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Tooele's Settlement Canyon, Right Hand Fork
Dark Trail

Settlement Canyon lies at the southeast corner of Tooele, right at the edge of town. It's surprisingly pretty, well-forested, and dramatically cooler than Tooele. The canyon splits into a Right Hand Fork and Left Hand Fork, both of which have bike trails. The Dark Trail lies in the Right Hand Fork. It's plush, gentle, and suitable for kids and true beginners. It's usually done as an out-and-back, with the turn-around spot depending on your appetite for climbing.

View up the trail early in the ride. Maple forest with plenty of shade. Photos and ride review by Bruce on July 13, 2018.

The Dark Trail begins at 5350 feet elevation, following a old pipeline corridor. Despite the low altitude, the trail stays nicely cool until the afternoon during the summer. An out-and-back ride is 7 miles round trip. Riders who want more distance can pedal further along the Right Hand Fork Road -- a dirt road at this point -- once the singletrack ends.

The trail is heavily forested. This spot on the lower Dark Trail is one of the few places where you can see a view.

The ride consists of four segments:  The "official" Dark Trail (1.7 miles), a bit of paved road (0.2), the Right Hand Fork or Upper Dark trail (1.5), and dirt road extending further northeast (around a mile).

The route is used by horses. This can loosen the tread a bit, especially on the Upper Dark portion. There may also be cattle grazing along the Upper Dark trail.

Bits and pieces of irrigation channels and water-collection pipelines are seen along the ride. One reason the riding is so plush is that it follows a route that was graded for water channels long ago.

The Dark trail begins 1/10th mile from the Settlement Canyon fee station, on the right side of the paved canyon road. There's no parking at the trail entry, and as of July 2018, no trail sign. Watch for a well-traveled singletrack entering the trees northbound.

Bruce rides up the Dark Trail through maple forest.

At mile 0.4 of the singletrack, there's a trail forking steeply downhill to the left. This is a connector to the Left Hand Fork trailhead. After crossing the creek, it will end at the back of a picnic parking spot. Go up to the road, and the Left Hand Fork Trail is straight across. Some riders might choose to park here and use this connector trail as a starting spot.

A vent pipe reminds us that we're riding over a buried pipeline.

After climbing 300 vertical feet over 1.7 miles, the "official" Dark Trail will end on the paved Right Hand Fork Road at a picnic and group-activity area. Keep right and uphill to pedal along the road.

After 0.2 miles, you'll arrive at a "No Trespassing" gate. Take the prominent ride-around to the left of the gate. As you hit the pavement again, look for singletrack right across the road. This is the Upper Dark (Right Hand Fork) trail.

The trail passes by an outcrop of limestone.

The Upper Dark trail is similar in character to the lower trail. The climbing is gentle and easy. The singletrack extends up the canyon another 1.5 miles (and climbs another 300 vertical feet) before ending on the now-gravel Right Hand Fork road.

Heading uphill.

To continue, keep to the right and climb on the doubletrack. After 1/10th mile, you'll reach a gate in a broken-down fence. To the left is the Bear Trap Pass trail. (This trail is usually used as a downhill route from the pass. It's pretty steep, with 900 vertical feet in 1.4 miles. If you're interested in a loop ride that combines the Dark Trail with the Left Hand Fork trails, see my Left Hand Fork trail page.)

You're now at mile 3.6 from the fee-station parking area and you've climbed 700 vertical feet to 6050 feet elevation. 

Much of the Upper Dark trail has very large trees with an open understory.

To extend the ride, continue uphill on the doubletrack through Bear Trap Flats. My recommended turnaround comes at Balsam Hollow, 1.2 miles and 500 vertical feet uphill from the gate at the Bear Trap Pass trail. If you continue, the road gets steep and turns into an ugly pack trail up to a pass at 8200 feet elevation.

Looking up the Right Hand Fork road at Rocky Peak (elevation 10,200).

Bottom Line:

Excellent ride for beginners and groups of mixed ability. Best done as an out-and-back, but can be part of a loop using the Left Hand Fork trails for more advanced riders.

Handlebar view of the Upper Dark trail.

Riding notes, out-and-back to Balsam Hollow:
0.0   On paved road at fee station N40 30.425 W112 17.604
0.1   R on Dark Trail N40 30.377 W112 17.516
0.5   Straight (L = to parking, road, and Left Hand Fork)
        N40 30.004 W112 17.339
1.8   Join road, keep R and uphill N40 29.110 W112 17.136
2.0   Around left of gate, cross road to ST Upper Dark
        N40 28.969 W112 17.043

3.5   Join DT uphill N40 28.277 W112 15.893
3.6   Straight at gate (L = Bear Trap Pass)
        N40 28.173 W112 15.697
4.8   Turn around, retrace path N40 27.126 W112 15.244
9.6   Back at parking

Getting there:
From Salt Lake Valley, take I-80 westbound. Exit on Highway 36 and drive south through Tooele. Right at the southern edge of town, look for a "Camp Wapiti" sign and turn left onto the Settlement Canyon Road. (Note: there's a street called "Canyon Road" about 1/10th mile before Settlement Canyon. It's NOT the canyon road that you want.) 
From Utah County, take Highway 73 westbound through Five Mile Pass. Turn right (north) on Highway 36. As you hit the edge of Tooele, watch for a small "Camp Wapiti" sign and turn right on Settlement Canyon Road.
Drive uphill 0.8 miles to a large parking area and fee station. If you plan to picnic, camp, or just park within the canyon, pay your fee at the station. If you're biking in, find a parking spot here.
Canyon Road parking (for Dark Trail): 
For bike-in riders, there's parking on the right side of the road, just before the fee station. 
Spring Flats (Left Hand Fork trailhead):  From the fee station, drive 1/2 mile on the canyon road. Keep right as the Camp Wapiti road forks uphill to the left. Drive 1/10th mile further and turn right into the trailhead parking. The Left Hand Fork trail is across the road from the parking entrance. The Dark Trail can be reached via a connector at the back of the northernmost picnic parking spot.
Camp Wapiti parking:  Drive 0.5 miles from the fee station, then turn left on the Camp Wapiti road. Go 0.4 miles uphill and park in front of the camp gates. The trail is to the left of the camp gates, and within a few feet forks into the Bench Trail (left) and a connector to the doubletrack to Bottom (right).

Riding resources:
One-page (printable) ride guide
GPS track file (right-click and select "Save Target as..."):
     Area multi-track file     GPX track Dark Trail  
Topo map for printing:  View
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to north SLC resources

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