More than a century ago, Major John Wesley Powell embarked on his historic expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers, which culminated with the first documented voyage through the Grand Canyon. His journey began near present day Flaming Gorge, which Powell named for its brilliant red cliffs that curve down to the water's edge. Flaming Gorge Reservoir now fills the bottom of the glaring canyon and is a haven for boaters and anglers. Recently, mountain bikers have begun flocking to the canyon's rim and nearby Uinta Mountains to pursue the region's newly developed trails network.
The 10-mile Dowd Mountain Loop is a fine introduction to the area and is ideal for novice to intermediate bikers. The undaunting loop passes through woodlands populated with mighty ponderosa pines and slender lodgepole pines and clips the edge of cliffs that drop 1,700 feet to the reservoir's emerald pool. In the distance, the Uinta Mountain's forested slopes rise to lofty elevations and Wyoming's prairie lands sprawl to the horizon.
Your ride begins on hand-built singletrack that rises gently through peaceful woods blanketed with alpine sage and wildflowers. Then a series of jeep roads undulate through the open forest and lead to the overlook of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. A combination of singletrack and jeep roads circle back to the trailhead, but a mile from the end the trail rolls over numerous earthen berms. Many are worthy of catching a little "air time."
Advanced riders can add several miles to the loop by following the Hideout Trail down to the reservoir's edge then back up to the rim. The climb out is steep and rigorous, but the prospect of plunging in the lake's chilly water makes the endeavor worth while.
The trailhead is opposite the Dowd Spring Picnic Area, located 14 miles south of Manila or 54 miles north of Vernal on UT 44.
By Gregg Bromka, author of The Mountain Biker's Guide to Utah.
For information on attractions near the Dowd Mountain area:
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