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Three Peaks Loop
Three Peaks Trail System

The Three Peaks Loop is a classic route near Cedar City at the Three Peaks recreation area. The loop itself is 7.5 miles in length, but you need to pedal a couple of miles from the mountain bike trailhead to reach the loop. This brings the typical ride to about 11 miles with 1200 vertical feet of climbing. The route is appropriate for upper-intermediate to advanced riders.

View south as I ride clockwise on the Three Peaks Loop. Rough granite outcrops mix with pinion pine and juniper. Original review June 11, 2003 by Bruce. GPS tracks and topo map updated 2016.

Three Peaks is 6 miles west of Enoch (just northwest of Cedar City), about 10 minutes by car from I-15. Riding season is March through early December. The area is a popular motorcycle and ATV area, but the bike trails avoid the gas-guzzler folk.

The system has a dedicated mountain bike trailhead located just off the main road as you enter the Three Peaks area. The trailhead altitude is 5800 feet. 

This is the new mountain bike trailhead (photo 2016). There's a bathroom, water, picnic table, and map kiosk. Just northwest of the mountain bike parking lot are group camping, picnic and camp spots, a playground, and group pavilion.

You have several options to reach the Three Peaks Loop from the trailhead. The classic route is via the Race Loop (see the main Three Peaks page), which will take you to the northeastern side of the loop. You can also take Twilight Zone to the southeast side of the loop. Or you can head counterclockwise around Big Hole to hit the northwest corner of the Three Peaks Loop.

 Kristen Argyle hits some rock on the Race Loop as she works through the picnic and camping area, heading towards the east side of the Three Peaks Loop in 2004.

The ride I describe below uses the race loop outbound, then circles the loop clockwise. (Many locals ride the loop counterclockwise. Your choice. I'll describe the counterclockwise ride later.)

But instead of closing the loop back at the race course, my ride continues on to Big Hole and returns back to the picnic area via Lost World. There are many other options. See the main Three Peaks page for individual trail distances.

Going northwest on the race loop, about 1/2 mile from the junction with the Three Peaks Loop. The ladder bridges are nice!

Clockwise ride:

From the trailhead, take the Practice Loop clockwise 1/2 mile to the Outlaw Trail, just after you turn the corner of the fence. Go westbound on Outlaw. (The Outlaw Trail avoids the confusing route of the Race Loop through the picnic and camping area.)

When the Outlaw Trail ends on the Race Loop, turn right. Stay left on Race Loop at the junction with Shortcut (aka Sunnyside). You'll meet the Three Peaks Loop at mile 1.9 from parking.

The riding gets tough as we reach the technical rock near the Whale Trails. (We're looking south.)

Head south on the Three Peaks Loop. Stay straight and left at Iron Creek (unmarked in March 2016) and climb up and over a low rise. Now sage and juniper gives way to open rock. This is the most technical section of the ride.

The rock is igneous, not sandstone. It's large-grained and gives excellent traction, but some areas here must be considered expert-level technical. It you love this spot, consider a detour on Petrified Whales before continuing.

The rock is getting easier as we roll into the southern end of the loop.

The loop will curve around the southern end of the mountain, with views of old iron mine tailings on hillsides across the valleys to the south.

Just after passing the west end of the Iron Creek Cutoff, you'll drop down to a dougletrack. Crossing the road to go north puts you on the classic ride, with some new singletrack bypassing part of the old dirt road. Dropping west and downhill on the dirt road will get you to an alternate route, called "Three Peaks Technical" on the map. 

View southwest as the singletrack curves around the south side of the Three Peaks.

Shortly after the two options rejoin, you'll reach the Big Hole Loop. Forking left takes you around the mountain to the north for a longer ride. The right fork offers somewhat shorter paths back to parking via the southern side of Big Hole. There are five separate trails forking off the southern side of Big Hole that will start you back towards the trailhead. And they're all good choices. See the topo map and it will make sense.

Granite and limestone alternate on the western side of the loop.

Counterclockwise Ride:

This route takes the Big Hole Loop counterclockwise around the northernmost mountain to reach the Three Peaks Loop trail. From the trailhead, keep to the right at every trail fork. Practice Loop, Outer Limits, Orange Forks, then Big Hole. And then at mile 3.4, you'll keep right to start Three Peaks.

Leaving Big Hole, we drop downhill and west through juniper and low sage..

Just over 1/10th mile later, you'll reach a fork. The doubletrack to the left is the classic route. (It will turn into singletrack. It's much faster and easier than the alternate.)

At the top of Double Take Drop, marked by the exercycle.

The alternate, labeled Three Peaks Technical on the trail map, has steeper and rougher terrain and is about 1/2 mile longer. But it's do-able by a good intermediate rider.

View down Double Take Drop. There's a ride-around, but seriously it's not that tricky.

When the Tech route crosses a dirt road, it will turn uphill and get rougher. And the trail signs no longer say "Three Peaks." You may think you've lost your way, but keep heading uphill as the trail merges onto the very rough rocky road. When you reach a dirt road junction, you'll see the classic (main) trail joining from the left.

Keep heading uphill. Find southbound Three Peaks on your right a little further up the doubletrack. (I have a track file in the links below that uses the tech route. If you're unsure of the terrain, following the track is good insurance.)

Rolling along on the technical alternate.

From the doubletrack the trail climbs uphill. The Iron Creek Cutoff trail on your left offers a quick return back to the trailhead.

We've rejoined the main Three Peaks trail southbound. If you're aiming to shortcut the loop via the Iron Creek Cutoff trail, it's a bit hard to see. If it weren't for the bucket, I wouldn't have spotted it, and I'd ridden it only two months before.

Now comes a couple of miles of uncomplicated southbound riding on the western slope of the Three Peaks. The granite spires of the peaks are uphill to your left, with views of the Great Basin to your right.

Looking southeast from the trail, as the afternoon sun highlights the rock outcrops.

At the southwestern corner of the loop, you'll have views of the iron mines to the south. Enjoy a little bit of cruising -- there's techy stuff coming up.

Almost to the southern end of the loop. The scar on the hill is part of the iron mining complex.

As you round the southern tip of the loop, you'll hit a mile and a half of the most technical riding of the trip. Heaps of igneous rock force the trail up and down. There are a couple of well-marked dicey alternate lines for experts.

Looking southwest. Very pretty terrain.

Intermediates will find a few spots that they'll choose to walk. If wooden structures spook you, there are some black-diamond bridges here.

Little Rocky rests on a granite heap as the trail climbs up and over. Just in front of my wheel is a wooden ramp, eight feet in the air, which will deliver you between a couple of junipers before touching earth.

After the (unmarked as of June 2016) intersection with Four Loco at the southeast corner, there's a stretch of easier trail, but with some cruising up and down. A couple of narrow black-diamond bridges cross wide flow areas.

Ladder bridges cross broad sandy wash areas. The decks here are 18 inches, but with bends and tilts they are rated "expert."

As you approach the Whale Trail area, you're back onto slickrock. It's a bit bumpy here, and tougher in the counterclockwise direction because it's slightly uphill. (One ride option at this point is to detour onto Petrified Whales, then take Twilight Zone back to the trailhead.)

The trail climbs gently up and over the ridge before beginning a long downhill into the main trail complex.

Northbound through the raspy open rock.

There are a few easy ladder bridges as you cruise northbound. After passing the Iron Creek Cutoff, you'll reach a T intersection. This is the Race Loop. Left takes you up to the ridgeline for a longer ride. Fork right to head for the main trail complex and the trailhead.

Fossil Cyclosaurus Rex along the trailside.

My track takes the Race Loop to Outlaw, then the practice loop back to the trailhead, for 11.7 miles with 1200 vertical feet of climbing. Experts should allow 2 hours; intermediates around 4 hours with a lunch break.

Rolling southeast downhill after leaving the combined Big Hole and Race Loop trail.

Riding Notes, Three Peaks Loop w Big Hole clockwise:
0.0   Left through fence then keep R
        N37 46.017 W113 10.090
0.2   Keep right (Practice Loop)
        N37 46.145 W113 10.147
0.5   Trail turns L w fence
        N37 46.363 W113 10.147
0.6   Straight onto Outlaw
        N37 46.381 W113 10.257
0.9   Keep L (R = Sweet Pea)
        N37 46.459 W113 10.547
1.2   R on Race Course Loop
        N37 46.333 W113 10.765
1.6   Fork L (R = Short Cut)
        N37 46.646 W113 11.030
1.9   Fork L onto Three Peaks
        N37 46.541 W113 11.247
2.3   Keep straight (R = Iron Creek Cutoff)
        N37 46.213 W113 11.369
3.5   Keep R (L = Petrified Whales)
        N37 45.381 W113 11.559
3.6   Keep R and R (L = Petrified Whales
        then L = Four Loco)
        N37 45.344 W113 11.583
4.0   Keep R (L = return Four Loco)
        N37 45.137 W113 11.935
6.4   Keep L (R = Iron Creek)
        N37 46.413 W113 12.031
6.6   L, then L on DT to Three Peaks Technical
        N37 46.512 W113 11.971
7.8   Rejoin Three Peaks, keep L
        N37 46.971 W113 11.548
7.9   L on Big Hole
        N37 46.971 W113 11.441
9.7   Keep R (L = Orange Fork)
        N37 46.955 W113 10.118
9.9   L on Lost World
        N37 46.901 W113 10.350
10.2 Keep R (L = Orange Fork)
        N37 46.702 W113 10.258
10.4 Keep L (R = Sweet Pea)
        N37 46.576 W113 10.359
10.6 L on Practice Loop
        N37 46.510 W113 10.215
11.5 Back at trailhead
Getting there: Just north of Cedar City, take the Enoch/Minersville I-15 exit #62. Go north on U-130 (towards Minersville) 2.6 miles, then turn left on Midvalley Road. Drive 6 miles straight west. Pass the "welcome area" which is the first turnout. Now watch for the sign indicating the Mountain Bike Trailhead. Turn right on a gravel road into the trailhead. The ride starts behind the kiosk and the picnic table.

Note: Click on this topo map link for specific trail names and accurate alignments.

Camping:  On site, option group or individual sites, option developed vs primitive
Water:  Trailhead, pavilion, and campground
Bathrooms:  Trailhead, campground, picnic area, pavilion
Bike services:  Cedar Cycle in Cedar City

Riding resources:
Single-page riding guide, Three Peaks Loop w Big Hole
GPS track files for this trail (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Three Peaks Big Loop   Counterclockwise Big Loop w Tech option
     GPX multi-track area file
High-res area trail topo for printing:   View topo map
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to Cedar City area resources

Copyright 2003 Mad Scientist Software Inc
High-res topo trail map and GPS file updated 2016.

See also:  Three Peaks page
Big Hole Loop page
 Twilight Zone and Petrified Whales