Top 5 Mountain Biking Trails in Northern Utah
Jul 19, 2017
By: Jake Wilhelmsen
I mean, yeah. We heard there’s some okay mountain biking in southern Utah. But say you’re allergic to sandstone. Say you have an ex in Moab you reeeeeally don’t want to run into. Or maybe it’s the middle of summer and the cool green shade of a northern canyon sounds preferable to a sun-bleached red rock bluff.
Lots of people load up their bike racks and pilgrimage to the orange half of the state, but don’t sleep on northern Utah’s trails. It’s a different genre of mountain biking that carries you through forests and creeks, up mountains and around lakes. There’s less technical riding than on the slickrock rides down south; more oh-hey-I-live-in-a-state-with-a-dozen-massive-ski-resorts-I-wonder-if-there’s-anything-to-do-up-there-in-the-summer?
5. Soapstone Basin Trail
16 miles • 4/10 difficulty
A nice ride if you want to get a good calorie burn but don’t see what all the singletrack fuss is about. Think of it as a backcountry tour of the Uinta Mountains’ foothills, with an optional 3-mile spur to a Duchesne River Valley overlook. Cruise around the fire roads at the right time and it’ll get downright epicurean with all the wildflowers. If you’re there in September or October, wear your orange jersey and maybe leave that gag deer-antler helmet at home.
9.2 miles • 5/10 difficulty
This trail’s the outlier of the group in terms of scenery, because Antelope Island itself — which isn’t actually an island — is sort of an outlier. Where else in the world are you going to find a jagged crest rising 2,400 feet out of a saline dreamscape? And who would think a blasted, treeless, downright funky mountain like this would also be so beautiful?
There are a half-dozen trails you can ride, but we like the one that goes south from White Rock Bay, climbs up to Frary Peak and loops back north then west. Mostly double-track dirt trail with some sandy and rocky sections. Listen for the chucker partridges chattering in the hillside and, if you’re lucky, ride near/through/as fast as you can away from a herd of bison.
The biting gnats are hellish in April and June (but only if you stop riding!). Watch out for sticker weeds in late summer. Antelope Island doesn’t let you forget you’re riding on its terms. But that’s part of the draw.
3. Wheeler Creek Trail (Ogden)
10 miles • 6/10 difficulty
This is a lovely little trail through the forest, like where Little Red might go if her riding hood were a bike helmet and she was delivering Clif Bars and GU packets instead of baked goods. The first 1.8 miles is a steady climb through the pines on graded double-track before you take a right (west) toward Maples Camp where it opens up into singletrack through aspens and oak brush near the bottom of Snowbasin. Take the 1-mile shortcut back through Icebox Canyon for some technical fun. Very few wolf sightings have been reported, big bad or otherwise.
2. Northern Skyline Trail (Ogden)
13 miles / 12.6 miles / 20 miles • 8/10 difficulty
This one’s for all you social (or solitary) climbers out there. There are a few ways to ride it — a 13-mile out-and-back from North Ogden Divide trailhead to Ben Lomond, a 12.6-mile shuttle-served point-to-point or a 20-mile loop — but regardless of your route you’re going to suffer up some monstrous hills. You’re riding ridges between various peaks so both impressive panoramic views and exciting cliffside singletrack come standard. We rated it 8/10 for difficulty because it’s not terribly technical, though it’s devastating on the lungs and legs. Perfect for that particular brand of masochism that appears with disproportionate frequency in the mountain biking community.
11.4 miles • 7/10 difficulty
And don’t forget about Logan! No seriously, this ride would be fantastic even if it didn’t lead to a 3,000-year-old juniper. You have to climb nearly 2,000 vertical feet in Logan Canyon to kneel at the root of this wise sage(brush) (ha!) (we know juniper isn’t a sagebrush, but come on, that’s funny), but the horizontal part makes it a pleasure. Traverse meadows, cross bridges and navigate switchbacks through ascending biomes on this flowy trail in cheesy Cache Valley. You come out of the trees at the top with a view of Cache Valley so delicious it’s almost cheesy.