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Holman Trail (AF Canyon)

Of several different downhill routes from Ridge 157, the Holman Trail is the meanest. If you do only the upper half, then drop onto the Old Trench Road Trail (171) to Mill Canyon, it's not bad. Still highly technical; still a tough ride. But if you stick with the Holman Trail all the way to the North Fork Road, you're in for one punishing triple-black-diamond ride.

Seriously, folks, this isn't a ride to take lightly. High-experts only! You've got big vertical (3200 absolute elevation change, total 3900 climbing). There's a steep descent with advanced tech riding on upper Holman, plus some more climbing. Lower Holman is ugly, and should only be considered by those looking for an extreme challenge.

Photo above:  On lower Holman, this is the easy part. We're descending into North Fork on narrow rocky trail. In many spots, the mountainside falls away from the trail with cliff-like steepness. Yes, the mountains are pretty. Photos September 27, 2006.
The ride I describe here starts at Tibble Fork Reservoir. It's 18.6 miles. It will take several hours even for a strong rider to finish this loop. Snow on Ridge 157 usually limits riding to July through mid-September.

You'll climb just over 8 miles to Pole Line Pass. The rocky dirt road gets a little rougher, steeper, and narrower as you approach the pass. Nice training ride...

We're heading northeast on the North Fork Road at Dutchman Flat, approaching Silver Fork. This is the smoothest section of road.

Arriving at Pole Line Pass, we turn right onto singletrack. This is Ridge Trail 157. From here to Forest Lake, it's a fun singletrack cruise. Well, yes, there's that one steep hill -- torn up by motorcycles -- after the first 1/4 mile, but it's short and quickly walked.

View from Ridge Trail 157, looking northwest.

On Ridge 157, you'll cruise through aspen and fir forest,
with frequent breakouts for awesome views.

Looking back northwest again, the mountains have 
receded as we look over the bowl containing Forest Lake.

After Forest Lake, the trail will climb to 9500 feet. The section between Forest Lake and the Trail 181 fork is the most technical section of the Ridge Trail. Steep ups and downs, talus rock, and tight spots. And because this area is in the shade most of the year, early or late snows stick around to make life more challenging.

Last week's September snowstorm sits on the trail, making the riding a bit more interesting...

After passing the 181 fork, you'll climb gently toward Rock Spring. (But if you actually arrive at the spring, you missed your trail fork.) The Holman Trail drops off to the right just as the trail turns left in a rocky section above the spring.

The trail starts out nicely enough. Then it turns from northwest to southwest and drops at a 20% slope for 1/2 mile. After mellowing out, guess what? You get to climb up and down, but mostly up, on narrow technical trail.

On the Ridge Trail, we're heading toward Holman.

You'll join Trail 181 (Old Trench Road) for 1/2 mile. As the trails split again, if you have any brains at all, you'll go left and NOT ride lower Holman. (Left takes you down to the Mill Canyon Trail, where you descend to Tibble Fork.)

Looking down-canyon on a mellow section of the upper Holman trail.

Do NOT go down lower Holman unless you're very skilled at controlling a bike in a steep skid, expert at precise route-picking to avoid big rocks and roots, and fearless enough to maintain downhill speed to bang through the rough stuff without an endo. You don't need a DH bike -- precise handling of a light XC bike works fine.

Getting a little steeper, a little rougher...

If you decide you're going down lower Holman, be prepared for some very unforgiving trail. Rocks, roots, loose riding surface, and long steeps. Give yourself plenty of time. This isn't a quick "plunge." There are bits of steep uphill, too.

Why ride it? Well, it's great practice at bike control. But will you think it's fun? No. It's a nasty trail.

Several springs cross the trail. In a couple of spots, the trail has "captured" the water, so it runs straight down the trail. In one case on lower Holman, there's a 50-foot steep uphill where riding's impossible. You hike uphill through a tiny rocky slippery creek-bed.

During one 0.8 mile section, the trail drops at a 25% average slope. Rock outcrops, roots, and steep trenches. In many areas, you simply can't stop without getting hurt. You've got to let the bike roll.

Mercifully, the trail mellows out just before joining doubletrack for the final drop to the North Fork Road.

We've reached the ridgetop above Tibble Fork, but we'll turn northeast into the North Fork canyon, eventually riding along hillside so steep it's essentially cliff.

A couple of sample trail shots. Loose and embedded rock;
twisting trail with blind corners. Get too close to the
sidewalls and a root grabs your pedal.

In many areas, the trail is deeply trenched. Here it's about
2 feet deep, which is typical. It's steeper than it looks! While this may look flat, it's really a tire-skidding 25% downslope.

Ride Notes, loop from Tibble Fork
0.0    Go straight onto dirt North Fork road
4.3    Dutchman Flat
5.1    Keep right (left = Mineral Basin)
8.0    At Pole Line Pass. Find ST Ridge Trail 157 on R.
         N 40 31.901 W 111 34.243
8.6    Fork R (L = Pot Hollow)
         N 40 31.404 W 111 34.249
10.3  L uphill (R=Forest Lake), begin ugly section
         N40 30.347 W111 34.861
10.9  Keep L uphill at both Trail 181 forks
         N40 30.029 W111 35.182
11.8  Fork R downhill on Holman Trail
          N40 29.472 W111 34.938
         (If you get to Rock Spring, you missed it)
14.2  Keep straight as 181 joins on R
         N40 29.344 W111 36.559
14.7  Fork R for continued Holman
         N40 29.150 W111 36.740
         OR, Fork L for Old Trench Trail to Mill Canyon
15.1  Keep straight (L) at fork
         N40 29.161 W111 37.050
15.8  Begin steep plunge x 0.8 mi
16.8  L downhill on doubletrack
         N40 29.590 W111 38.088
17.2  L on North Fork Road
         N40 29.946 W111 38.167
18.6  Back at Tibble Fork
Getting there: 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 left at the North Fork junction and drive 2 miles to Tibble Fork Reservoir. Park, then ride straight past the outhouse onto the gravel road that heads up along the river. Alternatively, for a shuttled ride, drive up the North Fork Road 8 miles to Pole Line Pass.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin     Nat Geo     Google Earth    GPX
High-res topo map (800 KB):   View map
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to AF Canyon resources

Copyright 2006 Mad Scientist Software Inc