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