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Ridge Trail 157

Mount Timpanogos

Ridge Trail 157, a favorite of Utah Valley bikers, deserves a more awesome name. It runs from Pole Line Pass at the top of American Fork Canyon's North Fork, to the Alpine Loop summit in the South Fork. The views from the ridge of Mount Timpanogos are spectacular.

Timpanogos from Ridge 157.
September 19, 1998 by Bruce Argyle

Most riders don't do the entire trail. They ride the southern part of the trail, using it as a connector to many incredibly fun trails that link to the ridge top. (See the map.)

The trail is 11 miles long, involves some stiff climbing, and is not an easy ride. Most riders will use a shuttle to ride the whole thing. Assuming you're riding the entire Ridge Trail (see below for links to pages describing other rides using a portion of the Ridge Trail), you can do it from either end. It's much easier riding north-to-south, starting at Pole Line Pass. 

Either direction, you're looking at one section of hike-a-bike. North-to-south, it's just past Forest Lake, as you climb towards Rock Spring. Plan on walking your bike for about 1/4 mile of 20% slope.

South-to-north, there's 1.5 miles of brutally steep climbing up to Rock Spring that will wear down until you're walking your steed. One section climbs 1000 vertical feet in around a mile. Slopes that could be ridden are often torn up by motorcycles.

The trail goes through a grove of aspens. Sept. 19, 1998.

Easy section of trail near the southern end

Our recommendation? If you're going to ride ALL of Ridge Trail 157, which is not easy, you might as well just ride up the North Fork Road from Tibble Fork Reservoir, then do the trail north-to-south. Yes, you're going to do a little vertical. But the climb on the North Fork Road isn't that tough. This gives you a 28-mile 3300-vertical hill-climbing loop. A real adventure. If you head down on pavement from the summit, you'll have 9 easy miles back to your vehicle. But I suggest you drop down the Willow Hollow #159 Trail (often called the Summit Trail), then catch the northbound Salamander Flat Trail #150 over to the downhill Pine Hollow Trauk, so you get a few more dirt miles. If you decide, mid-ride, that you don't want to go the whole distance on Ridge Trail 157, just bomb down the Tibble Fork Trail to the reservoir, where you parked your car.

The lone biker snaps his picture with an automatic timer Ridge Trail 157 is a section of the Great Western trail. It rolls up and down through aspens, pines, oak brush, and meadows. There are frequent outlook points to admire the views. Because of the high altitude, the higher portions of the trail are snowbound until late June or early July. While the southern half of Ridge Trail 157 is an intermediate ride, the northern portion of  the Ridge Trail is for very strong intermediate or advanced riders. Aerobic requirement high, technical difficulty intermediate to high.

Doc Argyle on the trail, September 19, 1998.
Picture taken by the Swedish Bikini Mountain Bike Racing Team.
...or so he claims.

Ridge 157 is the divide between American Fork Canyon, which drains directly to Utah Lake on the west, and the Little Deer Creek - Provo River drainage. On the east side of the ridge, water flows eastward then turns south to enter the Provo River near Deer Creek or (past Mill Canyon Peak) in the Heber Valley. Notice that many of the canyons have a rounded appearance, both at the ridgeline and on the valley floor, consistent with the action of glaciers during the ice age ending 10,000 years ago. (Pure stream erosion would create V-shaped cuts.)

Four riding options for the whole thing:
1. South-to-North, finishing at Tibble Fork (very hard):
You'll need a shuttle car. Leave vehicle at Tibble Fork and drive to Alpine Loop Summit. Ride 11 miles to Pole Line Pass -- the middle two miles are brutal continuous uphill, gaining 1600 feet. Bomb down to Tibble Fork from the pass for a total 20 miles. Jackie (14-inch high Jack Russell terrier) made it, so you can too.
2. North-to-South with shuttle:  Leave a vehicle at Tibble Fork, then drive 8 miles to the top of Pole Line Pass via the North Fork Road. Ride 11 miles to the Alpine Loop Summit. Roll down the road (fun!), or for more dirt, ride the Willow Hollow (Summit) Trail, then turn right on the GWT over to Pine Hollow. The Ridge Trail is easier this direction.

Dominic races into an oak tunnel with Mount Timpanogos in the background. June 26, 1999. This photo available as wallpaper.

The DOMinator -- biker extraordinaire

Skyrocket 3. Out-and-Back Crazy Man's Loop: From the Alpine Loop summit, ride to Rock Springs, then turn right onto the East Side Ridge Trail. After an insanely steep and difficult descent, cruise back around to the ridge trail and turn left to head back. A very very tough 21 miles.
4. Iron-legs Loop: Park at Tibble Fork Reservoir. Head up the gravel North Fork Road to Pole Line Pass. Ride south to the Alpine Loop summit. Head down via road or singletrack (Willow Hollow Trail, connecting to Timpooneke or Pine Hollow). Over 3500 total vertical, about 27 miles.

Scarlet Gilia, also called Skyrocket or Desert Trumpet. You'll see plenty of Penstemon, Balsamroot, Sticky Geranium and other wildflowers. June 26, 1999.

The southern section of trail is free of snow by early June. On the pass north of Mill Canyon Peak, snow may persist well into July. Riding conditions on the northern half of Ridge Trail 157 can be pretty tough.

Alpine Loop summit trailhead GPS N 40 25.911'  W 111 36.829'
Pole Line Pass trailhead GPS N 40 31.856'  W 111 34.241'
Tibble Fork intersection GPS N 40 27.547' W 111 36.894'
Mud Spring intersection GPS N 40 27.127' W 111 37.375'
Mill Canyon Spring intersection GPS N 40 28.442' W 111 35.288'
Forest Lake intersection GPS N 40 30.306' W 111 34.854'

Here Matt and Gary crest the top of a snowbank on the ridge above Forest Lake.
Photo June 26, 1999 by Bruce.

Bikers drop over the lip of a snowdrift

For maps of other rides that use portions of Ridge Trail 157, see the pages on Pine Hollow - Tibble Fork, Deer Creek South Fork, Mill Canyon Peak, Mud Spring - Mill Canyon, Middle 157 Expert, Mill Canyon Spring, Old Trench Road, Forest Lake, and Timpooneke Loop. Our favorite ride: Start at Timpooneke, ride up the Great Western and hang left on the Ridge Trail. Turn right on South Fork. At the Summit, pick up the Ridge Trail again. Turn left at the Pine Hollow trail fork and bomb back down to the Timpooneke parking area.

Getting there:
Loop Trailhead:
From I-15, take the Alpine-Highland exit and drive 7 miles to the mouth of American Fork Canyon. Pay your $6 fee (as of 2009) there. Five miles later at the fork in the road, go along the south fork of the river and climb to the summit. There's a parking lot on your right just before the top of the ridge; the trail takes off to the left (north).

Pole Line Pass Trailhead: Drive up American Fork Canyon as above, but take the North Fork to Tibble Fork Reservoir. Drive past the reservoir. As the paved road turns to go uphill, drive straight ahead onto a dirt road. Follow the rough dirt road about 8 miles to the top of the ridge (keep right at the fork), where you'll find the Ridge Trail 157 crossing the road just before the summit. Head south (right).

[ Current Conditions ]
Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin     National Geographic     Google Earth     GPX
High-res topo (1.3 MB):  View   
Low res topo (150 KB):  View
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to north Utah County resources

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