636 W109 38.137
6.2   At viewpoint N40 53.830 W109 37.536
        West on ST on left of viewpoint
7.1   Fork hard L (R = down to lake)
        N40 53.802 W109 38.328
7.3   Fork hard R onto FR 613
        N40 53.636 W109 38.162
9.2   Straight into ST as DT turns L
        N40 53.106 W109 40.054
10.5 Back at road N40 52.921 W109 41.492
        R to parking
Getting there: On Utah Highway 44, look for the Dowd Springs and Dowd Mountain Road signs about 14 miles south of Manila on the west side of Flaming Gorge reservoir. If you're coming from Vernal, it's 11.5 miles west of the turnoff to the Red Canyon visitors' center. The trail starts with the graded road on the north side of the highway. Just past the cattle guard, watch for the blue diamond marker as the singletrack leaves the road.

(see high-res topo map -- link below -- for greater detail)

Riding Resources:
One-page printable trail guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin      GPX
High-res topo map:  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:   
Links to Vernal area resources

Camping: developed campgrounds 11 miles east
At mid-point on trail.
At campgrounds.
Bike services, maps, trail conditions:

Altitude Cycle, 580 East Main, Vernal. 435-781-2595

Copyright 1998 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2010