Lowder Ponds Loop
The Lowder Ponds Loop is a high-altitude
advanced-intermediate trail that combines ridgeline singletrack with
forested downhill. The trail is a loop 11.9 miles in length, with a short
(2 mile) climb on dirt road in the middle of the ride.
Framed by spruce, a carpet of grass,
sedges, and penstemmon leads to the largest of the Lowder Ponds. Photos by
Bruce Argyle, July 19, 2001.
|Altitude at the trailhead is 11,000 feet. You'll drop 1000 feet, then
climb your way back up. You shouldn't consider Lowder Ponds unless you
have conditioned thighs, great lungs, and are acclimatized to altitude.
The trail starts on the ridgeline near Brian Head Peak.
You'll have unobstructed views from Parowan Canyon out over the valleys of
the I-15 corridor. The ground is rocky and covered with moss and tiny
Be prepared for cold. July 19, the 10 a.m. temperature at the trailhead
was 52 degrees F, with a 20 mph wind, despite clear sunny skies.
Thunderstorms can pop up quickly, and they're very ugly at this altitude.
Bring a rain jacket. I suggest full-fingered gloves.
Looking from the ridgeline at 11,000
feet, we see over several mountain ranges in the distance.
Also come prepared for some serious sun exposure. You'll
spend most of your ride in the open sun at high altitude. You can blister
your skin and damage your eyes (ultraviolet keratitis -- sunburn of the
cornea) quickly at this altitude. I suggest you apply a high-potency
sunscreen a few hours before the ride to let it "soak in," then
reapply before starting the ride. UV-protective sunglasses are a must,
unless you want to spend the evening holding cold washcloths on your
aching, burning eyeballs.
View up the trail on the Sidney Peaks
Trail shows rocky soil with stunted spruce. The rock along the summit is
light volcanic breccia, when volcanic extrusive rock covered the lakebed
deposits (the pink cliffs of Cedar Breaks and Parowan Canyon) of the
Tertiary Era's Claron Formation (around 40 million years ago).
|Dropping off the weird world of the high ridgeline, you'll
enter forests of spruce and aspen. The trail winds and drops over several
ridges towards Lowder Ponds.
Handlebar view shows typical riding
conditions on the lower portions of the Lowder Ponds Loop -- small patches
of meadow among stands of aspen and spruce.
||You'll pass ponds near the old Lowder Ranch. The trail winds
through meadows scattered among clusters of spruce and aspen. Wildflowers
include penstemmon, yarrow, monkshood, and columbine.
heads towards the first of the Lowder Ponds to get a drink.
|When you join the Bunker Creek Trail, it's time for some
serious uphill. Take a minute to enjoy the views over Parowan Canyon. The
altitude makes trivial slopes a major effort, and steeper slopes will be a
View north towards Parowan, from the
ridge where the Sidney Valley Road reaches the Sidney Peaks Trail.
1.1 trail intersection 4-way GPS N 37° 41.624' W 112° 48.359', turn right.
(Dark Hollow is
left, Bunker Creek is straight ahead)
1.4 cross doubletrack
2.2 cross small creek, then doubletrack
2.9 pond on right, go left (not through log fence)
3.0 join ATV doubletrack
3.9 cross meadow
5.2 large meadow, veer right and cross wide deep creek
View up to the saddle, after
completing the hardest part of the uphill.
|5.6 metal gate, reach Sidney Valley Road, turn left
7.7 ignore road coming in from left, continue straight
8.0 intersect Sidney Peaks - Bunker Creek trail GPS N 37° 42.869' W 112°
turn left, becomes singletrack, start hard
9.5 reach saddle
10.2 trail fork, go right
10.8 back at 4-way intersection, go straight
11.9 back at parking area.
Yarrow blossoms among the trees.
||Getting there: On U-143, head up the canyon from
Brian Head to the summit. Just 1/4 mile past the summit sign, turn left on
a gravel road (GPS N 37° 40.136' W 112° 50.350'). Drive 1.8 miles and
turn left into a parking area (GPS N 37° 41.164' W 112° 49.181') with a
small outhouse. The trailhead is across the road from the parking area.