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Provo Canyon Race Loop
Includes Cliff Trail (and Zorro trailhead)

The Provo Canyon Race Loop is a fun 1.7 mile winding singletrack romp in lower Provo Canyon. It lies on a shelf area between the steeper upper and lower mountain slopes. At an altitude of 5200 feet on a south-facing slope, the riding season is usually May through November. You can reach the trail from other area trails, with many riders taking the paved Provo River Parkway from town.

View southeast, with Squaw Peak showing itself above the ridge of gambel oak. Original ride review October 15, 2001. Updated by Bruce on July 14, 2016 with new photos, maps, and tracks.

The race loop includes a lot of up-and-down riding and rapid turns. There are a few short-but-steep pitches, making this ride appropriate for skilled intermediates. Although there's only 300 vertical feet between top and bottom, the climbing pitch would be quite strenuous for beginners.

View south from the trail in October 2001. Cascade Mountain (like Timpanogos to the north) is made of Pennsylvanian Period limestone, deposited 320 million years ago in a deep ocean basin.

The loop is mostly in grass meadows as the trail winds through small stands of gambel oak. By meandering back and forth (and up and down) it manages to put 1.7 miles inside a circle only 0.2 miles in diameter.

There are constant views of Cascade Mountain to the south, Timpanogos to the north, Provo Canyon to the east, and the conglomerate cliffs of the canyon entry to the west. It's a pretty ride.

Meandering uphill to the north. A piece of the roadcut for the Orem Bench (designated as the route for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail) can be seen on the top of the saddle.

Access...
The quickest way to reach the loop is from below, via a half-mile gravel road from Canyon View Park. 

Many riders enter the loop from the uphill side, descending from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. This section of the BST is the Orem Bench Road.

On the west, the BST trailhead is near the water treatment plant (see below). In Provo Canyon, the Orem Bench Road is reached via the Great Western Trail (GWT) from Canyon Glen Park, climbing the Dragon's Back.

And now we're going back south and downhill toward Cascade Mountain. This is typical trail, as it sticks to the meadows between oak stands.

Navigation...
From Canyon View Park, the route will be 2.7 miles with 550 vertical feet of climbing. Go uphill on the gravel road, keeping to the left at the 0.3-mile road fork. At 0.4 miles, hop on the singletrack. You'll reach the loop at mile 0.5 from the trailhead. The natural direction for this access trail orients you for a counterclockwise ride.

Going northeast toward Timpanogos, near the bottom of the loop.

Stay on what appears to be the main trail. The race loop can seem confusing without a map, because there are many "cheater" routes and older trails that interconnect. Expect that you may go the wrong way, but please don't intentionally add your tire tracks to the shortcut trails.

You'll pass a cheater joining uphill on the left, then arrive at a fork 0.2 miles after joining the loop. Go left. The trail that descends into the ravine is the East Access trail. Now keep generally flat and straight to avoid being suckered onto a shortcut.

And now we have a few of the conglomerate cliffs at the canyon mouth. This rock was deposited under ancient Lake Bonneville around a million years ago.

At mile 0.7 of the loop, you'll hit a confusing area with an "H" configuration. DO NOT turn uphill 180 degrees -- where most riders seem to be going -- or you'll cut off a long 1/3-mile meander of the trail. Instead, keep left and drop downhill through the oak. You'll come back to this spot shortly, going straight to get onto that upper trail.

At mile 1.2, the Upper Access trail will fork right uphill. Keep straight.

The next fork is at mile 1.5, where the Cliff Trail (West Access) descends steeply to join you on your right. Keep straight, and in 0.2 miles you'll be back at your starting point.

Heading around the loop counterclockwise on my Rocky Mountain.

Upper Access...
The easier route is the Upper Access trail. Stay on the BST. When the road turns sharply back to the right, start watching for a singletrack on the right (downhill) side. If you reach a trail heading uphill (Betty), you went a little too far. Keep straight as the steeper alternate trail crosses over and descend 0.5 miles to the race loop.

Timpanogos looms over the hill as we climb up.

 

Cliff Trail option...
Many riders drop into the loop via the Cliff Trail. This is an expert-level trail descending from the BST. It's 1/2 mile long with  200 feet of elevation change.

Of course, you can also climb from the the Race Loop to the BST on the Cliff Trail. The first pitch is a little steep as you climb away from the loop, then it's fun.

View from the Race Loop shows the location of the Cliff Trail as it descends from (or climbs to) the BST.

To find the Cliff Trail as a route to the Race Loop, pedal 0.9 miles east from the Orem trailhead. (Harder alternative: Take the Zorro Trail up the hill from the end of 1560 East in Orem. It will deliver you right to the top of Cliff.)

The Bench Road will begin to turn to the left near a cement water-handling thingy and a tower. Before the turn, drop downhill to the right on doubletrack. Keep straight and left (ignoring a singletrack or two forking 90 degrees downhill) and roll into singletrack.

Just getting started here, heading north with Big Baldy straight ahead and Timpanogos on the right.

The Cliff Trail descends on the top of the cliffs (of course). Enjoy the views to the east up Provo Canyon, and of Timpanogos straight ahead. At first, the coasting is very mellow and non-threatening. Then the edge gets closer and closer to the trail...

Approaching an area of open rock.

...and then you realize why I've recommended the Cliff Trail for expert riders, not newbies. You need to roll over some rock outcrops. Timidity is your enemy here. If you try to go really slow, you can seize up your front wheel or side-slide on the rough limestone. So just let the brakes loose and go.

Looking over the edge from the trail. The Race Loop intersection is mid-right in the photo. The upper singletrack is the Cliff Trail turning down toward the loop.

Using the Race Loop as a climber...
If you're just riding through the Race Loop on your way uphill to the Timpanogos foothill area trails, take the Bottom Access. But now go left (clockwise) on the Race Loop. In 0.3 miles, keep straight to pass Cliff. Exit the loop at its highest point on the Upper Access trail and climb to the BST.

And if you don't see Betty forking uphill within 100 yards of reaching the Bench Road, you went the wrong way on the doubletrack.

Looking west as we take a clockwise route uphill to get to Betty.

Bottom Line:
After many years, the Race Loop remains a quickie favorite of local riders. It's a fun and rapid ride, either as an after- or before-work hammer-it, or as a side dish to other riding in the area.

And a look up Provo Canyon from the Race Loop trail in the fall of 2001. Timpanogos is on the left; Cascade Mountain on the right.

Riding notes, loop from Canyon View Park:
0.0   DT uphill (west of upper parking)
        N40 19.531 W111 38.702
0.3   Keep L and straight
        N40 19.607 W111 38.826
0.4   R on ST (Bottom Access)
        N40 19.602 W111 38.951
0.5   Straight onto Race Loop
        N40 19.618 W111 39.033
0.55 Keep straight N40 19.641 W111 39.017
0.7   Fork L (R = East Access)
        N40 19.677 W111 38.935

0.8 - 1.1   Keep straight x 4 cheaters
1.2   H intersection! Go L downhill
        N40 19.764 W111 39.102
1.5   Back at H, go straight on upper trail
1.7   Keep straight L (R = Upper Access)
        N40 19.809 W111 39.068
2.0   Keep L (R = Cliff Trail)
        N40 19.660 W111 39.213
2.2   Back at Bottom Access 
2.7   Parking

Getting there, Canyon View Park:  Exit I-15 on Orem's 800 North and drive straight towards the mountains. Keep left to enter Provo Canyon. After 1 mile, you'll pass the entrance to Canyon View Park on your left. About 100 yards later, there's a diversion dam, then a bridge over the river. Drive over the bridge and park in the lot. Ride to the northwest corner of the parking area. Begin your ride by pedaling up the gravel road. Keep straight at the road fork at  mile 0.3 if you're heading for the Bottom Access trail (recommended), or fork R uphill for the Ravine or East Access trails.
Via Orem BST Trailhead:  Drive towards the mountains on 800 North. At 800 East, turn left and drive north about 1 mile. Immediately past the cemetery and just uphill from the fence, turn right (east) on Cascade Drive just before the Y in the road and drive 1/2 mile, go up 2 short switchbacks, and park in the paved parking area or the gravel overflow parking below it. Take the Bench Road (BST) east one mile and pick the Cliff Trail (starts as a doubletrack near the water structure), or go another half-mile to the easy Upper Access trail.

Water and bathrooms at Canyon View Park

Via the Zorro Trail (1560 East Trailhead):  Take 800 North in Orem toward the mountains. Just as the road starts to descend into the canyon, turn left on 1560 East. Go to the end of the pavement and park on the right. The ugly jeep road switchbacks east of the trailhead take you uphill -- 0.4 miles with 200 vertical -- to the Zorro singletrack. Zorro will add another 300 vertical and 0.6 miles. (Don't fork onto the steeper Bramber DH. You'll know it as you pass it.) When Zorro hits doubletrack, turn right onto the Cliff singletrack.
Via Dragon's Back (GWT and BST):  Drive 2.6 miles up Provo Canyon and turn left into the parking area for Canyon Glen.  After finding your parking spot, go back to the end of the parking lot where you entered, then turn right and go directly north toward the river and find the bridge across to the parkway. Turn right, and find the GWT on your left about 200 feet later, forking uphill just before the paved parkway curves around a rock outcrop. Take the singletrack uphill. When the singletrack trail ends at a gate on gravel road, you have two options:  (1) uphill then left for the BST (Orem Bench Road), and (2) drop immediately to the left downhill on gravel road. When the road turns from southwest to east, take the singletrack west. Cross through the ravine and climb to the Race Loop.
Riding resources:
One-page riding guide from Canyon View
GPS track files: (Right click and Save as...)
   GPX Race Loop only   Track via Canyon View (2.7 mi)
   Via BST (5.7 mi)   Via Zorro and Cliff (4.6  mi)
   Multi-track area file (over 70 tracks)
Topographic maps for printing:  Orem Bench area    Wider canyon mouth area
Lodging, camping, shops:     Links to Provo area resources

Copyright 2001 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated 2016