Ridge Trail 157
Ridge Trail 157 is the alter ego to the Salt Lake City area's Wasatch Crest Trail. Like the Wasatch Crest, Ridge Trail 157 is a world-class single-track located in the heart of the Wasatch Range. It requires strong legs and acclimated lungs to tackle the numerous climbs, and it calls for advanced riding skills to handle the technical descents. And like the Wasatch Crest Trail, Ridge Trail 157 is part of the longer Great Western Trail, which runs from Canada to Mexico--right through the middle of Utah. Ridge Trail 157 excels in mountain scenery, too. The Alpine Ridge, which connects the Lone Peak Wilderness Area with Snowbird Resort and Alta Ski Area, defines the ragged northern skyline. As the ride progresses and the Alpine Ridge recedes to the north, Mount Timpanogos strikes a noble pose to the south, declaring its presence as the uncontested monarch of American Fork Canyon.
Ridge Trail 157 begins at Pole Line Pass, which separates American Fork Canyon from Snake Creek Canyon and Utah Valley from Heber Valley. The trail heads due south as singletrack and welcomes you with a short grueling climb followed by a tricky little descent through sand and rock. You'll wonder why you bothered to venture this far from civilization. But raise your eyes from the trail and you'll remember why. The Alpine Ridge to the north and Box Elder Peak due west rise high above timberline as bald, rough-cut summits breaking the 11,000-foot mark. Such alpine splendor cleanses your soul of the rigors of urban lifestyles.
For miles, the narrow path, at times barely as wide as your tires, hugs the high slopes of Mill Canyon Peak, which rises overhead to 10,000 feet plus. The trail undulates, rising and falling slightly, while passing through groves of aspens. Invariably, a small bouquet of wildflowers will collect on your bar ends as they can grow chest high and slap at your side. Far below, a swath of aspens has been bowled down by winter avalanches and resembles the blast zone of Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of the northwest.
Shortly past the Forest Lake Trail junction, the path rises up a short, unbearable hill to a divide. Wham! You're slapped with a face-full of Mount Timpanogos, which rises to 11,750 feet. Long ago, glaciers carved a series of hanging bowls into the mountain's six-mile long, razor sharp summit. A small snow field, about the size of a football field, struggles to survive the summer above Emerald Lake. It is the last remaining permanent snow field in the Wasatch Range. Beyond Rock Spring,the path descends, steeply at times, to Mill Canyon Spring. The 5 miles of trail that remain roll along the subdued ridge through thick trees and across flower-endowed meadows. Timpanogos is your constant companion and reels you in to the trailhead at the summit of the Alpine Scenic Loop Highway.
This 14-mile ride requires a vehicle shuttle and is geared for advanced bikers. Park one vehicle at the Alpine Scenic Loop's summit. Drive the second back downhill then up to Tibble Fork Reservoir. Continue on the all weather dirt road about 5 miles up American Fork to where the road crosses the river. Park here and begin the ride with a 3-mile climb to Pole Line Pass, following signs for Wasatch Mountain State Park and Midway.
American Fork Canyon is a haven for recreationists. Technical rock climbers trust handholds in the canyon's charcoal-gray limestone, anglers cast flies into mountain streams and alpine reservoirs, and hikers and horseback riders log many miles on trails both in and out of the Lone Peak Wilderness. Tourists flock to Timpanogos Cave National Monument for the guided walk along miles of the mountain's underground caverns.
By Gregg Bromka, author of The Mountain Biker's Guide to Utah.
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