|Lookout Peak to
Big Mountain Loop
This loop ride is for advanced and adventuresome riders. The ride
climbs Big Mountain Pass, then up Big Mountain itself. It includes a
brutal climb, a section of rough root-strewn tech riding, and a
ball-bearing-slippery steep descent.
Handlebar view down Mountain Dell
Canyon, near Swallow Rock. Photos August 26, 2002 by Bruce.
| The trail rolls around the
ridge that connects Big Mountain to Lookout Peak, skirts the top of
Emigration Canyon, then drops down to Affeck Park from the top of Killyon Canyon. The route described
here is 15.4 miles, with altitude change of 2500 feet, reaching a peak
altitude of 8600. Up-and-down riding on the ridge brings the total
vertical to around 3500.
|Update: The climb from Big Mountain is reported to be loose and
washed out, so you can expect to hike your bike a bit. The section from
the GWT over to Lookout Peak is seriously overgrown with trailside brush
and small trees. Until some serious trailwork is done, this route should
be considered only by those who are looking for new trail and a real
Once you've climbed above 8000 feet, you'll spend 7 miles
riding along ridgeline at high altitude as you loop around the border of a
huge deep valley -- Mountain Dell Canyon. You'll be able to see into Parley's Canyon, the Park
City area, Morgan Canyon, and Emigration Canyon. Most of the ridgeline
ride has fabulous open views. This is a very pretty ride, but is only for
those with good skills, strength, and altitude acclimatization.
||Riding around the loop counterclockwise, the tech factor
gets progressively tougher. The first 3.5 miles is the Mormon
Pioneer Trail, and it's relatively easy. The climb isn't too tough and
the trail is broad and smooth. You'll be riding in forest of box elder,
maple, and oak, with occasional groves of aspen. Elderberry, chokecherry,
and fern are found in the understory.
The Mormon Pioneer Trail is the uphill
route to Big Mountain Pass. Near the top, giant ferms grow among maples
|The Great Western (GWT) up Big Mountain is narrow and steep
with tight switchbacks -- you'll gain 800 feet in 1 mile. Only the best
can ride this without an occasional dab or brief push-a-bike. At the top,
look over the valley below you.
towards Emigration Canyon, we see bushes of serviceberry (hawberry). These
provided a tasty treat for a hungry biker!
| You're going to ride around the rim of
this valley. Any fork that takes you away from the rim is the wrong way.
The trail turns north and rolls along the ridge for 2 miles on easy but
narrow singletrack, then 2 miles of occasionally rocky doubletrack. You're
riding on open wind-swept ridge with occasional groves of aspen. The views
in this area are fabulous!
Panoramic 120-degree view as the trails circles the ridgeline
from Big Mountain (L)
to where we're standing, then on to Lookout Peak (R). Below us is Mountain Dell
||The GWT singletrack around the north end of the valley is
upper-intermediate technical, with occasional short tough sections. Be
sure you don't miss the critical turn that takes you up the ridgeline,
then over the saddle to the east side of Lookout Peak. Here you'll
encounter a mile of very narrow up-and-down technical trail with roots and
tree trunks to hop over, while small trees and brush drag at your
handlebars. Much fun!
|Photo above: While most of the ride is on exposed
ridgeline, you'll slip through groves of trees. On the side of Lookout
Peak, there's a long stretch of trees that's pretty rad.
|Descending from Lookout Peak requires good rock-surfing
skills, as this steep trail is littered with skittery round boulders. Roll
over conglomerate outcrops, keep your butt back, and work your brakes
carefully. Despite the 1000 ft per mile rate of descent, the trail is very
rideable. Intersecting a trail at the top of Killyon Canyon, you turn left
to drop down to Affleck Park to complete the loop.
The wind can get pretty intense on the
ridgeline. Note the scoured upwind (west) face, with lush downwind side.
||Getting there, Pioneer Trail parking area: On I-80 in Parley's Canyon, take
the Little Dell Recreation Area exit. From the exit, drive uphill 4.1
miles, then park on the right side of the road near the outhouse at GPS N
40° 47.996' W 111° 40.750'. The trail begins on the opposite side of the
road, just downhill.
Affleck Park trailhead: Drive another 0.8 miles uphill, then
turn left and descend to Affleck Park. Keep right and proceed uphill to
the north end of the park, and find the sign indicating the Mormon Pioneer
Trail. (The return trail is across the creek.) Subtract 1 mile from the
mileage below when riding the trail.
See below for link to printable topo map!
Little Dell trailhead: At mile 2 after exiting the freeway, turn
right into the Little Dell recreation area (fee required). Roll down to
the trail parking lot near the water. Trail begins paved at GPS N
40° 46.622' W 111° 41.317', then turns to cinder as you pass close by a
picnic table. Add 1.9 to the mileage below. See the Pioneer
Trail page for additional details.
For connections to Little Mountain Pass and Killyon Canyon, see the Killyon
Canyon Loop page.
|Ride Notes, from the roadside Pioneer Trail parking area.
(Your mileage may vary depending on calibration, tire
size, and "packing your bike.")
0.0 Parking on R side of road, trail is back down the road on L
about 100 feet
N 40° 47.994' W 111°
40.755' Alt 6100
0.2 Faint singletrack joins from L
0.8 Affleck Park, keep L on DT, then R over creek, then L to end of
1.0 Cindered trail in Affleck Park gives way to dirt
1.9 Cross road
3.5 After three switchbacks, arrive at parking area of Big Mountain
Go across road to singletrack that
climbs hillside (GWT)
N 40° 49.680' W 111°
39.227' Alt 7500
4.5 Trail turns N after climbing Big Mountain, follows ridgeline -
6.4 Descend, then keep straight (L) on DT - view into Morgan Canyon
7.9 Fork in DT, keep straight (L) on ridge
8.0 Faint DT joins from L, keep straight
8.1 Great Western (GWT) branches off on L, just below rock outcrop
with cave at bottom
Trail curves around north end of
valley, going W
9.5 CRITICAL FORK! After steep descent on loose rock down
find faint singletrack forking L,
just after trail climbs back into trees.
(If you turn onto N slope and descend
towards valley, you missed it!)
N 40° 51.133' W 111°
42.696' Alt 8400
10.5 Mile of dodge-em riding in tight trees
11.6 Reach ridge on flank of Lookout Peak, view of Emigration Canyon
Begin steep ridgeline descent in
loose rock, then switchback into old fire area
13.6 Trail crosses in clearing, turn L and drop downhill
N 40° 48.668' W 111°
41.453' Alt 6300
14.4 Arrive Affleck Park N 40° 48.839' W 111° 40.852'
R on DT, keep R to find ST after gate
15.4 Back at parking
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