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Pioneer Trail    (Ephraim Canyon)

The Pioneer Trail is a bicycle-only singletrack trail in Ephraim Canyon. It starts at 8300 feet elevation and drops 1400 feet over 3 miles. Tech requirement is upper-intermediate or advanced. It's a downhill route usually done with a shuttle -- but you can make a loop by pedaling up the Ephraim Canyon Road.

Section of ladder crossing a seep on the singletrack Pioneer Trail. Photos and ride track based on a ride by Bruce on August 17, 2011.

The trail lies in deep forest on a north-facing slope. So snow tends to stick around a long time. Because it follows an old trailcut on the mountainside -- and drops down the fall-line in many sections -- water tends to channel and run down the trail in late spring. The season for the Pioneer Trail would be mid-June to mid-October, but it depends on the snowpack and spring temperatures.

View of the road climb. 6.2 miles with 2500 vertical, with five mean miles of 450 per mile. Temperature 94 at the bottom of the canyon. And a truck pulling a camper passing every 60 seconds. The Ephraim Canyon Road was surprisingly non-peaceful.

During the summer, most riders will combine Pioneer with the Flume Trail, located lower in the canyon, for a 6.6-mile descent with 2500 vertical. While usually done with a 6.6-mile shuttle via the Ephraim Canyon Road, it's possible to pedal up the gravel road for a 13.2-mile ride.

Looking back down the canyon from the road climb as Ephraim peeks above the trees.

The trail starts as a doubletrack forking north (left) off the Ephraim Canyon Road about 7 miles uphill from Ephraim, just past the Lake Hill Campground. If you're pedaling uphill, when the upslope levels out for about 1/4 mile, watch for the dirt road just as the main road turns to the left. Because of the high shoulder on the left side of the road, it's easy to NOT see the doubletrack as you're grunting uphill.

Start of the doubletrack to Pioneer. Note that when pedaling uphill the DT was invisible from the far right side of the canyon road.

The doubletrack may be rutted and rough, with water filling the four-wheeler trenches. Even in mid-August, I had to hug the shrubbery on the trailside to sneak around several deep and wide swimming pools. The trail aims gently downhill, dropping about 250 feet over 0.9 miles.

Still plenty of puddles to dodge on the doubletrack, despite a week of no rain.

At mile 0.9 from the Ephraim Canyon Road, just after a short slightly-uphill section, watch for the singletrack Pioneer Trail on your left. A small sign marked the trail (2011), but it may not always be there. The trail was fairly indistinct at its starting point, and would be easy to ride past.

Sign marking the fork of the singletrack off of the doubletrack.

The trail begins with alternating tree-lined downhill and flat meadows, with a fairly mellow overall downhill grade. There will be a few log-hops. Many sections of the trail had a central water-rut from runoff, as the trail followed the fall-line downhill. The first mile is fairly straight and uncomplicated.

Meadow view early in the ride. Aspens alternate with maple, pine, and fir.

The trail starts to follow an ancient overgrown roadcut. (This forms a bowl that tends to hold and channel water along the trail.) You'll cross to the south side of a small creek, then hug the edge of steep New Canyon above a fork of Ephraim Creek.

We're about to plunge down, cross the creek, and rocket up the other side. The big logs will catch you -- maybe -- if you miss the bridge.

Areas of high-speed cruising alternate with occasional tech areas. None of the tech stuff is particularly long. If you're a nervous type, your maximum "hike" will be just a few steps.

Lower down on the trail. Note that the trail is in its own little valley, so it would tend to hold water.

On your first run, I would suggest a "look before you leap" policy. Although solid enough, one of the wood ladders along a steep mud slope had been partly washed loose by recent storms and was angling a bit outward. And a ladder over a big tree-trunk was missing a rung on the back side where you couldn't see it. There was an 18-inch hole. Not exactly a bike-swallower, but easy to endo if you were touching the brakes. 

You'll cross this little creek.

When you reach a wide area with a fence on your left, turn left on doubletrack along the fence. You'll quickly arrive back at the Ephraim Canyon road. You're now at 7100 feet elevation. From here, either continue downhill to the Flume Trail, or head uphill for another run down Pioneer.

Long ladder feature, extending up and over a three-foot tree trunk. Spacing was about 8 inches between each board. Easy, but not for the nervous.

If you're doing the whole 6.6-mile, 2500-vertical downhill, turn right and head downhill on the Ephraim Canyon road for 0.9 miles. You'll lose another 350 vertical. As the road turns right around a cabin, head left onto a doubletrack that parallels the road (heading west). This is the beginning of the Flume Trail.

We're hugging the rocky edge of the old road-cut on the edge of the gorge above the creek.


The Flume Trail will be 2.7 miles with 800 vertical to a base of 5900 feet at the parking spot.

Note: there's a "navigation challenge" 0.2 miles down the doubletrack of the Flume Trail. You can -- and likely will -- get lost if you don't know where you're supposed to go. See the Flume Trail page.

One of the few "views" on the singletrack, as we look through the trees to the north across the gorge.

Riding notes, from canyon bottom:
0.0   North on paved road N39 20.425 W111 33.882
0.3   R on Ephraim Canyon Road N39 20.646 W111 33.903
2.3   Pass Flume DT N39 20.260 W111 31.590
3.2   Pass end of Pioneer N39 20.370 W111 30.985
6.1   Pass Lake Hill CG road N39 19.935 W111 29.737
6.6   L on doubletrack N39 19.565 W111 29.760
7.5   L off DT onto singletrack N39 20.036 W111 29.263
9.5   Veer L along fence on DT N39 20.425 W111 30.957
9.6   R on canyon road N39 20.362 W111 30.985
10.5 L off road onto DT N39 20.260 W111 31.591
10.7 Critical Spot!!! straight ahead as DT's fork
        Find ST on far side of pipe, heading SW.
        N39 20.260 W111 31.746
11.8 Begin steep descent
13.0 Join DT gravel farm road
13.2 Back at car

End of the Pioneer Trail. Note this spot as you head uphill.

Getting there, lower parking (bottom of Flume):  On US-89 in Ephraim, go to 400 south and turn east towards the mountains. At 300 East, turn right. You're on state road 29, the Ephraim Canyon Road. After 0.6 miles, the road turns 90 degrees left. Go 0.8 miles to (I think) 920 East and turn right. At the gate where the road becomes a "private driveway" (which, BTW, is your return path), park on the west side of the road. Begin the ride by backtracking north on the paved road.

Upper parking (bottom of Pioneer):  From the 90-degree corner where Ephraim Canyon Road turns toward the mountains, drive 3.7 miles up the canyon. Watch for a doubletrack on your left with a fence along the uphill side, and a wooden step-over in the fence (note: the trail doesn't go over the stepover; it's the doubletrack). See the photo above. Find a spot to park in the broad area at the mouth of the doubletrack.
Upper trailhead (top of Pioneer for shuttle rides):  From the 90-degree corner, drive 7.0 miles up the canyon. Pass the Lake Hill campground (on the right), then watch for a doubletrack on the left just as the gravel road turns to the left. The only sign was a carsonite marker numbered 51105. There are several broad areas on the side of the Ephraim Canyon Road suitable for parking the shuttle vehicle. Begin the ride by pedaling down the doubletrack.
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
      GPX Pioneer-Flume Loop   Pioneer Only
      Pioneer-Flume DH Only
Large-format area topo map:  View map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to south Utah Co resources

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