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Mormon Pioneer Trail
(Parley's Canyon)

The Mormon Pioneer Trail climbs from near Little Dell Reservoir up to Big Mountain Pass, following the path blazed by the Donner Party and followed by the Mormon pioneers. This trail is quite smooth, but gets a bit steeper as it climbs the switchbacks to the pass. It's easy-intermediate technical, but pretty strenuous aerobic. 

View up the trail, as the singletrack crosses the road. Photos by Bruce, June 19, 2002.

Starting altitude is 6040, with 1000 vertical feet of climbing, much of it in the last couple of miles. At the top of the pass, you can link to the Mormon Trail in Little Emigration Canyon, ride around the advanced-tech Lookout Peak loop, or ride south towards Bald Mountain.
If started from Little Dell, the ride is 5.4 miles each way; from the roadside parking, 3.5; from Affleck Park, 2.5. The first half of the ride is in the canyon bottom in box elder, maple, and oak. This part can get a bit warm on a hot summer day, as the trees raise the humidity and block the breeze. It will actually feel cooler when you reach the exposed hillside and start climbing in earnest. Grind your way up the switchbacks.

Typical trail view from the first section, riding near the creek in box elder and maple.

Some riders (who don't feel the need to earn their vertical) will use a shuttle car to dump them at the pass, then pick them up downhill for another trip to the top. Excellent idea, if you can find somebody who's willing to stay in the car.

Dogs are NOT allowed in this area. Parley's Canyon, up to Big Mountain Pass, is Salt Lake City watershed.

A friendly rodent emerges to see what loud clothes the bikers are wearing today.

The end of the ride is the historical marker at Big Mountain Pass, GPS N 40 49.687' W 111 39.244'. There's a parking area here for unloading downhillers. From this point, you can also descend the Mormon Trail down Little Emigration Canyon, or head north or south on the Great Western Trail. Admire the view a minute, then turn around and bomb back down to the trailhead.

View from Big Mountain Pass, looking back down the canyon.

Getting there, roadside trailhead (3.5-mile option):  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.

Riding resources:
  Printable, single-page riding guide
track files (right-click link, then save as a file):
            Track GPX course   Mormon Trail in East Canyon
            Area files including Jeremy Ranch
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to Park City area resources
     Northern SLC resources

Affleck Park trailhead (2.5-mile): For a shorter ride, 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, for a 2.5-mile ride each way

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. This option adds 1.9 miles each way, and 300 vertical feet of climbing. There are a couple of turnouts on the R side of the road about 1/2 mile past Little Dell, where short trails drop downhill to join the Mormon Pioneer Trail.

Ride Notes, from Little Dell trailhead:
0.0   Ride north on pavement towards picnic table, go past onto cindered trail
0.25 Trail turns to dirt DT, go straight N through gate
0.3   Fork L on singletrack
1.65 Go R across bridge
1.9   Reach parking area. Turn L on pavement, go 100 feet, then turn R onto ST
2.7   Affleck Park, join DT. Keep straight uphill past gate, then R over creek, then L (uphill)
2.9   North end of Affleck, keep straight on cindered trail, becomes dirt
4.8   Cross road
5.4   Parking area at top of Big Mountain Pass

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc