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Rio Oso
Trail System in Evanston

OK, OK. It's not in Utah. But only by 6 miles. And Evanston is not that far away.

The Rio Oso system has 10 named trails plus a pump track. There's around 8 miles of trail here, and a hit-it-all ride would require well over 12 miles (my ride was 24). Most of the trails are easier-intermediate. The riding season for Rio Oso is mid-May through October.

Heading uphill on Dead Goat, which will likely be your first trail as you try out this system. Photos and ride review by Bruce on July 5, 2019.

The trails lie along the escarpment east of the Bear River at 6700 feet elevation, with a trailhead at the south end of the Bear River State Park in Evanston just off I-80. (Entry to the state park is free.) And if you're looking to ride with your kids, there are two miles of nice wide gravel-reinforced nature trails just west of the river in the state park.

The top of the bluff is only 220 vertical feet above the lowest trail, so climbs tend to be short and pleasant. But it also means that downhill runs are over quickly.

Rio Oso starts in Bear River State Park. This photo shows one of the many little loops west of the river, great for riding with young kids. See our trail page.

The main system is an elongated loop oriented north-south on the slope above the river, with trails inside this loop running top-to-bottom. There are four directional (downhill-only) trails in the loop, plus three two-way trails. Tied to the far south end of the main loop is a tiny loop formed by Horny Toad, then a second large lariat loop called Dry Hole.

The trails are hand-cut, so they're narrow and twisty, with a character you won't find on machine bench-cut trails. They're laid out well and offer good riding.

Bruce heads down EZPZ, trail #5 of 10.

Two trails are key to the riding area:  Dead Goat and River's Edge. Together they form the loop that surrounds the descending trails.

Dead Goat climbs away from the kiosk on the north end of the big loop. It's a two-way trail, but most riders use it as a climber. At the top, Dead Goat continues along the bluff all the way to the southern uphill end of the loop.

A bit south of the main loop, this little map-post is at the intersection of Horny Toad with the lariat Dry Hole Loop. Southern Evanston is in the distance.

The second key trail is River's Edge. River's Edge is also a good gentle climbing route to the top of the bluff. From the trailhead, it follows the river south for a bit, forming the downhill side of the loop. Then it climbs up the hill to end on Horny Toad, which in turn goes a little bit uphill to Dead Goat. The combination of Dead Goat and River's Edge (with a piece of Horny Toad) forms the big loop, which you can ride either direction.

View on River's Edge. As a continuation of the Bear River Greenway Trail, you'll encounter a plenty of hikers -- until you begin climbing up through the sage brush. 

Huff n Puff (at the trail kiosk) is also reasonable climbing route, although it's a steeper climb and is therefore rated intermediate. Owls Roost and Ant Hill are two-way trails, but have steep spots that are difficult to climb cleanly. They function better as downhills.

View up Huff n Puff, trail #4. It's not a bad climb. Use it as an alternative for climbing the north end of the big loop. It's quicker than Dead Goat.

The Dry Hole Loop, tying into the south end of the big loop, is the longest trail in the system. It's a relatively uninteresting ride if you're looking for kick-butt tech riding. But it offers some nice views and easy extra miles.

Bottom line:  These trails are a lot of fun. I can recommend them either as a destination trip from the Wasatch Front, or as an "I'm passing through town" ride.

At the trail fork where the Dry Hole Loop begins. Lots of sage brush. But more fun than you'd think.

Individual trails in Rio Oso, north to south
River's Edge

The first trail you'll encounter as you leave the parking area is River's Edge. This trail runs along the river for 0.7 miles, then begins climbing through sage to end on Horny Toad at the loop's south end at mile 1.4. So River's Edge is half-and-half: part shady lush green river-edge ride, and part dry dirt in the sage brush. River's Edge is signed as trail 8.

Shady cool riding.

Note that as you head south along the river, at mile 0.6 you'll reach an apparent 4-way. The trail on the left is Ant Hill. Straight ahead is a steep "cheater" route -- don't go there. Instead, veer to the right. 150 feet later, you'll reach a banked turn going left uphill.

Near the south end (between the bottoms of Ant Hill and Owls Roost), River's Edge goes up from the water and hugs the edge of a cliff. Not hard to ride, but it will make beginners nervous.


River's Edge is an excellent choice as a climbing trail. I'd recommending using it as your uphill when you drop down Owls Roost or Ant Hill. Length is 1.4 miles, elevation change 200 feet.

Heading up the hill toward Horny Toad.

Pump Track

The pump track is just north of the trail kiosk at Dead Goat. To get there, take River's edge south from parking 0.2 miles then turn left.

Looking north toward the pump track.

Dead Goat

Dead Goat is the main climbing route for the downhill trails (Huff n Puff is a steeper shorter alternative). It's a two-way trail, so you can ride the outside loop either direction. Dead Goat starts at the trail kiosk, reached by taking River's Edge 0.2 miles from parking then turning left toward the kiosk.

Dead Goat is 1.5 miles long with 220 vertical feet of climbing. It's signed as trail 1.

Heading uphill on Dead Goat.

Once it reaches the top (in around 1/2 mile with 200 feet of climbing), Dead Goat heads south on top of the hill for a mile. After joining Ant Hill for a bit, it dumps onto doubletrack, and officially ends where the singletrack Horny Toad forks away from the doubletrack.

Looking west over the valley as we ride Dead Goat.

Watch for a critical turn at the top of EZPZ. A spur -- made obvious by lost riders -- continues straight to the doubletrack, while Dead Goat turns 90 degrees to the right to parallel the road. (EZPZ is 120 degrees right.)

A half mile later, Dead Goat joins the road to go through a gate. The first singletrack on the right is Owls Roost. Dead Goat is just up the road.

At mile 1.2, you'll come to a trail marker and a T intersection. To the right is Ant Hill. Left is the combined Ant Hill and Dead Goat. When you hit road, go right, and Horny Toad is 100 hards downhill on your right.

Rocks are a rarity. It's mostly dirt.

Drop In

Drop In (trail 2) is an expert-level downhill-only trail. It drops 220 vertical feet in 0.3 miles. Confident upper-intermediates can manage. There are two large steep rock roll-overs that have no ride-around. There are table-top dirt jumps that you can roll.

Local rider Brian finishes the first rock drop-in. Fresh tire tracks in the morning!

Drop In descends back to the main trail kiosk, joining Snake just before the bottom.

About half-way down Drop In. we're approaching a small launching rock, but it's low enough that you can simply dribble off it.


Snake is an intermediate-level downhill-only trail. It's signed number 3. Snake is also 0.3 miles long. Compared to Drop In, it's more swoopy-dippy as opposed to launch-and-tabletop.

Looking down Snake as the trail snakes through a series of twists and rolls.

Snake has one rock drop, but it's on an alternative line. The main trail curves around. Snake joins Drop In just uphill from the kiosk.

Looking back uphill at the path-not-taken.

Huff n Puff

Huff n Puff, trail 4, is a two-way intermediate trail. As a climber, it heads up the hill without wasting any time. It's pretty straight-forward, and a good way to get back to the top if your thighs are holding up.

Climbing Huff n Puff.

As a descender, Huff n Puff is straight and fast -- and less interesting than the downhill-specific trails. Huff n Puff is just under 0.4 miles long, with 200 feet of elevation change.

At the top of trail 4, Huff n Puff.


This trail is downhill-only, and rated easy. It drops 0.4 miles down to the kiosk. It's not a true newbie-beginner trail though. The many quick banked turns require at least a little experience.

Rolling high on a banked turn. Lots of wiggles and dips.

EZPZ is a lot of fun to ride even for experts. 

The views of the valley are hard to ignore.

Owls Roost

Owls Roost is a two-way trail, connecting the top and bottom halves of the loop near middle. It's 0.3 miles in length. It's signed #6.

As a climber, Owls Roost starts out nicely. The bottom (on River's Edge) is marked by the typical signpost. But half-way up, the gentle slope gives way to a couple of steep spots -- rideable only with great effort.

Heading uphill. Things get a little nasty just uphill from these rocks.

At the top, Owls Roost begins near the fence where Dead Goat temporarily joins the dirt road to get through the gate. After a traverse to reach the edge of the mesa, it begins dropping fast.

View toward the valley while descending.

Ant Hill

Ant Hill is another two-way trail located near the loop's midpoint. It's 0.4 miles in length. Like Owls Roost, it has some steep spots that are challenging to climb uphill. But I found it to be more climber-friendly than Owls Roost.

Dropping off the bluff on Ant Farm.

If you're heading south on Dead Goat, you'll reach a T intersection. There's a little trail-map post here. To your right, Ant Hill heads out to the point then descends. To the left is a section that seems to be a combination of Ant Hill and Dead Goat. It's shown as Dead Goat on the map, but has an Ant Hill #7 trail-post out at the dirt road.

In the distance, you can barely make out the Uintah Mountains in Utah.

Ant Hill ends on River's Edge. On the day of my ride, there was a carsonite post here -- without the typical Rio Oso post, trail name, or trail number. So if you're using Ant Hill as a climber, go by the map (and photo at right).

If you're heading back uphill on River's Edge as you exit Ant Hill, keep straight and follow the official trail close to the river (instead of the obvious steep path 90 degrees to your left).

Bottom of Ant Hill looking east uphill.

Horny Toad

Horny Toad is shaped like a squished fishhook. The top is on the doubletrack end of Dead Goat. About 0.3 miles down Horny Toad, there's a trail fork. Left is Horny Toad; right is River's Edge for the big loop. 

Horny Toad continues left at this first trail fork. At its lowest point (on the southwest), there's a second trail fork. The lariat Dry Hole Loop forks away left as Horny Toad turns hard right.

Horny Toad is signed trail 9. 

At this spot, Horny Toad becomes one-way. There will be a series of tabletop jumps before it ends on River's Edge (see map). To the right of the jump line is a bypass trail.

Once back at River's Edge, you can keep right to climb back uphill, or go hard left to descend back to the river.

Looking down the jump line. Mostly tabletops.

Dry Hole Loop

The Dry Hole Loop begins on Horny Toad just south of the main loop. There's a short 0.1  mile stem to the lariat, then a 2.6 mile loop. A detour on Dry Hole will add 2.8 miles and 200 vertical to your ride.

The ride is almost entirely sage brush, but with some wiggles in the trail to keep it interesting.

Remains of an old vehicle: fenders, headlights, and wooden frame.

There's nothing technical here. A climb up Dead Goat, south to Horny Toad, and around Dry Hole, then back, would be 6 miles of easy pedaling -- do-able by a fresh beginner.

View down to the Bear River from Dry Hole.

 Quick ride up Dead Goat and down EZPZ

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Getting there:
On I-80 eastbound, take the 3rd Evanston exit (Exit 6, Bear River Drive). Turn right, then quickly right again into Bear River State Park. Continue driving past two large parking lots until you hit the one-way circle at the end of the road. Turn right into the trailhead parking.

Now find a trail heading south along the river (either paved or cindered). At 1/10th mile, the sidewalk-style trail ends.Continue on dirt. Veer a bit left as a trail heads for the old bridge. You're now on the River's Edge trail.

For the pump track and downhill flow trails, turn left at mile 0.2 from parking. Go through an old fence. Your options for climbing are Dead Goat on the left, or Huff n Puff, straight ahead. If you do Huff n Puff, keep left as you reach a trail fork (the trail on the right is the downhill-only EZPZ.

Bear River State Park is a day-use area. There is no overnight camping. There are bathrooms and water at each parking area. Entry to the park is free.


Resources for this trail:
   GPS track files (right-click link and "Save as...")
      Area multi-track file
   Area topo map (right-click on the image to print)
      View map

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