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Lookout Peak to Big Mountain Loop
This loop ride is for advanced and adventuresome riders. The ride climbs Big Mountain Pass, then up Big Mountain itself. It includes a brutal climb, a section of rough root-strewn tech riding, and a ball-bearing-slippery steep descent.

Handlebar view down Mountain Dell Canyon, near Swallow Rock. Photos August 26, 2002 by Bruce.

The trail rolls around the ridge that connects Big Mountain to Lookout Peak, skirts the top of Emigration Canyon, then drops down to Affeck Park from the top of Killyon Canyon. The route described here is 15.4 miles, with altitude change of 2500 feet, reaching a peak altitude of 8600. Up-and-down riding on the ridge brings the total vertical to around 3500.

Once you've climbed above 8000 feet, you'll spend 7 miles riding along ridgeline at high altitude as you loop around the border of a huge deep valley -- Mountain Dell Canyon. You'll be able to see into Parley's Canyon, the Park City area, Morgan Canyon, and Emigration Canyon. Most of the ridgeline ride has fabulous open views. This is a very pretty ride, but is only for those with good skills, strength, and altitude acclimatization.

Update:  The climb from Big Mountain is reported to be loose and washed out, so you can expect to hike your bike a bit. The section from the GWT over to Lookout Peak is seriously overgrown with trailside brush and small trees. Until some serious trailwork is done, this route should be considered only by those who are looking for new trail and a real challenge.
Riding around the loop counterclockwise, the tech factor gets progressively tougher. The first 3.5 miles is the Mormon Pioneer Trail, and it's relatively easy. The climb isn't too tough and the trail is broad and smooth. You'll be riding in forest of box elder, maple, and oak, with occasional groves of aspen. Elderberry, chokecherry, and fern are found in the understory.

The Mormon Pioneer Trail is the uphill route to Big Mountain Pass. Near the top, giant ferms grow among maples and aspen.

The Great Western (GWT) up Big Mountain is narrow and steep with tight switchbacks -- you'll gain 800 feet in 1 mile. Only the best can ride this without an occasional dab or brief push-a-bike. At the top, look over the valley below you. 

Looking towards Emigration Canyon, we see bushes of serviceberry (hawberry). These provided a tasty treat for a hungry biker!

You're going to ride around the rim of this valley. Any fork that takes you away from the rim is the wrong way. The trail turns north and rolls along the ridge for 2 miles on easy but narrow singletrack, then 2 miles of occasionally rocky doubletrack. You're riding on open wind-swept ridge with occasional groves of aspen. The views in this area are fabulous!

Panoramic 120-degree view as the trails circles the ridgeline from Big Mountain (L)
to where we're standing, then on to Lookout Peak (R). Below us is Mountain Dell Valley.

The GWT singletrack around the north end of the valley is upper-intermediate technical, with occasional short tough sections. Be sure you don't miss the critical turn that takes you up the ridgeline, then over the saddle to the east side of Lookout Peak. Here you'll encounter a mile of very narrow up-and-down technical trail with roots and tree trunks to hop over, while small trees and brush drag at your handlebars. Much fun!
Photo above:  While most of the ride is on exposed ridgeline, you'll slip through groves of trees. On the side of Lookout Peak, there's a long stretch of trees that's pretty rad.
Descending from Lookout Peak requires good rock-surfing skills, as this steep trail is littered with skittery round boulders. Roll over conglomerate outcrops, keep your butt back, and work your brakes carefully. Despite the 1000 ft per mile rate of descent, the trail is very rideable. Intersecting a trail at the top of Killyon Canyon, you turn left to drop down to Affleck Park to complete the loop.

The wind can get pretty intense on the ridgeline. Note the scoured upwind (west) face, with lush downwind side.

Getting there, Pioneer Trail parking area:  On I-80 in Parley's Canyon, take the Little Dell Recreation Area exit. From the exit, drive uphill 4.1 miles, then park on the right side of the road near the outhouse at GPS N 40 47.996' W 111 40.750'. The trail begins on the opposite side of the road, just downhill.

Affleck Park trailhead: Drive another 0.8 miles uphill, then turn left and descend to Affleck Park. Keep right and proceed uphill to the north end of the park, and find the sign indicating the Mormon Pioneer Trail. (The return trail is across the creek.) Subtract 1 mile from the mileage below when riding the trail.

See below for link to printable topo map!

Little Dell trailhead: At mile 2 after exiting the freeway, turn right into the Little Dell recreation area (fee required). Roll down to the trail parking lot near the water. Trail begins paved at GPS N 40 46.622' W 111 41.317', then turns to cinder as you pass close by a picnic table. Add 1.9 to the mileage below. See the Pioneer Trail page for additional details.

For connections to Little Mountain Pass and Killyon Canyon, see the Killyon Canyon Loop page.

Ride Notes, from the roadside Pioneer Trail parking area.
(Your mileage may vary depending on calibration, tire size, and "packing your bike.")
0.0   Parking on R side of road, trail is back down the road on L about 100 feet
        N 40 47.994' W 111 40.755'  Alt 6100
0.2   Faint singletrack joins from L
0.8   Affleck Park, keep L on DT, then R over creek, then L to end of park
1.0   Cindered trail in Affleck Park gives way to dirt
1.9   Cross road
3.5   After three switchbacks, arrive at parking area of Big Mountain Pass
        Go across road to singletrack that climbs hillside (GWT)
        N 40 49.680' W 111 39.227'   Alt 7500
4.5   Trail turns N after climbing Big Mountain, follows ridgeline - alt 8300
6.4   Descend, then keep straight (L) on DT - view into Morgan Canyon
7.9   Fork in DT, keep straight (L) on ridge
8.0   Faint DT joins from L, keep straight
8.1   Great Western (GWT) branches off on L, just below rock outcrop with cave at bottom
        Trail curves around north end of valley, going W
9.5   CRITICAL FORK! After steep descent on loose rock down ridge,
        find faint singletrack forking L, just after trail climbs back into trees.
        (If you turn onto N slope and descend towards valley, you missed it!)
        N 40 51.133' W 111 42.696'  Alt 8400
10.5 Mile of dodge-em riding in tight trees
11.6 Reach ridge on flank of Lookout Peak, view of Emigration Canyon
        Begin steep ridgeline descent in loose rock, then switchback into old fire area
13.6 Trail crosses in clearing, turn L and drop downhill
        N 40 48.668' W 111 41.453'  Alt 6300
14.4 Arrive Affleck Park N 40 48.839' W 111 40.852'
        R on DT, keep R to find ST after gate at 14.6
15.4 Back at parking

Riding resources:
One-page riding guide

GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
   Garmin   GPX    Thanks to Tim Shaw for the GPS track!
Topo maps of trail:  LRes    HRes
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to northern SLC area resources

Copyright 2002 Mad Scientist Software Inc