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Red Pine Road Trail

The Red Pine Road Trail is a two-mile singletrack trail in Salt Lake City's Mill Creek Canyon. It's a relatively straight and smooth route up Mill Creek Canyon, but the pitch makes it tough for beginning riders (1100 feet over 2 miles = 550 vertical per mile, a pitch of over 10%). As a climbing route to the top of Mill Creek Canyon, you'll save 1.7 miles if you've got the leg for it.

View down the trail on Red Pine Road Trail. Photos and description from a ride by Bruce on July 12, 2012.

As a descending route, it's blazingly fast. Some riders prefer to descend from the Wasatch Crest via this route. (Most prefer the shady, longer and more interesting Big Water Trail, the classic Mill Creek ride.) I found Red Pine relatively non-interesting as a downhill. It was over too quickly.

View up the Big Water trail as we begin climbing up Mill Creek Canyon on the loop ride.

What the Red Pine Road Trail offers (besides a quicker trip) is open views of Mill Creek Canyon that are hidden by trees on Big Water. And if you've done Big Water enough times, why not change up by trying Red Pine Road?

Looking back down-canyon as we climb higher. Mount Aire is to the west. 

The ride I'm describing here is a loop ride using both of the up-down Mill Creek Canyon trails. It's 5.8 miles with 1100 vertical feet of elevation change. You can do it either direction. But if you don't enjoy the granny-gear grunt climbing Red Pine, don't say I didn't warn you.

Aspens alternate with fir, with occasional breakout meadows of currant, elderberry, and chokecherry.

Start the ride from either the lower or upper Big Water parking at the top of Mill Creek Canyon. If you're in the upper parking and planning to climb Big Water, backtrack to the lower parking lot to pick up the Big Water Trail. (Red Pine will dump you back into the upper parking lot.) Find the trail on the south side of the parking area, right in the middle.

We're near the top, looking back. The canyon opens up as we ride on the former bed of a glacier as the trail follows the creek.

Big Water is a pleasure to climb. You'll start out with a fairly stiff climbing rate -- about 450 feet for the first mile. The second mile is 400 vertical. Then the climbing mellows out, and you'll enjoy the up-and-down gentle climbing on the last half of the trail.

Junction with the Red Pine Road trail, 3.7 miles into the ride.

At mile 1.6, you'll intersect the Little Water Trail. Consider a side trip to Dog Lake. It's exactly one mile away. But you'll climb 500 vertical feet over that mile. The out-and-back to Dog Lake adds two miles to the distances listed below, and brings your total climbing to 1600.

Trail view down Red Pine Road. Conifer forest will give way to aspen as you descend.

At mile 3.7, the Red Pine Road Trail is on your left. Cross the bridge and begin your descent. Because the trail is straight (except for one set of switchbacks), sight lines are long. It's a fast ride. But once you hit the bridge connecting to the main trail just above the upper parking, slow down. This is a high-use area.

A bit lower in the descent, we have open views as the trail hugs the sunny southern slope. I think that's Gobbler's Knob in the distance.

There's a singletrack between upper and lower parking. You'll find it on your left just as you leave the upper parking lot.

Bottom Line:
A trail for riders in a hurry. Pretty enough, and worth doing as a variation on your Wasatch Crest or Mill Creek Canyon ride.

View up-canyon on Red Pine. 550 per mile is do-able, but it's a steady grind for the whole two miles.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop:
0.0   ST from middle of lower parking
        N40 41.072 W111 38.912
0.05 Keep R (trail from upper parking on L)
        N40 41.071 W111 38.926
1.6   Cross Little Water (keep straight)
        N40 40.683 W111 38.501
3.7   L onto Red Pine Road trail
        N40 41.027 W111 36.909
5.5   Cross bridge, R on Little Water
        N40 41.092 W111 38.693
5.6   Enter upper parking, cross to road
        N40 41.075 W111 38.813
        Find ST on L side of road
        N40 41.059 W111 38.852
5.8   Intersect Big Water, hard R
        Descend to parking
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. Mill Creek user fee is $3 per car as of 2009. Drive all the way to the top of the canyon. The trail begins on the south end of the Big Water Trailhead parking area GPS N 40 40.922' W 111 38.914'. (Note: the gate to upper Mill Creek Canyon is open to cars July 1 to November 1. Mountain bikes are only allowed on upper Mill Creek trails on EVEN numbered days!)

Bathrooms: Upper and Lower trailheads

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
    GPX of loop ride    Area multi-track file
High-res topo for printing:  View  
Lodging, camping, shops:
       Links to northern SLC resources
       Links to southern SLC resources

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