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Sheepherder Hill Trail

The Sheepherder Hill trail is a riot to ride. It has 4.8 miles of narrow undulating singletrack that hugs hillsides as the trail snakes between Payson Canyon and Santaquin Canyon. It's not a good choice for early-intermediates because of steep side-slopes, with a few rocks, lots of roots, and creek crossings. Advanced riders will really enjoy this trail. There aren't a lot of vistas -- the narrow singletrack is the star here.

Typical handlebar view on the Sheepherder Hill Trail. Photos by Bruce on August 27, 2008.

Most of the Sheepherder Hill trail is a mix of deep fir forest and aspens. At the top and bottom, you'll encounter a few meadows. Because it's on a north slope, snow clears more slowly here and the creeks flow swiftly in early summer, so the riding season is mid-July through September. As it contours around hills, the trail climbs. Then it drops around into the next little canyon. Within these slower altitude changes, there are many quick up-and-downs that make the ride fun.

Heading uphill on the eastern end of the trail, we're
climbing through maple forest mixed with aspen.

We're about half-way through the trail. The trail zips
up and down, with occasional roots and steep side-slopes.

Sheepherder Hill can be done as a 12-mile out-and-back (although I recommend skipping the last 1/2 mile so you don't have to push your bike back up the hill). This route gains 1100 feet to a top altitude of 8000, but up-and-down riding makes the total climbing about 1600 for the round trip. You'll cross five creeks as you climb up-and-around three hills.

The fence at the western end of the Sheepherder Trail, looking north toward the mean little hill.

Westbound (going uphill for an out-and-back) there are some pretty tough but short climbs. You might have to push the bike up a couple of turns in loose rock areas near the top.
A nice loop ride combines Shram Creek, the west end of the Rock Spring trail, and the Santaquin Canyon road. Going counterclockwise puts much of the climbing (about 600 feet of it) on the gravel road, but you'll have more fun on the Sheepherder Hill trail if you use it as your downhill (clockwise loop). The choice depends on how much you hate descending versus climbing on a gravel road.

Climbing Shram Creek. Most of the ride looks like this -- aspens and a few firs, with occasional maple.

For the loop, peak altitude is 8400 feet. Total climbing will be about 2300. The climb up Shram Creek is fairly steady and occasionally stiff, averaging about 400 vertical per mile. As you reach the top of Shram, turn right and continue climbing up the western end of Rock Spring. Once you hit the Santaquin Canyon road, bomb down to Santaquin Meadows and turn right on the doubletrack.

Climbing up the Shram Creek trail for a clockwise loop ride. Climbing is interrupted by occasional meadows.

If you're riding clockwise on Sheepherder, there's one critical turn just after you climb that brutal little hill. 0.4 miles from the wood gate, what appears to be the main trail (but isn't) continues straight while the smaller Sheepherder trail forks 90 degrees right. There should be a carsonite post with a diamond on it here. I missed this fork and enjoyed two lovely north-bound miles going the wrong way before reversing direction.

Wrong way. I need to go back south across two ridges, because I missed the critical fork with the little white diamond on the carsonite post. If you're not big into exploring, follow the trail description carefully.

Counterclockwise loop or out-and-back:
0.0   From parking just off Nebo Loop (paved) road
        N39 56.558 W111 40.564
        Head up gravel road
0.7   Pass log-fence parking on L
        At apex of road's turn, go L uphill over bank
        and find ST heading west (R)
        N39 56.077 W111 40.741
1.2   (Connector to Shram on L somewhere here, keep R)
2.0   Fork L up hill
        N39 55.791 W111 41.622
2.6   Fork R across creek
        N39 55.367 W111 41.815
5.2   Fork L
        N39 55.742 W111 43.218
 5.3   Keep L
        N39 55.579 W111 43.333
       (consider turning around here for out-and-back)
5.5   Gate, continue on DT
        N39 55.457 W111 43.291
6.0   Santaquin Canyon road, L for loop
6.9   Fork L as road splits
        N39 54.705 W111 42.557
8.1   L onto Rock Springs trail
        N39 54.420 W111 41.597
8.5   Faint fork keep R
        N39 54.618 W111 41.318
9.1   Pass Lizard Lake Trail, keep L
        N39 54.629 W111 40.827
9.3   Fork L onto Shram Creek Trail
        N39 54.765 W111 40.662
9.5   Fork L
        N39 54.983 W111 40.490
10.9 Fork R downhill (L = Sheepherder)
        N39 55.879 W111 40.864
11.2 Lizard Lake trail joins on R
        N39 56.033 W111 40.625
11.7 Fork R
        N39 56.403 W111 40.661
11.9 Back at parking
Clockwise Loop with Shram Creek climb:
0.0   From parking just off Nebo Loop
        N39 56.558 W111 40.564
        Drop off parking on DT, L uphill on ST
0.2   Trail from alternate parking joins on R
        N39 56.403 W111 40.661
0.7   Fork R
        N39 56.033 W111 40.625
1.1   Fork L (R = to Sheepherder)
        N39 55.879 W111 40.864
2.4   Lizard Lake DT joins on L, head uphill
        N39 54.983 W111 40.490
2.6   Fork R (uphill) Rock Springs Trail
        N39 54.765 W111 40.662
2.9   Pass Lizard Lake Trail, keep R
        N39 54.629 W111 40.827
3.4   Pass faint DH trail, keep L uphill
        N39 54.618 W111 41.318
3.8   R on Santaquin gravel road
        N39 54.420 W111 41.597
5.0   Fork R as road splits
        N39 54.705 W111 42.557
6.0   R on DT
        N39 55.082 W111 43.130
6.5   Gate, start ST
        N39 55.457 W111 43.291
6.6   Fork R
        N39 55.579 W111 43.333
6.9   Critical R fork!
        N39 55.742 W111 43.218
9.5   Cross creek and fork L
        N39 55.367 W111 41.815
10.0   Fork R
        N39 55.791 W111 41.622
10.8   (Connector to Shram on R somewhere here)
11.3 R on gravel road
        N39 56.077 W111 40.741
12.0 Back at parking
Getting there:  Going south, take the Payson exit 250 from I-15 and turn left. Head into Payson on U-115 to the traffic light, then turn left (100 North, U-198). About 1/3 mile later, at the top of a small hill, turn right at 600 East. Zero your odometer here. Drive 9.1 miles up the Nebo Loop Road. (Pass the Grotto Trail and Bennie Creek Cutoff Trail.) As you approach a cattleguard, there's a dirt road on the right. Parking is at the wide area on your left. The Shram Creek trail starts about 150 feet down the dirt road, just across the cattleguard, on the left. The lower trailhead for the Sheepherder Hill trail is 0.7 miles up the dirt road, on your left just past a log-fenced parking area.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide, clockwise loop
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin       GPX
Large-format topo map (600K): View map
Lodging, camping, shops:
     Links to south Utah County area resources

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