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Notch Mountain Loop

NOTE:  The Notch Mountain Trail has been closed to bicycles. Nobody in the biking community seems to have been aware that closure was being considered. We are leaving this page on the site as a reminder of what happens when mountain bikers are not involved in this open public process. Please check with the Kamas Ranger District, 435-783-4338 before riding this trail, to determine whether it is once again open to bicycles.  (For campground reservations, call 877-444-6777.)
First, here's fair warning:
     Technical difficulty:  Expert
     Aerobic difficulty:  Very Strenuous
     Average riding altitude:  10,000
     Distance (loop):  15 miles
     Vertical climbing:  2200 feet
If these stats don't scare you, head for the Notch Mountain Trail. This tough trail lets you experience the high Uinta Mountains on your mountain bike.

Looking west over Notch Lake towards Notch Mountain.
Photos September 27, 2001 by Bruce Argyle.

The Notch Mountain Loop is a great ride, but only for the elite of mountain bikers. Big boulders, tight spots, loose rocks, steeps, roots, and logs are the rule. You'll spend most of the ride standing on the pedals, threading the needle through tight spots and yanking the handlebars over one wheel-trap after another. The rough ride and loose rock means you have to attack in the middle chain ring -- no way to sit back and grind out the slope in granny.

This is the trail. Multiple angular quartzite boulders, 8-12 inches high, require aggressive handlebar action and sure balance.

This is a fun trail for expert bikers who are aggressive, confident, fast, and strong. Trials guys will love working through some of the more impossible areas. Tighten those bolts down, because your bike is going to be shaken and slammed every which-way. Plan to get knocked off the bike a time or two. Unless you're God-on-two-wheels, you'll make a few short hikes over some insane sections.

You'll cruise past lakes galore. This is the view north from the trail, looking over Clegg Lake towards Bald Mountain.

The loop starts from Trial Lake, where you'll grind up the Mirror Lake Highway to the top of the pass. This 4 miles is a great ride all by itself. There's a wide (4 foot) paved shoulder on this section of the highway, so there's plenty of room for you, your dog, and one Winnebago in each lane. You'll gain 1100 vertical from Trial Lake to the Bald Mountain trailhead. Turn left on the dirt road at the top of the pass, mile 4.0, and at the far left end of the parking area, find the singletrack near the outhouse at mile 4.2. Just into the trees, the Bald Mountain Trail forks off on your right.

Jackie takes a break among the stunted evergreen of the timberline.

Pick your way through the boulder fields that pass for a trail, heading generally northwest. After a mile, it gets a little smoother as you cruise past several lakes. This area is generally level or slightly downhill.

At mile 7.8, you reach the top of a low knoll just past Bench Lake, on the northeast corner of Notch Mountain. From here, you'll descend 1000 feet vertically over one mile on rough, loose, and treacherous trail. (Except for a couple of giant deadfall trees, it really is possible to ride the whole thing.) Do what you can, and walk the stuff that scares you.

On the rock above Ibantik Lake, you're starting a brutal climb up towards The Notch.

At mile 9.1, you've finally descended to the lowest point on the ride, where the trail crosses a creek and turns south. (Depending on how much you CARRIED your bike, your mileage may be less than mine.) Now you're climbing towards Notch Mountain.

Keep left at the trail intersection at mile 9.3. (The trail sign is hard to see, nailed to a tree near the fork.) Seem a bit tough and rough? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

We're looking down from The Notch towards Wall Lake. You will share this trail with horses. Any person with sense will be riding a horse, rather than a bike.

After fighting your way up a series of ledges and difficult stunts, things level out near Ibantik Lake. You'll curve around the lake, then begin the Mother of All Hillclimbs. Riding from the lake up to "The Notch," the trail exceeds 20% grade with loose rock and tight spots. And it's at 10,000 feet altitude. Ride what you can. At The Notch, you're back up to 10,400 feet at mile 11.7.

Looking along the trail, this typical section shows a couple of slightly tight spots. At other spots, your tire placement has to be precise to the inch.

Stop for a minute to appreciate the view from The Notch, because now comes one of the most technical descents you'll find anywhere in Utah. The trail drops rapidly through tight switchbacks, with big rocks, ledges, and tons of rough stuff.

Approaching Wall Lake, the trail mellows out. Be sure to make the hard right turn at Wall Lake (don't go over the dam) at mile 13.5. One more mile, and you're back at Trial Lake. What a ride!

Maybe this waterfall is on the trail. Maybe it's not. If you haven't got what it takes to ride Notch Mountain, you'll never know.

Getting there: In Kamas, turn east towards the mountains on the well-marked Mirror Lake Highway, Utah 150. Drive up the canyon 25 miles from the turnoff, and turn left onto the paved Trial Lake Campground road. Immediately fork right for fishermen's parking, which is where you'll start your ride. (Note: there is a $3 entry fee to enter the Uinta Mountains. A pay station is found about 5 miles up the canyon.)

Alternate: For a point-to-point ride, leave your shuttle at Trial Lake, then drive 4 miles further. At the pass, turn left onto a dirt road for the Bald Mountain picnic area and trailhead.

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