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Big Hole Loop
Three Peaks Trail System

The Big Hole Loop lies on the northern end of the Three Peaks Trail System. It's an intermediate ride that offers a lot of views. It's significantly less technical than the main Three Peaks Loop. The ride I describe below is 7 miles with 500 vertical feet of climbing. It should be within the abilities of a solidly experienced intermediate mountain biker.

On a ride in 2004, Kristen and Alex look towards Cedar City from the ridgeline on the Big Hole Loop. Original review June 11, 2003. GPS tracks and topo map updated 2016 by Bruce. Some new photos in 2016.

The trail system is located about 6 miles west of Enoch (just northwest of Cedar City), about 10 minutes by car from I-15. Altitude is 5800 feet. The Big Hole Loop reaches the highest elevations in the trail system at 6150 feet. The riding season is March through November.

This is the new mountain bike trailhead (photo 2015). There's a bathroom (just outside the picture to the left of my car), water, picnic table, and map kiosk. Around the corner are group camping, picnic and camp spots, a playground, and group pavilion.

You can get to the Big Hole Loop via six different connecting trails. The longest route is around the Three Peaks Loop clockwise. The shortest is Practice Loop to Lost World. (See the main Three Peaks page for individual trail descriptions and the topo map for alignments.)

Trails between the trailhead and Big Hole have some man-made structures and some A/B lines that let you select your degree of difficulty. You can always bypass the tough stuff.

The counter-clockwise direction is easiest to navigate for first-timers. So that's the way most riders go. From the Practice Loop going counter-clockwise, jump onto Outer Limits then fork right (north) onto Orange Forks. When you hit the loop, turn right again to continue north. (If you finish the entire loop, you'll arrive back at this point.)

Looking northwest as we come follow the shoulder of the mountain just above the valley..

The back (north) side of the loop has sage alternating with juniper, with occasional outcrops of limestone. (You're north of the junction between the igneous intrusion and the sedimentary rock.) The riding here is fairly straight-forward, and compared to other area trails, you can cover distance fairly quickly.

View east towards Enoch and Cedar City.

The Big Hole is not a fishing hole or steep-walled canyon nook. It is literally a big hole. The trail will skirt the quarry on the northeast corner of the loop. There are a couple of other small inactive mines in the area.

Liquid igneous rock, as it invades other rock deep below ground, brings with it superheated water containing dissolved minerals. The minerals replace ions in the limestone. Thus, "Iron County."

Riding the edge of the hole. It is a big hole.

Here's your construction material.
Did you pay attention in zoology?

Yeah, it's generally animal-shaped.
But only the hooves are in the right spot.

The terrain will alternate between dirt and rocky outcrops. Much of the rock here is limestone, gray when unaffected by minerals from the igneous rock and yellow-orange when infused with iron deposits.

Sage slopes are studded with juniper and the occasional pinion pine. You can find bits of shade for your lunch break, but afternoons in summer can be pretty hot here.

Cruising on the northwest side of the loop, gaining altitude.

There will be about 800 vertical feet of climbing on the Big Hole loop ride. There's a gradual slope to reach the loop, then a moderate steady climb to get up and over the ridgeline when you hit the northwest corner.

Looking south. We'll be climbing up and over the ridge to reach the southern side of Big Hole.

The riding isn't particularly technical. You can take well-conditioned experienced beginners on this ride. There are a couple of spots that the more nervous beginner will want to step over. Be sure to allow a couple of hours for the 7 miles.

Final push to get up and across the ridge.

After you've done your loop, I recommend hitting the trails that lie between Big Hole and the campground. Race Loop, Shortcut (Sunnyside), Lost World, and Orange Fork connect into the southern side of the Big Hole Loop. After descending, use Sweet Pea and/or Outlaw to connect over to another trail that will take you back up to Big Hole. Stay and play. It's worthwhile. 

Rocking down the Race Course in a section that's combined with the southern side of the Big Hole Loop.

Riding notes, Big Hole Loop:
0.0   Left through fence then keep R
        N37 46.017 W113 10.090
0.2   Fork L (straight = Practice Loop)
        N37 46.145 W113 10.147
0.4   Keep L and West past pavilion
        N37 46.173 W113 10.242
0.5   Keep straight (join Race Loop)
        N37 46.181 W113 10.310
1.0   R off DT onto ST Race Loop
        N37 46.267 W113 10.674
1.1   Keep L (R = Outlaw)
        N37 46.333 W113 10.765
1.6   Fork L (R = Short Cut)
        N37 46.646 W113 11.030
1.9   Keep straight (L = Three Peaks)
        N37 46.541 W113 11.247
2.0   Fork L on Earl's
        N37 46.627 W113 11.312

2.3   Rejoin Race Course, L uphill
        N37 46.807 W113 11.246
2.8   L on Big Hole
        N37 47.061 W113 10.950
3.5   Fork R (L = Three Peaks)
        N37 46.971 W113 11.441
5.3   Keep R (L = Orange Fork)
        N37 46.955 W113 10.118
5.6   Fork L on Lost World
        N37 46.901 W113 10.350
5.9   Keep R (L = Orange Fork)
        N37 46.702 W113 10.258
6.1   Keep L (R = Sweet Pea)
        N37 46.576 W113 10.359
6.3   L on Practice Loop
        N37 46.510 W113 10.215
7.2   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.
An alternate is to continue past the mountain bike parking and take the next right toward the picnic and camping area (with flag poles and Three Peaks sign). At the fork in the road, turn right to the picnic pavilion, GPS N 37 46.172' W 113 10.259'. Camp spots are to your north. To your west is the ATV and tech play area. Once you're riding, you'll need to head north to find the bike trails at a break in the fence.

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, Big Hole Loop
GPS track files for this trail (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Big Hole Loop
     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:  Twilight Zone and Petrified Whales
 Three Peaks Loop page
Main Three Peaks area page