Epic Ride: Wasatch Traverse

As I left work Friday afternoon I stated “I’m going to take Monday off and take a three day weekend…” I’ve had enough of the glow of my monitor and decided that the planned weekend adventure was going to take three days to finish.

No more than five miles from my office passes a route that I’ve wanted to ride since moving to Utah 10 years prior. Much of the route is defined by The Great Western Trail, a network of loosely connected trails extends the length of the Wasatch Front and beyond. Over two million people call the Wasatch Front home. By most standards, it is a thriving metropolis. It had always intrigued me that a backcountry route of substantial length could exist in such close proximity to that many people.

Wasatch Traverse Great Western Trail

For weeks, Chad and I had been been plotting our route. Searching for and creating GPS tracks and then stitching them together, we planned a route that would follow the Great Western Trail, where possible. If we stuck to the route, we estimated we’d ride 135 miles, 125 of those miles were to be ridden on dirt, almost all of which was singletrack. We had originally planned two days to complete the route, but because we didn’t really know what it would hold, we made a last minute change to a 3 day plan. Would it be overgrown? Maybe much of it would be too steep and loose to ride? We had done all the research we could, but still couldn’t find an answer to these questions, so we’d find out on our own.

We decided to start at Aspen Grove, just East of Provo and a stone’s throw away from Sundance Ski Resort. On the fringe of a Designated Wilderness Area, it’s as close to Mt. Timpanogos as bikes are allowed. Our goal was to summit Ben Lomond Peak, north of Ogden, doing our best to hit the most prominent peaks at the ends of the Salt Lake Valley (like bookends to an awesome adventure.)

We had two rules:  Ride a route that kept us on trail as much as possible.  Absolutely no vehicle transport allowed along the route.  What follows is a day by day report of the route, and what we found, felt, and experienced along the way…


Day 1: Aspen Grove to Big Mountain Pass – 55 Miles, 10,500’ climbing

“Wow, what a nice place to start!” exclaimed Tricia, our shuttle driver as we rolled up to the trail head. She was right, straight in front of us was the broad eastern face of Mount Timpanogos. The sight of snow on the upper slopes had me a be worried. Would our late June start allow enough time for the snow to melt from the higher elevations we were going to pass through? We would soon find out. We started up the trail, planning to meet Trisha for lunch at Brighton Ski Resort, 25 miles later.

The first few miles showed us a steady but ridable climb. We found ourselves gliding through high mountain meadows on our way to Ridge Trail 157, the views constantly changing and becoming more frequent. To our right, we could see Heber City, and occasionally to our Left, the city Provo. Always in sight behind us was Mt. Timpanogos.

 

Wasatch Traverse Day 1

Following a loose, steep, yet short descent, we started up the last pitch to Sunrise Pass above Brighton Ski resort. This is where we would cross over to Big Cottonwood Canyon from American Fork Canyon. The trail was primarily loose and steep, requiring us to hike a bike up many stretches. Along this steep pitch was the first of the snow we would hit, it wasn’t enough to stop us, but did make the route finding a bit of a challenge.

Big Climb on Wasatch Traverse

About an hour after starting up the last pitch, we reached the pass. The view and perspective were stunning. The weather here was cool, even though it was approaching 95 degrees on the valley floor. Things were going very well, despite running about an hour behind schedule.

It was here that we intersected Catherine’s Pass Trail and after a short break to soak in the moment, we started our descent to the base of Brighton Ski Resort. This is a pretty technical descent, but mostly ridable on a good trail bike…in our case it was made a bit slower by patches of snow and heavy foot traffic on a Saturday. But it was enjoyable nonetheless, and we were anxious to rendezvous for lunch.
We were met by not only our Tricia, but my wife and kids as well. They had made the drive up to greet us. After eating a gourmet lunch, we started up toward Guardsman Pass to the Crest Connector Trail. Once on the Crest Trail we enjoyed sweeping single track that trended down for miles, and views of both Park City and the Cottonwood Canyons.

We connected with Tricia once again at Jeremy Ranch, and after some snacks, we headed down the Jeremy Ranch Road for a few miles before turning left up Mormon Trail. This trail was a pleasant surprise, a steady climb through moderately technical terrain that was all ridable. Along the way we were forced to wait for a moose as he meandered across the trail and up the side of the valley.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Tricia surprised us with boxes of fresh french fries she had picked up on her way through town.
Tricia surprised us with boxes of fresh, salty hand cut french fries she had picked up on her way through town.

We met and camped just down the road from Big Mountain for the night.  Cheers and Beers were in order as we watched the sunset over Salt Lake City in the distance. It had been an excellent day of riding some of the most beautiful single track we had ever seen. And although being so close to a metro area, we felt completed isolated.


Day 2: Big Mountain Pass to Ogden – 55 Miles, 8,500’ climbing

Day 2 Route
The unknown. This was the day that we were most worried about before the ride. The section of trail that was hard to find GPS tracks and reports for. Armed with a 15 year old mountain bike trail book, we had determined that it MAY be steep, it MAY be overgrown, but at least it would be passable as a through route. We started the first brutally steep pitch and tired legs begged for mercy; we were on our way into the unknown.

It all started out well, the trail was passable, and even enjoyable. There were short sections of hike a bike that were steep and loose, but the views were amazing. To our right, the town of Morgan, and to our left, occasional glimpses of Salt Lake City. The weather was cool.

Then we hit it, the nearly invisible intersection that takes the Great Western Trail away from the Big Mountain Trail. We actually rode right passed it. It was so overgrown that it was barely visible through the thick brush.

“I think we’re off route!”, Chad exclaimed from behind. Thankfully he had uploaded our planned route onto his GPS unit prior to leaving, and it saved us from taking a huge detour.

Wasatch Traverse Day 2

We returned to the intersection we had missed, and started into the brush. After hiking a steep 1/2 mile descent through thick brush, then about 3/4 mile up the other side of a ravine, we found ourselves back on what appeared to be a rarely used ATV Trail…a sign for the Great Western Trail confirmed we were on the right path.

The next few miles was combination of rarely used ATV trail and backcountry single track with sweeping views in every direction. Chad whooped and hollered as we ripped down a high alpine descent toward a dirt road that is known as Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive traverses a few miles of the ridgeline above the cities of Farmington and Woods Cross. Views of The Great Salt Lake far below were spectacular, and we made good time. As we got closer to Farmington Canyon, ATV traffic picked up, and as we descended to Farmington it got warmer and warmer. We still had miles to go, and we were beginning to get concerned that the heat and sun exposure once we got to Farmington could cut our day short.

We met Tricia for what was once again a fantastic lunch, as we sat in the shade of a tree at a Park in Farmington. The contrast in temperatures from the Great Western Trail high atop the ridgeline to the valley was shocking…at this point I realized I was not looking forward to the next few hours as we were to ride along fragments of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in 95 degree heat and direct sunshine.

We started off after lunch and to be honest, struggled to find the best route without riding road. There were unexpected property lines that forced us to double back in certain locations. There were sections of great trail along this portion of the route, but it broken up so much that it makes it challenging to find a through route.

This all changed once we passed under I-84 in South Ogden and started up Beus Canyon Trail. This section was getting close to home, and it was on trails that we’ve ridden hundreds of times. Despite having ridden 45 miles and thousands of feet of climbing on the day, our legs were coming back to us. We bobbed and weaved down the well designed and maintained single track as we approached my back yard, where we would meet some friends and cook out to recharge for the third big day. A fitting end to a challenging day.


Day 3: Ogden to North Fork Park, via Ben Lomond Peak – 30 miles, 5,500’ climbing

Wasatch Traverse Route

I must say that I feel fortunate to live along this spectacular route. We woke up early, enjoyed some fresh brewed coffee and breakfast, then headed out from the back yard and on our way. After 5 minutes of riding, the Ben Lomond summit came into direct view. It was close, but it towered 5,000 feet above us. Despite this being the shortest day, we know that the fatigue of the two days prior could could make this the most physically challenging of the three days.

A few miles into the ride, we started the continuous grade up to North Ogden Divide and the Ben Lomond Trail, it took our toll on us and despite being able to ride the entire route for the day, progress was slow. “Yeah, I’m not feeling my best today…” Chad stated as we stopped for a snack at North Ogden Divide. I concurred. We admitted though, that it was welcoming to ascend back into the cool high altitude air we had enjoyed for the majority of the first two days, we settled into a comfortable pace and took many pictures knowing the end of our journey was near.

Wasatch Traverse Day 3

We’ve ridden from Ogden to Ben Lomond Peak many times, and every time I’m reminded why this is my favorite ride from Ogden. After many miles of fairly loose trail, we crested the ridgeline…from here you can observe the Wasatch Front all the way to Salt Lake city, 60 miles to the south. The trail levels out and is fast and flowy, the air is cool. On this occasion, like many others, we were greeted by a herd of mountain goats as we neared the summit.

The first couple of miles back to North Fork Park on the Ben Lomond trail are simply amazing, it is sweeping and beautiful. As we approached the park though, the hundred year old Cutler Ridge trail became steep, loose and heavily rutted. It was challenging, especially at our level of fatigue.

We popped out at trailhead to see the van…the ride was done, we had completed a route from Aspen Grove to North Fork Park. All while riding under 15 miles of road. The day again finished with a beer and a high five.

Parting Thoughts

When all was said and done, we had ridden 140 miles and climbed 25,000 feet. It turns out we did need three days to complete the route at a relaxed pace.

Wasatch Traverse Day Ben Lomond

Views along the entire route were incredible and we discovered trails we would like to go back to ride in the future. It is an amazing route and well worth the effort.

Do we think you should take on this route? Yes, we recommend it, but it’s ultimately up to you. We have have posted the detailed route and notes here, so that you can create your own Wasatch Traverse mountain bike adventure.


For more photo inspiration hit up the Wasatch Traverse Photo Bomb here!


 [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Share:

Leave a comment.

Social Media

Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.
On Key

Related Posts

Review: Endura MT500 Burner Clipless Shoe

Endura may not be a name you think of when shoe shopping — yet. This Scottish based company with a strong sustainability plan is best known for its mountain bike apparel right now.