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Mill Creek Pipeline Trail

In the lower half of Salt Lake City's Mill Creek Canyon is the Mill Creek Pipeline trail. It's a great lower-altitude alpine bike ride for advanced beginners and intermediates. This narrow single-track is usually open by mid-April or early May and stays clear of snow until November.

Looking southwest across the canyon from the trail. May 26, 1999 by Bruce

Several trails connect the Mill Creek Canyon road to the trail, allowing riders to pick up the trail and bail out at four locations. To do the entire trail out-and-back from the upper trailhead on the Mill Creek Canyon road, it's 14 miles. Many riders climb the paved canyon road and connect to the trail at one of the upper locations, then drop down Rattlesnake Gulch for a loop ride.

Chad passes the Church Fork entry to the pipeline in 1999.

Much of the trail is smooth hard-pack dirt. But the narrowness and exposure to steep hillsides make it an "intermediate trail" that's still suitable for brave beginners. Much of the trail is shaded cruising through the woods, while the western third is exposed to wind or heat on steep slopes.

The trail bed is firm, giving good support to your tires even when wet. This is an excellent early-season ride.

Typical buff trail section as the trail leaves the Mill Creek Canyon road at Elbow Fork.

Dogs are allowed in Mill Creek Canyon. Be sure Fido is compatible with other mutts. You're sure to run into a few of them. Jackie (at left) thinks nothing of this 14-mile run.

Even on weekdays, the trail sees fairly heavy use. Be courteous. And be smart. Our ER sees occasional head-on collisions by bikers speeding on this trail.

Jackie the Jack Russell terrier and her pet biker.
Self-portrait May 26, 1999.

Except for the descent from Elbow Fork into Burch Hollow (about 600 feet vertical), there isn't much elevation change on the Pipeline trail.

At the Salt Lake end of the trail, there's a fabulous overlook of the valley. (Trail end GPS N 40 41.618' W 111 46.924'.)

View west over the valley, from about a mile before the end of the trail.

While most of the Pipeline is easy cruising, we wouldn't recommend taking a newbie down Rattlesnake Gulch. This descent is advanced technical. When the dust gets deep and slippery, Rattlesnake can be a white-knuckle slide for the best riders.

The lower pipeline can be ridden in up to eight inches of snow. This is a fun ride after a spring storm. Here Dominic Bria follows Matt Flygare through a dip. Ride in the snow, ride on frozen ground, but DON'T ride in the mud!!! Photo March 25, 2000.

Pedal 1.5 miles up the paved road. The trail takes off on your left just before the road takes a sharp turn to the right at N 40 42.495' W 111 41.443'.

Do the entire trail, then watch for Burch Hollow on your way back. 5.5 miles from the overlook you'll see a fork in the trail at N 40 41.954' W 111 43.434'. Take the right fork 1/4 mile down to the Burch Hollow trialhead. Peddle 1/4 mile uphill to your car. The trip is 14 miles.

Matt cruises the Pipeline Trail in June 1999.

Getting there: Get to Foothill Blvd on the east bench of Salt Lake City via I-215. Exit at 39th South. Take 3800 South eastbound into the Canyon. Our favorite strategy is to do the first segment as a road and single-track loop, and the rest of the trail as an out-and-back: Drive 3.5 miles past the fee station. Park near the gate 1/4 mile past the Burch Hollow trailhead, at GPS N 40 41.958' W 111 42.752'. (Note: the gate to upper Mill Creek Canyon is open to cars July 1 to November 1, but you can pedal or hike up the road any time.)

Chad ponders the meaning of life as he looks southwest over the Salt Lake Valley from the viewpoint at the end of the trail. Meantime, Jackie is pondering whether there are still Powerbars left in his camelbak.

Mill Creek Pipeline Trail Map Fiscal Note: There's a $3 fee per car (2009), payable as you leave the canyon. It doesn't cost anything if you ride your bike up -- it only costs if you take a car into the canyon.
Riding resources for this trail:
One-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin      GPX
High-res topo for printing:  View 
Lodging, camping, shops:
       Links to northern SLC resources

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