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Forebay Trail System
Payson Canyon

The Forebay system in lower Payson Canyon has around 12 miles of singletrack trail. The 15 interconnecting trails lie along a bench-like area at an average 5600 feet elevation in maple and oak groves. The loops allow you to select a ride of the desired length and difficulty. Most trails are easier intermediate. This system is worth a visit, even if you don't live nearby.

View to the south as we ride through maples in grassy meadows. Photos and ride description by Bruce on June 13, 2015.

There are three access points to the trail system. Most riders are parking in the paved lot across from Maple Dell scout camp. However, the system wasn't really designed for this, and you might find yourself wondering where the trails are.

Roadside parking on the Nebo Loop. This gate is one possible Forebay access, with a duck-under on the left to keep out the motorcycles.

About 1/3  mile below Maple Dell is rough trailside parking with a log fence. The Forebay Access gravel road takes you up to the singletrack trails. If the dirt parking is full, there's a paved lot just 100 yards up the road. This access is the least complicated. Just pedal up the road and you'll find the first trail at the orange gate.

Looking south up the canyon as Bruce hits the Overlook trail.

There's an access point where the JMC trail hits the Nebo Loop road. There's room for a couple of cars along each side of the road. There's no obvious sign that there's a trail -- you have to know it's there and head for the metal gate on the east side of the road. See instructions below.

JMC has some side-trails that offer a bit of more-advanced riding. Ezra is a little loop in the middle. Little Shawn is a winding route that's good either up or down, offering a longer, less-steep alternative to much of JMC. K-Launi is a narrow and twisty route that offers some ridge views. I'd rank it expert in skill requirement.

Cruising through tall trees on Favorite.

The trails are, for the most part, smooth dirt ribbon. Because this area isn't overgrazed, you'll enjoy deep grass and trailside flowers. There will be frequent views at the forested ridges south up Payson Canyon, and of Utah Valley with Lone Peak and Timpanogos in the distance to the north.

Mules Ear blooms at trailside.

Most of the trails are in maple forest with occasional grassy meadows. Dryer areas will have sage and scrub oak.

The trails are hand-built, with constant swooping turns. This is a nice change from long machine-cut grunts. You'll enjoy these trails.

Cruising through scrub maple forest.

OK, now let's get you on the trails. One reason most riders select the east Maple Dell parking lot is, there's a bathroom there. But as mentioned, it's currently (June 2015) not a friendly intuitive path to the trails for newbies. So I'll help you find the trails.

You'll see the canal curving around the east side of parking. On the north side, there's a gate on gravel road just west (left) of the canal. Step around the gate and start riding. The trail will rapidly turn to dirt and narrow. Some riders have found cheater spots to drop through the trees down to the Forebay Access road, but you're on your own there.

Looking back south toward the Maple Dell parking area on the Canal Trail.

The Canal Trail ends at a small reservoir. The easiest way to find the trail system is to fork 90 degrees left, just as you reach the pond. As you get to the second pond (which may be empty), fork hard left downhill on gravel road. This is the Forebay Access road. The Overlook trail will be on your right about 300 feet downhill.

Once you're familiar with the area, you can connect to Jax at the pond by forking to the right and dropping down the canal bank to doubletrack. About 200 feet later, just before another doubletrack joins, the Jax trail will be on your right.

Looking north as the Canal Trail reaches the reservoir. Two ways to get to the Overlook Trail:  after first going left, you can go north to reach the north end of Overlook, or you can go south to catch the south end.

If you're climbing the Access road, the first trail you encounter will be the Orange Gate trail, appropriately enough, at a big metal orange gate. It's on the left a few feet uphill from the gate. (There's a cheater path to the right around the gate. If you ride it, you may not notice the singletrack over your left shoulder as you rejoin the doubletrack.)

Cruising northbound in scrub oak and maple.

The Orange Gate trail will take you 0.2 miles to a lariat loop of JMC and Little Shawn (see map). This loop will involve a bit of climbing, even if you don't descend JMC all the way to the highway. There's 300 feet of elevation change over the two miles of this lariat ride. 

Trails are newly marked with metal cutouts on posts.

The point at which the JMC trail forks off of the Orange Gate Trail (your return point if you descended to do the JMC/Little Shawn lariat loop) is the beginning of the Favorite Trail. This trail meanders north about 1/2 mile to rejoin the Access road.

Westbound on Round Top, where the terrain changes to add a bit of rock, bitterbrush, sage, and oak.

About 100 yards uphill on the Access road, the Overlook Trail forks away on your left. After meandering 0.3 miles through sage, oak brush and the occasional maple, you'll reach another lariat loop. This is Round Top, 0.6 miles. This loop is dryer and more open, with some rough granite rocks.

View south up Payson Canyon.

As you complete Round Top and return to going northbound on Overlook, the singletrack will hit the edge of the reservoir then curve around it to go eastbound. Keep straight here as ATV tracks cross.

Overlook will become doubletrack and plunge through a wash. Seeing the dirt road straight ahead on the opposite side, you might think you've lost the trail. Never fear. Just rocket down and up the opposite side.

Meadow with a bit of swamp.

As you reach the far side of the wash, you'll spot the trail sign for Ray Gun, northbound at 90 degrees on your left. This is fast fun singletrack, a bit straighter than the twisty stuff you've done so far on the two southern loops.

More Mules Ear blossoms on the Favorite Trail.

Your first trail fork on northbound Ray Gun will be Taze. This is a short trail that rejoins after only 1/10 mile. It's only real purpose is to get you to Jax. Jax, in turn will take you uphill to the most advanced trail in the system, Kaya.

But whether you're heading for Kaya or not, at this spot I recommend you keep northbound on Ray Gun.

View to the north on the Lariat trail loop.

At the north end of Ray Gun, you can continue to the Lariat trail (and save Kaya for later), or hit Kaya now. If you're going on, the doubletrack through the gate in the fence takes you to Lariat. Straight across that DT is the entry to Kaya (currently unsigned). If you're game for it, cross over and begin climbing. The average rate of climb is around 400 feet per mile, but only 1/3 mile is sustained climbing.

Kaya will twist and undulate through the forest, traverse south, then descend. Kaya will hit Jax near the Jax trail's south end. You can fork right uphill, as you'd only be missing about 200 feet of Jax singletrack (which just goes down to ATV track). Northbound, Jax will end on Taze. If you're done, take Taze left southbound. To keep riding, fork right and rejoin Ray Gun to repeat about 1/4  mile back to the gate at the north end.

This loop will add only about 1.8 miles to your ride.

Looking towards Timpanogos and Cascade Mountain on Kaya, near the ride's highest point at 5800 feet.

After passing through the gate (keep straight and cross the ATV tracks running parallel to the fence), fork left on the Lariat trail singletrack. When you get to the next trail fork, consider whether you want to do a loop-de-loop, or pick up the connecting piece on your way back.

For a loop-de-loop (repeating about 1/3 mile in the middle) keep right, then take the next left. You'll come back to your original trail fork, where you'll turn left to repeat a section of trail. Then you'll keep right and northbound at the next fork to go on.

To hit only the loop and skip the connector, fork left. At the end of the loop (the next trail fork), turn left and head north.

Note the shoulder-high grass. Much of Utah was like this before overgrazing damaged the hillsides.

The connector from the loop takes you 0.1 mile to rejoin the ATV track as it goes through another gate. (NOTE:  Please close gates after going through them.)

Now again find your singletrack just beyond the gate. You're now entering the stem of Karl's loop. A short distance later, the trail will split. There are no signs here as of June 2015. Forking right feels most natural, so keep right and continue uphill. You'll do the loop counterclockwise.

View over the golf course from Karl's Loop.

There are game and stock trails through this area. Karl's is the least-defined of the system. Also the loop will very briefly join ATV track in three spots. But I didn't have any trouble navigating. "Competing trails" had a branch dropped across them to indicate the proper path.

Karl's loop will add 1.8 miles to your ride. While you're there, say hello to the pair of friendly and curious mules.

Still on Karl's Loop, heading south.

Here's a complete tour of the trail system that takes you through both trailheads (the Access road trailhead on the highway and the Canal Trail at Maple Dell). It hits all but about one-tenth mile of the singletrack with only a tiny amount of back-track on the stems of the lariat loops. Yes, it will be a bit complicated to navigate on your first outing. (The ride guide is the most complicated one I've ever published for any trail page.) So if you can, just download the GPS file to your GPS-enabled cycling computer or cell phone and follow along as you ride. See the resource links below, where you can also print a full-page topo map of the trail system to take with you.

Riding Guide, Forebay Tour from Access DT:
0.0   Around/over gate, up gravel road
        N39 58.767 W111 41.516
0.4   Pass orange gate, immediate L on ST
        Orange Gate trail N39 59.027 W111 41.467
Alternate route, from Maple Dell parking:
  0.0   North from parking on road left of canal
          N39 58.407 W111 41.488
  1.2   At pond, L south of pond
          N39 59.303 W111 41.395
          200 feet, then L downhill on DT
  1.3   Pass Overlook Tr on R
          Pass Favorite Tr on R
  1.6   At gate, R on Orange Gate Tr
          N39 59.027 W111 41.467
          (Add 1.2 to mileages below)

Continue Orange Gate Trail
0.6   L on JMC N39 59.087 W111 41.614
1.0   Keep L on JMC (R = return)
        N39 59.171 W111 41.738
1.3   R on Little Shawn (L = to road)
        N39 59.277 W111 41.869
2.1   Straight (L), back on JMC
        N39 59.171 W111 41.738
2.5   Back at fork, L on Favorite
        N39 59.171 W111 41.738
2.9   Straight uphill on road
        N39 59.218 W111 41.458
        200 feet, then L on Overlook
        N39 59.267 W111 41.442
3.2   L on Round Top N39 59.376 W111 41.522
3.3   Fork L on loop N39 59.447 W111 41.557
3.6   Back at fork (from 3.3), keep L
3.7   Back at Overlook, go L
        N39 59.376 W111 41.522
3.9   Through gully, immediate L on Ray Gun
        N39 59.376 W111 41.341
4.0   Keep L (R = Taze) N39 59.412 W111 41.286
4.1   Keep L (R = Taze rejoins)
        N39 59.480 W111 41.227
4.5   L on DT through gate
        N39 59.672 W111 41.078
        (Note Kaya on uphill for return trip)
        Veer L on ST (Lariat)
4.6   L on loop of Lariat
        N39 59.707 W111 41.120
5.3   L to exit Lariat loop
        N39 59.854 W111 41.116
5.4   L to join DT, through gate
        N39 59.900 W111 41.084
        Find Karl's ST just past gate
        Fork R uphill (Karl's Loop)
        N39 59.910 W111 41.074
7.1   Back at loop fork, keep R
        Through gate, L on ST (Lariat)
7.2   Keep L N39 59.854 W111 41.116
7.7   Keep L N39 59.707 W111 41.120
7.8   Join DT through gate N39 59.672 W111 41.078
        Immediate L uphill on Kaya singletrack
8.8   R uphill on Jax N39 59.354 W111 41.260
9.0   L on Taze N39 59.462 W111 41.230
9.1   Keep L, join Ray Gun
        N39 59.413 W111 41.289
9.2   R and plunge through gully
        N39 59.376 W111 41.341
        150 ft, then L and climb wall of pond
        N39 59.396 W111 41.373
        Ride south between the ponds
9.3   L at end of pond toward canal
        N39 59.316 W111 41.428
        (DT on downhill side = back to Access
         road if you're skipping the canal trail)
        100 feet, then R on trail along canal
        N39 59.302 W111 41.395
10.6 At Maple Dell parking
        R downhill on road 0.3 miles
10.9 Back at Access parking

 Ride video -- up JMC to Favorite, Overlook, Ray Gun, and Lariat

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Getting there:
Take the Payson Main Street Exit 250 from I-15 and turn south towards town. Drive into Payson on U-115 to the traffic light, then turn left on 100 North, U-198. About 1/3 mile later, at a traffic light on the top of a small hill, turn right at 600 East. Drive up the Nebo Loop Road.
JMC Trail:  Your first option for trail access comes around mile 4.7 from the spot you turned off Highway 198. As the road crosses Peteetneet Creek, there's a spot on the left side of the road uphill from the creek, just big enough for a single car. The JMC trail starts uphill here N39 59.217 W111 41.884 at a metal gate. There's a wide shoulder nearby on both sides of the road for a few additional vehicles. 
Access road:  The Forebay Access road will be on your left at mile 5.5, but you won't see the road or gate until you've pulled into the parking area. Look for a wide shoulder with an old log fence N39 58.764 W111 41.513. The ride starts by heaving your bike over the gate and ducking under the dork-basher. There's paved parking and a kiosk about 200 feet further uphill on the right if the trailhead parking is full.
Maple Dell parking:  Drive uphill to mile 5.8. As you see the signs for the Maple Dell scout camp up the road on the right, turn left into the paved parking area.  There's a bathroom near the entrance. On the downhill (north) side of the parking lot, go to the cindered path to the left of the canal.

Note:  The Nebo Loop sees a fair amount of bike traffic, but there will also be big rigs, trailers, and scenery gawkers. If you want to close a loop from the JMC trail back to Maple Dell via the road, you'll probably survive. But on a summer Saturday, I'd personally consider it a Stupid Idea.

Bathroom:  Maple Dell parking
Water:  Payson City park, 3 miles down canyon
Camping:  Payson Lakes, Blackhawk

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Forebay Tour (10.9 miles)
     GPX of riding area multi-track
High-res topo map for printing: View map
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to south Utah County resources

Copyright 2015
Division of Mad Scientist Software Inc
Updated GPX and maps 2018