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Ridge Trail 157

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 are spectacular. You'll see the peaks of Cascade, Timpanogos, Box Elder, and the Snowbird ridge.

Timpanogos from Ridge 157. This photo June 19, 2014. Original review article and pictures published September 19, 1998 by Bruce Argyle.

Most riders don't do the entire trail. They ride a short piece of the trail as they make connections between various climbing and descending routes. Example rides are Deer Creek South Fork, Timpanooke, Tibble Fork, Canyon Overlook, and Mill Canyon. Some lesser-traveled adventures that use Ridge 157 are Old Trench, Holman, Mill Canyon Peak, Mill Canyon Springs, and Forest Lake.

Typical view on the lower elevations of the Ridge Trail, as dirt singletrack winds through aspens with occasional fir. To keep you oriented, the following photos will progress from south to north.

The trail extends from the Alpine Loop Summit parking on the south to Pole Line Pass on the north. This portion of the trail is 12.1 miles long. The trail continues north from Pole Line Pass as the Ant Knolls. (There's no trailhead north of Pole Line, so a ride on Ant Knolls will mean an out-and-back or a big loop ride.)

Looking north toward Box Elder Peak (right) heading northbound from the Summit trailhead. 

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. 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 is high, technical difficulty intermediate to high.

Intersection of Ridge 157 with the connector trail to Salamander Flat.

Ridge 157 is lowest on the south end at 8000 feet elevation. The highest spot is 9500 between Rock Spring and Forest Lake. The southern end is free of snow by late May. The north end is usually open by mid-June.

Looking back to the south, just north of the 4-way where Ridge 157 meets Deer Creek South Fork (eastbound) and Tibble Fork (westbound).

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. 

The trail gains a bit of altitude between the Tibble Fork junction and Mill Canyon. We're looking northwest at the Snowbird Ridge across Mineral Basin.

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.)

The trail falls onto a short section of dirt road just south of the Mill Canyon trail. This area can be a little confusing. Don't think about it too much. Just keep going in the same general direction, and you'll figure it out quickly.

However you ride Ridge 157, it involves some stiff climbing at high altitude. To ride the entire length is not easy. (See the individual trail pages -- see links above -- if you're doing a shorter ride.) As an out-and-back, it's 24.2 miles with over 3000 vertical feet of climbing. Make that 30 miles if you're adding Ant Knolls.

Continuing Ridge trail leaves the doubletrack near Mill Canyon Springs. We're looking north. To the left, doubletrack takes you to the singletrack Mill Canyon trail. Right is dirt road descending to the paved Cascade Springs road. Behind us is the dirt road that's part of Ridge 157.

You can shuttle the ride. Yes, it's a long car trip on rough gravel road up North Fork to Pole Line Pass. From north to south, you'll do only 1000 feet of climbing, and the 12 miles flies by.

Looking south at Cascade Mountain on the new climbing route north of Mill Canyon.

In spring 2014, a new trail section opened between Mill Canyon Spring and Rock Spring. The new 2.7 miles climbs through three long switchbacks on the southern flank of Mill Canyon Peak. It replaces a brutal 1000-vertical in 1 mile that was mostly push-a-bikie. The new trail section makes the south-to-north ride very nice.

Heading east on new trail (2014) that bypasses a bit of steep ugly trail that was torn up so badly by motorcycles that it was like riding up a rockslide.

There are still a couple of steep sections on the south-to-north route, mercifully short. These can be ridden by those with strong legs and lungs, unless they're torn up by the motorcycles. In that case, you may push your bike a few feet uphill.

The trail reaches a ridgeline on the new trailcut. We're about a mile south of Rock Spring.

Yes, motorcycles are allowed on the singletrack of American Fork Canyon. Although they're supposed to yield to you, in many areas there's simply no room to move a 150-pound monster off the trail. So usually you're the one who'll need to step out into the bushes.

A look back toward Timpanogos to the south.

When riding north-to-south, there's one section of hike-a-bike. 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.

Continuing the climb northbound toward Rock Spring. From south to north, it's 1000 vertical in 3 miles, but it will feel much more difficult because of the altitude. On the skyline, Box Elder is mid-left, with the Snowbird Ridge mid-right.

My recommendation for strong intermediates? If you're going to ride ALL of Ridge Trail 157, which is not easy, 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. At the south end, select a descending singletrack trail, or bomb down the paved road.

Intersection with the East Side Mill Canyon Peak trail at Rock Spring, looking south. Stay on the west side trail unless you're looking for a real adventure.

A few 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 12 miles to Pole Line Pass -- the middle two miles are brutal continuous uphill, gaining 1600 feet. Bomb down the North Fork road to Tibble Fork from the pass for a total 20 miles. Jackie (14-inch high Jack Russell terrier) made it, so you can too.\

A final look south at Cascade Mountain and Timpanogos as we approach the intersection with the Holman Trail and Old Trench. Either of these trails can be used to look back to the middle of the Mill Canyon Trail (and over to Tibble Fork).

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 12 miles on Ridge 157 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.

Looking west toward Box Elder Peak.

3. Out-and-Back Crazy Man's Mill Canyon Peak 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 23 miles.

At the far left, a snowdrift marks the ridgeline where we'll drop into fir forest south of Forest Lake.

4. Iron-legs Big 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 28 miles.

Looking left off the trail as we head northbound past Forest Lake.

5. Out-and-back Timpanooke to Ant Knolls:  Start at the Timpanooke Trailhead and ride up singletrack to the Alpine Loop Summit. Head north on Ridge 157 and keep going until the Ant Knolls trail drops into Dry Fork. Turn back and retrace your route. 36 miles, 4400 vertical. A worthy day of riding.

Approaching Sandy Baker Pass. There's a small hill between us and Pole Line Pass.

Alpine Loop summit trailhead GPS N 40 25.911'  W 111 36.829'
Mud Spring intersection GPS N 40 27.127' W 111 37.375'
Tibble Fork intersection GPS N 40 27.547' W 111 36.894'
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'
Pole Line Pass trailhead GPS N 40 31.856'  W 111 34.241'

On the Ant Knolls Trail -- an option for a big loop (descending Dry Fork) or a longer out-and-back.

Bikers drop over the lip of a snowdrift Remember:  The southern section of trail is free of snow by late May or early June. On the higher elevations north of Mill Canyon Peak, snow may persist well into July.

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

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

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..."):
       Ridge 157 only    Loop ride w North Fork
       Monster file of AF Canyon tracks
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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