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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Several local trails make for some amazing mountain biking, and some of them get even better with fall colors as a backdrop to the experience.
Here is a look at some of the biking trails that offer the best fall colors in Utah.
The Wasatch Crest Trail is a bucket-list item for many Wasatch Front mountain bikers and fall is an excellent time to do it, as you get a front seat to some spectacular foliage.
Wasatch Crest is a popular high-altitude favorite that begins at the summit of Guardsman Pass at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon and covers the ridge between Cottonwood Canyon and Park City before descending into Mill Creek Canyon. Getting there can be done a number of ways, but the most popular is to leave a vehicle at the Mill Creek Canyon parking lot and then drive to the top of Guardsman Pass with a friend and leave another vehicle or to use a shuttle service.
The ride begins by heading north from the road, where you’ll soon be greeted by a stout climb known as "Puke Hill." Enjoy the views at the top of the climb, nearly 10,000 feet in elevation, then continue along as the doubletrack turns in singletrack.
Next, "The Spine" will greet riders with a technical section which can have some consequences if you aren't careful, so ride at your comfort level and walk if you are uncertain. Keep right at the fork after "The Spine," heading onto the Mill Creek Canyon Trail. Don’t take the Connector to Park City, though that does open up many more miles of trail options — most of which lead into Park City. Instead, head down to your second shuttle vehicle at the Mill Creek Canyon parking lot. Note that parts of the trail are only open on even calendar days.
This ride is intermediate to advanced technical and requires advanced-fitness level sections due to the high altitude.
Jardine Juniper near Logan is another good option for viewing fall colors via bike. This ride has a lollipop (out-and-back) option at the top and two ways to get to the terminus. The climb is steady with some technical sections at the bottom.
Drive past the Utah State University campus and head east toward Bear Lake on Highway 89. When you about 10 miles up Logan Canyon, take the Wood Camp turnoff to the north and drive .1 miles to the Jardine Juniper Trailhead.
As you approach the first switchback, your climbing will be rewarded with amazing views of Logan Canyon and the trailhead far below. After a few more switchbacks and a short descent into a small valley, you’ll make the final climb toward the Jardine Juniper Tree.
The lollipop begins at the sign indicating "shady" and "sunny." I prefer the sunny route, which takes you counterclockwise and ends with the option to hike down to the nearly 3,000-year-old tree.
The shady portion of the trail will reward you with flows and turns as you make your way back to the intersection of the main trail. From there, enjoy the nearly 2,000-foot descent you earned on the way up. The trail flows nicely and stays smooth until the lower switchback, where you’re back into the rocks.
The ride is intermediate technical and requires an intermediate fitness level. It includes enough technical sections and exposed singletrack to keep a rider paying attention.
The White Pine Lake Trail begins at Tony Grove Lake, a destination in itself for camping and fishing. The lake and campground can be reached by driving west along Frontage Road 003, off of Highway 89.
This popular Logan Canyon trail begins with some steep and technical climbing, which often results in the rider having to carry their bike through some sections.
Tony Grove is accessed by Logan Canyon about 30 miles east of Logan on Highway 89.
A couple of miles in, you reach the high point of the trail at 8,000 feet. On a bike, it’s a demanding descent to White Pine Lake. Don’t take the descent for granted, as there are lots of embedded boulders and cascading sections of trail which will either make riders nervous or rejoice, depending upon your skills and riding style.
From here, the trail intersects the Bunchgrass Trail and the beginning of a long descent. The descent includes everything from cantaloupe-sized rocks and a few river crossings, to fast, downhill sections through trees and meadows.
The trail has recently been reworked with much of the lower section being freshly cut and graded. It looks like it’s been designed with mountain biking in mind, which should translate into some stellar descending by next summer.
You can either ride down to the finish at White Pine Lake if you have a shuttle waiting or you can climb the 7 miles on the paved road back up to Tony Grove.
Make a day trip of it and enjoy some good food in Bear Lake or Logan, and notch one of the must-ride trails in Utah off your list.
This trail is quite difficult, as it is steep and long.
What is your favorite trail to see Utah's fall colors? Let us know in the comments.
Kory Pitcher is a lifelong Utah resident and graduate of Utah State University. Preferred habitat is the desert rocks and sand of Southern Utah. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org