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Jones Ranch Trail

The Jones Ranch Trail is an easy-intermediate trail in Payson Canyon near Payson Lakes, perfect for a short ride by a well-conditioned but beginning mountain biker. The trail can be ridden out-and-back, or as a loop using a short section of the Nebo Loop road, riding the trail either uphill or downhill.

This trail also offers a downhill route with shuttle for DH junkies. Bikers also use Jones Ranch as part of the Blackhawk Loop or Shram Creek Loop.

Looking east toward Payson Lakes, a narrow connector trail links Jones Ranch to the lakes (the lakes are a fee area). Review and first photos June 5, 2006, with update June 19, 2017.


The Jones Ranch trail is 2.9 miles long, but most riders only do the portion up to the junction with Rock Spring at mile 2.0. At this spot, Jones Ranch joins eastbound Rock Spring for a bit, then splits off to the south as a smaller and tougher trail that almost nobody rides.

Bruce heads up the hill. About 1/10th mile uphill, logs hold a gravel bed that raises the trail above the surrounding ooze. You may find some mosquitoes in this area.

The lower trail has a lot of recent improvements. The surface is mostly packed dirt, with occasional rocks and roots. But depending on moisture and horse traffic, there may be some damp and deeply hoof-hammered spots. Starting altitude is 7500 feet. The slope is reasonable.

Pedaling through a clearing, with the creek just below the photo.

The trail is firm enough to ride in early June. But the local cowboys ride this trail while it's still muddy, so you may find some areas of the trail extremely rough and "post-holed." These areas are usually short and easily walked, and they smooth out as more hikers, bikes, and horses hit the trail. If you're taking a new rider who can't handle rough trail surface, check the trail conditions on the UMB forum before riding.

Much of the trail runs alongside a small creek, which often dries out in the fall. In late spring and early summer, a number of oozy areas create trickles across the trail.

 Payson Canyon mini-loop with Jones Ranch, east Rock Spring, and northeast Blackhawk

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Riding options!

Jones Ranch all the way:  Follow the signs for trail 123 (L at 1.9 miles, R at 2.1). Uphill, it's 800 vertical feet over 3.0 miles, then a quick drop to the upper trailhead. (If you're doing it downhill on a big DH rig, plan on pushing the bike 100 yards up the hill to start.) If you're looping via the road, add 2.5 miles of pavement.

Looking through the aspens at a newly-improved section of trail, correcting a chronically-swampy area.


Jones to Rock Spring:   Our favorite. Going uphill, hold left at the 1.9 mile fork and again left at 2.1 to go east on the Rock Spring Trail to the Nebo Loop near the guard station. This is 700 vertical feet of climbing and 3.25 miles. If you're looping via the paved road, add 2 miles.

Bruce climbs through the aspens about a mile uphill from the trailhead.

A very nice singletrack loop ride is to go up Jones Ranch and veer onto eastbound Rock Springs as above, then go a tiny bit uphill on the Nebo Loop road and follow the doubletrack on the left up to the Blackhawk Trail. There's also a singletrack connector just a bit downhill. Go north on Blackhawk, then turn left when you hit the Loafer Mountain Trail and climb back to the road. At the road, coast a half-mile downhill to the parking area. The ride is just over 6 miles.

View south as the trail crosses a meadow.

Uphill (counterclockwise) loop ride:
0.0   ST uphill on R side of road   N 39 56.544 W 111 39.449
1.7   Trail joins from L (Payson Lakes)
        N 39 55.383 W 111 38.939
1.9   Rock Springs joins from R, keep straight
        N 39 55.204 W 111 38.908
2.1   Rock Springs continues straight (L)
        (Jones Ranch trail forks R)  N 39 55.120 W 111 38.695
3.3   At Nebo Loop road, turn L N 39 55.662 W 111 37.948
5.3   Back at parking

The terrain alternates between open meadows and aspen groves, with occasional fir and pine.

Getting there:  Going south, take the Payson exit 250 from I-15 and turn left. Head into Payson on U-115 to the traffic light, then turn left (100 North, U-198). About 1/3 mile later, at the top of a small hill, turn right at 600 East. Zero your odometer here.
Lower trailhead --  Drive 10.9 miles up the Nebo Loop Road. (Pass the Grotto Trail and Bennie Creek Cutoff Trail. Pass the Shram Creek trailhead and cross a cattleguard, then go another 1.8 miles up the road.) Watch for a parking area with a wood-rail fence on your left. The trail starts uphill on the right side of the road, across from the parking area. N 39 56.544 W 111 39.449
Rock Spring trailhead -- Keep driving uphill past both Payson Lakes entry stations. About 1/4 mile after the second entry, watch for a small wooden building on the right, then turn right into a dirt road with a "Rock Springs" sign. N 39 55.662 W 111 37.948
Upper Jones Ranch trailhead -- Drive about 2 miles uphill from the lower trailhead. Watch for a "Jones Ranch" sign on the right. N 39 54.992 W 111 38.068. Turn right into the dirt road and veer right to a primitive camping spot about 150 yards later. The trail starts on the south (uphill) side of that camping area. N 39 55.068 W 111 38.109
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
      GPX (plus Shram)      Payson Canyon area file
Large-format topo map (700K): View map
         2017 upper Payson Canyon trail topo
Lodging, camping, shops:     Links to area resources

Copyright 2006 Mad Scientist Software Inc

Updated 2017