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Old Trench-Road Trail

The Old Trench Road isn't really a road. It's a relatively steep and rough singletrack that descends from Ridge 157 near Rock Springs. The recommended loop ride is 17 miles, starting at 6500 feet elevation at Tibble Fork and rising to 9400 feet. Total climbing will be about 3100 feet.

View of Box Elder Peak from Ridge 157. Photos August 30, 2006.

The original trail cut was made to get excavating machinery up onto Mill Canyon Peak to dig erosion-prevention trenches (the horizontal lines you see on the mountain). The track is now covered with over half a century of vegetation. 

The ride is  recommended only for advanced riders. The climb to Pole Line Pass is long. Ridge 157 has some steep sections. The Old Trench Road Trail becomes steep and rough, requiring strength plus excellent braking and bike-handling skills.

For iron-thigh riders, there's the southern singletrack option. Riding uphill on singletrack from Tibble Fork or Mill Canyon, you'll take Ridge 157 northbound as it climbs from Mill Canyon to Rock Springs. The new trail-cut of Ridge 157 between the top of the Mill Canyon trail and Rock Spring makes this a nice steady climb. But don't think this is easy. At 9500 feet, any climbing is hard!

Approaching from the south on Ridge 157, that's Trail 181 -- the first section of the Old Trench Road Trail -- traversing the hillside.

Shuttle option:  If you have someone drive you to the top of Pole Line Pass, you've got a 9-mile ride with 3000-vertical of downhill. Good luck finding someone who wants to drive this bumpy road while you rock and roll on your bike.

Pole Line Pass Route:  This is Ridge 157 as it nears the trail fork to the Old Trench Road Trail from the north. When you see Timpanogos, you're there. I recommend riding up the North Fork Road to Pole Line Pass. There's a short section of steep hike-a-bike just before the trail fork. 

Singletrack (Mud Springs and Tibble Fork) Route:  There's a singletrack route where you start climbing Tibble Fork, hop onto Mud Springs northbound, switch to Mill Canyon uphill, then take Ridge 157 north to Old Trench Road. In 2014, a new climbing trail has replaced the old 157, making this a nice option.

The descent down the Old Trench Road Trail starts on Trail 181, then joins the Holman Trail for a short distance, then forks off as Trail 172.  This trail drops onto the Mill Canyon Trail for the final downhill portion.

The first mile is relatively pleasant with great views, as the trail traverses the hillside. Then it turns downhill and becomes more technical. The most difficult spots are lower down on Trail 172, where rocks lie in the bottom of a steep trench. Did I mention you need good bike-handling and braking skills?

View west on the early portion of Trail 181. 

The steepest part of the descent burns 2000 vertical feet in about 2.5 miles. That's a blistering slope, cowboy! I thought it was fun, but if you hate steep technical butt-over-the-rear-wheel descents, you'll find plenty to dislike here.

After reaching the Mill Canyon Trail, the rest of the downhill (at 500 feet per mile) seems absolutely tame. 

View from Trail 181. We can see a tiny bit of Utah Lake in the notch, with Lake Mountain behind it.

Loop ride via Pole Line Pass
0.0    Tibble Fork, straight onto gravel road
         as pavement turns left uphill
4.7    Keep R uphill at road fork
8.0    Pole Line Pass. Find ST on right.
         (If you go immediately uphill: wrong way!)
         N 40 31.901 W 111 34.243
8.6    Fork R
         N 40 31.404 W 111 34.249
10.3  Straight (L) at Forest Lake fork
         N40 30.347 W111 34.861
         Begin tough steep climb
11.0  R downhill onto Trail 181, OR
11.1  Hard R downhill onto Trail 181
         N40 30.029 W111 35.182
(Continued...)

We're turning downhill on Trail 181, still at about 9000 feet elevation. 20% down-slope, but still pretty tame here...

(Pole Line Pass loop ride continued...)
12.8  Fork L downhill
         N40 29.618 W111 36.705
13.2  Holman in from L (go R downhill)
         N40 29.344 W111 36.559
13.6  Fork L onto 172
         N40 29.150 W111 36.740
15.0  R downhill at Mill Canyon Trail
         N40 28.577 W111 36.699
16.0  Straight (R) downhill
         N40 28.655 W111 37.666
17.0  Arrive reservoir, cross creek
         N40 29.031 W111 38.378

Made it! Suddenly, the technical steep stuff is over, and we're about to join the Mill Canyon Trail, just across the clearing.

Loop ride via Mud Springs and Tibble Fork
         (Caution!  Very difficult climbs!)
         Only very strong riders who love pain
          should consider this route...

0.0    Tibble Fork, straight onto gravel road,
         watch for trail dropping to river,
         cross river to Mill Canyon Trail
         N40 29.031 W111 38.378
1.0    Fork R on Mud Springs Trail
         N40 28.655 W111 37.666
1.7    Left uphill on Tibble Fork Trail
         N40 28.158 W111 37.592
3.0    L on Ridge 157 northbound
         N40 27.547 W111 36.894
4.6    L on DT
         N40 28.061 W111 35.681
5.1    ST just to R across dirt road
         N40 28.445 W111 35.277
         Begin hard, ugly climb (hike-a-bike)
6.6    East side trail in from R
         N40 29.472 W111 34.760
         Then pass Rock Springs
6.8    Keep R
         N40 29.472 W111 34.938
7.5    L downhill onto Trail 181
         N40 30.029 W111 35.182
9.2    Fork L downhill
         N40 29.618 W111 36.705
9.6    Holman in from L (go R downhill)
         N40 29.344 W111 36.559
10.0  Fork L onto 172
         N40 29.150 W111 36.740
11.4  R downhill at Mill Canyon Trail
         N40 28.577 W111 36.699
12.4  Straight (R) downhill
         N40 28.655 W111 37.666
13.4  Arrive reservoir, cross creek
         N40 29.031 W111 38.378
Getting there:  From I-15, take the Alpine-Highland exit just south of Point-of-the-Mountain. Go east towards the mountains on UT-92 and continue up American Fork Canyon. There's a $6 fee (as of 2009). About 6 miles up the canyon, turn left at the North Fork junction and drive 2 miles to Tibble Fork Reservoir. Go past the dam and park in the long parking area north of the lake N 40 28.98' W 111 38.68', altitude 6050 ft. On your bike, head up past the bathroom, and continue straight onto gravel road as the paved road turns left. (Alternate: to riding through the river, bike over the dam and around the far side of the lake until you hit the Mill Canyon Trail 040 sign.)

Copyright 2006 Mad Scientist Software Inc

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
  Via Pole Line Pass:
         Loop up North Fork to Pole Line, South to Old Trench
  Via Singletrack from Tibble Fork:
         Mill Canyon to Old Trench Lariat Loop 
         Mill Canyon to Tibble -157- Old Trench
         Tibble up - 157 - Old Trench
High-res topo (1.2 MB):  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to north Utah County resources