||Ephraim Canyon Trail System
The Ephraim Canyon trail system lies on US Forest Service land at an elevation of 6800 to 8000 feet. The expected riding season
would be June through October. The trails are new in 2020.
As of June 2021, there are seven connected trails in this system and
all are easy to ride, suitable for beginners and older children. Fun
options include up-and-back (10 miles) and a lariat loop ride (7 miles).
Many local families do a drop-off at the top of Mirkwood and ride the 5
View along the Gravity Trail as we head uphill.
Photos and trail review June 21, 2021 by Bruce.
|There are several small trailheads along the Ephraim Canyon
Road where you can access the trails. The main trailhead is just below the
bottom of the Gravity trail at 6800 feet elevation, just uphill from the
top of the Flume Trail.
The upper end of the trail system lies on the Ephraim Canyon Road just
below the two developed campgrounds and the top of the Pioneer
Looking across the Ephraim Canyon Road at the
bathroom. There's parking on both sides of the road here. The Gravity
trail starts just a bit up the road (to the right in this photo).
||The lowest-elevation trail in the system is Gravity. This
trail is 0.7 miles long with 250 feet of elevation change. This is an easy
trail, suitable for beginners.
An out-and-back from Gravity to the top of Mirkwood and back down would
be 10 miles with 1300 vertical feet of climbing.
Looking toward the valley over a rock-lined banked
turn on Gravity.
|The bottom of the singletrack starts at a small roadside pull-off just 0.1 miles
uphill from the main paved parking area. There's only room for one or two
cars here, so I suggest you simply pedal uphill from the main parking lot.
Entry to Gravity from the Ephraim Canyon Road.
||Gravity is smooth and easy riding, with no steep pitches.
Young children may find the slope a bit more work than they'd like.
Like all the trails in this new system, Gravity was machine cut using
modern techniques and has been laid out to flow well.
A small grove of gambel oak and maple as we climb up
|Gravity is a nice ride both uphill and down. From the entry
just uphill from the main parking lot, it climbs at a steady pace. Turns
are banked for speed; good for climbing and even nicer for descending.
Typical banked turn on Gravity.
Gravity has more open terrain than the other trails in the
system. Most of the trail is surrounded by short oak scrub. There are
almost constant views of the mountains and valley.
The top of Gravity is at a small roadside pull-out with
room for a couple of cars. The trail then continues uphill as Ponderosa.
||Ponderosa is a trail segment between the Gravity Trail below
and the Stopwatch Trail above. It is 0.8 miles long, with 300 feet of
elevation change. Ponderosa is an easy trail for all ability levels.
The Ponderosa Trail also has a lot of short oak scrub
for open views.
|The terrain surrounding Ponderosa is mostly short oak scrub,
so you'll continue to enjoy views in every direction. There's a short
stretch as Ponderosa starts uphill that's a bit steeper in pitch than
you've seen so far.
||As you might expect from the name, there are a few stands of
long-leaf pine along the trail.
After the initial climb along a bench-cut, Ponderosa has a more cross-country
feel. It spends more time meandering -- and has fewer banked turns -- than
Approaching a grove of ponderosa.
|As Ponderosa returns to the Ephraim Canyon Road, the trail
continues uphill as Stopwatch. There's room for several cars at this upper
trailhead, and it seems to be a popular target for hikers.
Lots of pretty scenery!
||The Stopwatch Trail begins at a fairly generous parking area
off the Ephraim Canyon Road. There's a small long opening to exit
Ponderosa, and another opening to enter Stopwatch about 50 feet away.
The entry to Stopwatch, just off the paved road.
There were four open-air painters working on their easels here while I
made my ride.
|Stopwatch is 1.3 miles long, with elevation change of 300
feet. It's also an easy trail and is suitable for beginning riders. At the
upper end of Stopwatch, the uphill route continues as the Scandinavian
The bottom of Stopwatch seems to be a popular spot for hikers and
nature-lovers to enter the trail system. I encountered a few very
senior citizens (besides me) strolling slowly with canes.
Gentle up-and-down riding through meadows and
||With Stopwatch, the climb turns from generally eastbound to
southbound. There's a bit of up-and-down riding but the general tendency
is to climb.
Heading into a banked turn on the way uphill.
|At mile 0.5 uphill, there's an unmarked (as of June 2021)
trail fork. Stopwatch turns left uphill. The trail on the right is a
brand-new return from the lower Patriot trail.
||Stopwatch ends on a dirt-road loop parking area. As you exit through the
log fence, keep to the right and straight. Head for the main road. In 100 yards, as you reach
the gravel on the shoulder of the Ephraim Canyon Road, you'll see the continuing
singletrack to your right.
Getting near the top of Stopwatch.
||The Scandinavian trail begins alongside the paved road after
a very short dirt-road link from Stopwatch. This section is 1.4 miles
long, with 150 feet of elevation gain as you go south from the Ephraim
Canyon Road. It will end on the gravel Forest Road 051 at the top of
the Patriot trail.
Entry to Scandinavian.
|The Scandinavian trail contours a small canyon heading
south. There's a bit of up-and-down riding as it goes through drainages.
Beginning riders would enjoy this trail as an out-and-back, as it has the
least climbing of any trail in the system.
Most of this trail is in forest, but there is an
occasional break-out with views.
||The trail runs parallel to Forest Road 051, but on the
deeply forested hillside above it. You may catch a rare glimpse of the gravel road from
time to time. There are a couple of primitive camping/picnic spots that
back onto the trail.
With increasing elevation, we're seeing aspen and
|Mirkwood joins Scandinavian 0.1 miles from its end. If
you're climbing to the top, make a hard left turn here.
Scandinavian ends as the trail crosses FR 051. The route continues as
the Patriot trail, with the option of looping back to Stopwatch.
Nearing the southern end of Scandinavian. Here the
terrain flattens a bit.
||At this time, Mirkwood is the highest-elevation trail in
this system. The upper end is on the Ephraim Canyon Road at 8050 feet
elevation. It descends -- with more than a little up-and-down -- to join
the southern end of Scandinavian.
Looking into Mirkwood from the parking area on the
paved road at the top end.
|Mirkwood is 1.4 miles in length with 200 feet of overall
elevation difference between the north and south ends. It is considered an easy trail, but would require a bit more skill than
There's a hiking trail forking steeply uphill near the upper trailhead.
It extends to the campground just uphill. It's unmarked and I didn't see
any bike tracks on it.
Heading uphill on Mirkwood.
As the name implies, a lot of Mirkwood is in deep forest.
The longleaf pine has given way to fir and aspen at this elevation.
Temperatures were pleasant at mid-day in June while the valley baked in
It's a very different forest here from what you see
at the warmer and dryer
|There's a nice view of Ephraim as the trail briefly hugs a hillside.
Most of the ride is in deep forest.
Because of the easy vehicle access to the top of Mirkwood, on weekends
it's likely you'll encounter oblivious young riders heading downhill as
you climb Mirwood. It's OK. Just ride. Nobody hired you as the trail
View from Mirkwood as the trail breaks out on a
||Near Mirkwood's southern end, a fairly steep and unmarked
motorcycle route crosses. This raw trail climbs to the lake at the
campground. I saw no bicycle tracks to indicate that riders are using this
Mirkwood ends on southern Scandinavian about 0.1 miles from
Patriot. If you're descending from the upper trailhead, you now have two
options for your downhill. A hard right puts you northbound on
Scandinavian, while continuing straight takes you to Patriot.
Mirkwood and Scandinavian join.
||The Patriot trail is rated intermediate, but most
riders would be able to do this trail in the downhill direction. While
it's officially a two-way trail -- default Forest Service policy -- I think few riders will chose to do it
uphill. As the trail firms up, it may become a more satisfying climb.
Entry to Patriot. There's room to park here on Forest
|Patriot is 1.4 miles long, descending 400 vertical feet. The
downhill flow isn't consistent, though. Once the surface has been packed
firmly and the riding lines roll better, it may be possible to blow
through the slightly-uphill sections like a true flow trail.
An S formed by two banked turns.
||In June 2021, Patriot still has some rough edges. It needs a
bit of fine-tuning here and there. But mostly it requires quite a few more bike tires
to work-in the lines and compact the trail. It's still a bit loose, and
not as satisfying to ride uphill or down as the other trails in the
Note that the older trail down this slope, called Maple Syrup by
locals, has been closed
Looking down toward the valley.
|At 1/4 mile from the bottom of Patriot, a new (in June 2021)
trail forks away to the right. This trail heads north and connects to
Stopwatch for a loop ride.
Patriot continues downhill to end on a dirt road.
The doubletrack is just across the creek at the
bottom of Patriot.
||The dirt road heads north for just over a mile, hitting the
Ephraim Canyon Road just uphill from the start of the Flume Trail. It's
not a horrible ride, but I think most riders would prefer to take the new
trail to Stopwatch and descend from there to reach Flume.
Doubletrack heading toward the Flume trail.
||The trail connecting lower Patriot to the middle of
Stopwatch is named Badger, new in 2021. It is legal to ride while crews do finishing touches.
Based on my ride, you may need to deal with a culvert awaiting installation, and clamber
over a barbed-wire fence that hasn't yet been replaced by a ride-over.
|This segment is 1.3 miles long. There will be up-and-down
riding over the length of the trail without any overall change of
elevation. This trail completes a lariat-loop ride of Scandinavian and
Patriot when it joins Stopwatch.
The trail winds up and down, in and out of forest.
I'll award this system my highest rating. It's a nice easy trail system,
well-constructed and laid out intelligently, with awesome views. It will be a
hit with families who ride with pre-teens. The nearby campgrounds make this system
a good choice for groups and families.
||Getting there: On US-89 in Ephraim, go to 400
south and turn east towards the mountains. At 300 East, turn right. You're
now on state road 29, the Ephraim Canyon Road. Drive into the canyon and
climb around 3 miles uphill. When you see paved parking on both
sides of the road, with a bathroom on your left, that's the main parking
area. The entry to the Gravity Trail is 100 yards up the paved road on
There are four small roadside parking spots at points where the trail
comes to the Ephraim Canyon road. The final entry is just before the Lake
Hill Campground turnoff.
Bathroom: Main parking, Lake Hill Campground