Twisted Forest Trail
The Twisted Forest evokes childhood fairy tales of foreboding woodlands where spell-bound country folk spent eternity. This Twisted Forest, on the contrary, is open, sunny, brightly colored, and welcomes curious travelers. Twisted it is because the forest harbors large communities of bristlecone pines, which are believed to be the oldest living organisms on earth. Some have been estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Although bristlecones appear arthritic and feeble--with tangled roots sprawled across the crumbly limestone substrate, contorted limbs curled into spirals, and bark that is more weathered than a pioneer barn--they are sturdy and stoic. Hug one and feel its time-worn energy.
The 12-mile ride (out-and-back) to the Twisted Forest is ideal for novice bikers and follows hard-packed dirt roads throughout. Stronger riders can tack on a few extra miles to reach High Mountain and a magnificent overlook of Cedar Breaks National Monument. But you will encounter one unbearably steep hill near the ride's start and subsequently at the ride's end. It's unavoidable, but short, so if you can't pedal up it's a short walk. The remainder rolls gently through dense aspen groves underlain with a palate of wildflowers.
Head out from Brian Head Cross Country Bike Shop in the Cedar Breaks Lodge and descend the paved highway (UT 143) a few hundred yards. Turn left on Aspen Drive, bend right, struggle up the gravelly hill, and then careen down the other side. At a T junction with the Dry Lakes Road, turn left and follow the dirt road about 2 miles to the turnoff for Twisted Forest. You must walk through the Twisted Forest because it is part of the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness (bike are not allowed). There's not much of a trail to follow--you're free to wander where you please. But if you set your sights at east by southeast and your pedometer for about one-half mile, you'll reach a cliff-edge viewing deck of Cedar Breaks.
But don't be content here. Pedal out the main dirt road another mile, fork left on a rutted jeep road, and climb gently through the aspens to High Mountain and an equally-sublime panorama.
Evening is the best time to ride to Twisted Forest when the setting sun illuminates Cedar Breaks. But be sure to estimate your return ride so you don't get stuck in the dark.
By Gregg Bromka, author of The Mountain Biker's Guide to Utah.
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