Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pine Valley, Shingle Creek, Utah

Reasonably easy trail in the western Uinta Mountains, about 6 miles east of Kamas. Compared to other trails in the area, it's free of snow fairly early in the season.  In June, some deep mud pockets can persist. It is recommended for Spring and Fall riding when the higher elevations are inaccessible due to snow. Once you leave the Beaver Creek portion for the Pine Valley Trail, it gets more open and rocky.  There are other trails in the area.  I just haven't ridden them yet.

A string of beaver ponds within the first half mile of trail. Best parts of the trail here! This is actually called the "Beaver Creek" trail. Beaver Creek joins Shingle Creek further south.

Directions from Kamas, Utah

Close up of the parking area at the trailhead.  There is room for about 3 trailer rigs if not too many cars. There is a rest room. 
7.65 miles up to ridge and back.  Min Altitude=7,326'; Max Altitude=7,579'.  Ascent/Descent=633'; Trail conditions=75% dirt, 3% mud, the rest is gravelly and rocky.  A barefoot horse in reasonably good condition can handle it fine. Tender footed horses need boots or shoes for the rocky parts.

Take this turn off up to the Pine Valley trail.

Some muddy spots.

A couple of nice meadows and open spots.

About 2.7 miles in there is a gate.  On the other side are cattle.

Gorgeous views of Pine Valley.

Typical of the trail up on the ridge.

The "Top".  There is where I would recommend turning around.  The trail goes further down to State Highway 35, taking about another 2 miles.  Not sure what that part is like.  My guess is dry and open.

Again, typical of the rocky parts of the trail.

Nice views back towards the Uintas and Haystack Mountain in the far distance.

Typical of the dirt parts of the trail.

Beaver ponds on the way back to the trail head.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bench Creek, Woodland, Utah

Some of the "Bev Doolittle" forest on the Red Pine road.  This is a "side trip" from the regular loop.  N40 49.343  W111 20.080   Definitely worth seeing at least once.  "Magical"  Photo courtesy of Nancy Gray.

(Updated August 4, 2016) There are quite a few trails from this unmarked trailhead, which is approximately 1 hour 40 minutes from Ogden, Utah.  The most common way to ride is a loop encompassing the Little South Fork road, Camp Hollow trail and Bench Creek trail.  The complete loop is about 13-15 miles depending on which route taken.  I recommend riding UP the Bench Creek trail. (It is gorgeous. There are almost 2 miles of riding through tall evergreen forests.) Make a 7 mile ride by turning back at the stream crossing just before the sandstone scramble.  If you REALLY want a long ride, take the switchbacks up the ridge, cross the dirt road and go down Camp Hollow.  For a mid-size adventure, just ride to the Red Pine dirt road, have lunch in one of the groves of trees, then go back down Bench Creek. (We did this on August 4, 2016 and FINALLY found the correct trail to descend from Camp Hollow to Bench Creek on a REAL trail and not having to bush whack down a steep hill in the middle of a forest full of deadfall.)  We did run into a herd of sheep about half way up the Bench Creek trail.  They were noisy and kicked up a lot of dust.  There was a fierce guard dog, but he mostly just barked and did not attack.

(Click on any photo to open enlarged images.)
Complete loop ridden on July 23, 2015.  Mileage=15.5; Minimum altitude=7,096'; Maximum altitude=8,904'; Ascent/descent=2,550'; Trail conditions:  Bench Creek and Camp Hollow portions are 70% dirt, 29% rocky, 1% water features; The Little South Fork road is soft dirt with numerous rocks.  Boots or shoes are recommended for horses on the upper trails unless their feet are in good condition and used to rocks. 

Google directions to Francis, Utah, then travel to Woodland (about 3.9 miles)
Woodland is circled.  The arrow is where you turn off onto Bench Creek Road after about 3.4 miles from the Woodland intersection.  THERE ARE NO SIGNS.  The turn off looks like someone's driveway.  The key feature is a railroad tie fence shown in the photo below.
The turn off FROM Bench Creek Road, which is about 3.3 miles from the turn off.
These are two parking options.  The first one requires a longer ride on a dirt road. (As of August, 2016, that part of the dirt road between parking areas is really rutted and bumpy.)  The second doesn't have as much space, but is nicer and closer to the trailhead.

Road from the first parking area.

Showing the second parking area, which is right by the Bench Creek trailhead.

The blue track shows our actual route on July 23, 2015.  The yellow track shows the real trail that we should have taken.   The pink track is the track we took on July 11, 2015 from Camp Hollow over to Red Pine Road and then dropped down another steep, forested area to connect with the Bench Creek Trail. (not the easiest way, not recommended.)

Bench Creek Trailhead:  No signs. N40 32.309 W111 11.322 

Riding clockwise on the Little South Fork Road. This goes on for over 5 miles...and on and on.  Good if you've got company riding and can canter or gait over stretches of it.  REALLY tiresome if it's at the end of the ride and your horses have sore feet.. 

Beaver Pond on Little South Fork road at about 4.5 miles in.

Beginning of the Camp Hollow Trail, 5.2 miles in from the first parking lot on the Little South Fork road.  If you are heading the direction in the photo, it is 3.7 miles to the connector trail to Red Pine.

Camp Hollow Trail going clockwise.  Yes, it's beautiful, but be prepared for LOTS of Canadian thistle that grabs at your legs for several miles.  Thick jeans or chaps are helpful here.  There is also an abundance of stinging nettle in the damper places.

Meadow on Camp Hollow Trail

Meeting up with a biker on Camp Hollow Trail. Lots of springs on the trail.  This muddy spot looks pretty much permanent.

Camp Hollow trail typical scenery...aspens, evergreens, lush green.

Camp Hollow trail on July 11, 2015 where we bushwhacked up the ridge to the Red Pine Double Track Road.  On a subsequent trip, I found this was avoidable by riding further up the Camp Hollow trail another .6 mile.  This is about 3.1 miles up the trail.  Not too bad to go up. (a "short cut" that cuts about a mile off the total clockwise trip. However, it also cuts off some of the most beautiful scenery and best parts of the Camp Hollow trail!)

Heading UP the Bench Creek Trail.  Gorgeous!  Love this part of the trail, especially in the early morning. There are close to 2 miles of this heavenly forested trail.

View from the Bench Creek Trail as it opens up.

Looking down the canyon from Bench Creek Trail.

Critical junction on Bench Creek. About 3.3 miles from the trailhead. This is the creek crossing which heads up the Sandstone Scramble.  N40 30.092 W111 12.438  
This shows the bottom of the "Sandstone Scramble". Then you'll scramble up over some rough sandstone outcrops.   We had no problem going up it, but chose to dismount and walk on our way down.  Not necessary, but we were cautious. This year the trail is well marked and there is little chance of taking a wrong turn up the hillside like we did last year. The key is to stay along that hillside heading south until the "proper" sharp left up some switchbacks.   

After about 1 mile, you will come to a trail that turns sharply left.  There is a small sign that says "Trail" and has an arrow.  This is the correct way to access the switchbacks and trail up the ridge.  If you follow the trail that continues straight south in the hollow, you come upon private property, no trespassing. There is a lot of deadfall on the trail, but nothing that you can't go over or around with a horse.

Keep going on this obvious trail for about 1/3 mile until you reach a 4 way trail intersection.  Take the trail that cuts right. The one going straight just disappears.  The one going left connects to the Red Pine Road higher up (I think.  We will take that on a subsequent trip and find out where it goes.) This part of the trail meanders across the ridge for about 3/4 mile before reaching the Red Pine Road at the point shown in the photos below.

This is last year's photo where the Bench Creek trail connects with the Red Pine Road...right across from the photo further down. So faint you would think it was a game trail at best.  I didn't know for sure when I took this photo that this was REALLY the right trail, so didn't dare head down it. Now I know it is the right trail.   N40 29.000 W111 12.271.
This is the same place as the photo above, but this year (2016).  Somehow a log found its way across the trail and unless you KNEW this was the place for the trail, it doesn't look like one at all.  BUT, THIS IS THE WAY DOWN TO BENCH CREEK WITHOUT HAVING TO BUSHWHACK.   Go around the log and you will see the faint trail.  Once it gets in the trees, it is much better and really is a trail.
This is a shot of the trail connecting Red Pine Road with Bench Creek, before it drops down into the switchbacks.

We found this key point on the Red Pine road.  It doesn't look like a real trail until it crosses the meadow.  It looks like a game trail with the grass mashed down. If you are coming UP from Bench Creek it is right across the road and very easy to find.

The connector trail from Red Pine to Camp Hollow.  Basically a flatlander trail with a slight hill down.

This is where the connector trail joins the Camp Hollow trail.  It is only about .3 mile. Stream crossing here enough for a drink for the horse.   N40 28.720 W111 12.085

Heading DOWN the upper Camp Hollow Trail.

Heading DOWN the Camp Hollow Trail. (There is a trail marker stick there on the left.)  This is just before a downhill swerve to the left back to the stream.

Heading DOWN the Camp Hollow Trail.  One of the large meadows.