Friday, October 18, 2013

Monte Cristo, Utah, Sugar Pine

Nothing like a forced cattle drive.  We really didn't want those cattle on our trail.  They just kicked up a lot of dust.
 There are no directions anywhere on the internet. The trail is flagged in many places.  I know the Backcountry Horsemen did some serious work on this trail in 2016, so hopefully it is better than it was in 2013. Here are driving directions to the parking area.  Just googlemap "Monte Cristo Campground".  I have added GPS (approximate) coordinates.  

  It is the next right turn after the campground.  It kind of sneaks up on you.

This shows the parking area which is at 41.464054, 111.493926 and the beginning of the trail.

View of parking area from the trail
Trailhead parking

After finding a parking spot, ride(follow) the road for about 1/4 mile where you will see a gate in the fence to the left. 

Gate to enter the trail.
 Go through the gate, shut it, then go northeast around the stand of trees, following the trail which then is pretty well marked heading southeast.

Looking at the trailhead parking, after going through the gate.

 Drop down into the canyon and follow the trail.  

The next critical junction I call the "cattle water spot".  Obvious water troughs and maybe cattle.

 Keep following the trail east.  You might notice a trail going up a hill south.  This is important because it's the way you will come out.  41.453057, 111.472798.

The next critical turn off is at "White Pine Hollow".  41.450050, 111.440877.  Turn west (right) up this hollow and follow the trail. This a good place to turn around if you just want to do a simple out and back. No guide is necessary for this shortened version. There's a lunch spot in the area just to the left in the photo below.
Looking up White Pine Hollow

The next turn off is the one we missed.  The approximate coordinates are 41.437790, 111.459036.  Watch for trail markers.  Trail goes up a ridge.

Once on top of the ridge, ride along a fence line which follows "Dairy Ridge Road" for about a mile.  The next critical turn off is approximately 41.435667, 111.478754.  Turn away from the fence and ride into a meadow area. 

Meadow area near Dairy Ridge Road. This is our first ride on this trail in 2011.  Back when I had "Spirit", a Missouri Fox Trotter.  
 Then ride north out of that area.  Next CRITICAL turn is at approximately 41.438583, 111.485284.  Turn left into another wooded area.  Because of cattle covering the trail, we made the mistake of turning east here along the creek, which eventually hooked into the real trail, but the other way is better.

Next turn off is at 41.441337, 111.487447.  Turn RIGHT onto the road.  Again, we made the mistake of turning left here.  Follow the road, it turns south and FEELS like you're going the wrong way, but just around a ridge.  Turn left sharply at about 41.447470, 111.473160.  That trail should take you back to the cattle water trough.  

This is isn't the ONLY way to ride it, but seems like the best and the way we will ride it next time.  (If there is a next time.  For an additional 20-30 minute drive time, we could be in the Uintas!)

(click on any photo to open enlarged images.)

Long version:  Total distance of taking the correct trail: About 9 miles.  The blue is our riding route, which ended up being over 13 miles.  The Yellow is where we should have ridden.

Short version...out and back, about 7.5 miles. Maximum altitude: 8,859 ft; Ascent:/descent: 1,650 ft; Trail conditions: Dirt, 80%, Rocky 15%, Log crossings, 5%, Dust from cattle, 30%

Some gorgeous vistas.

beautiful forests

  In 2013, we thought we would have no problem finding the way.   All went well until we reached about 6 miles, just after we stopped for lunch.  Our first missed turn off wasn't too serious.  We found ourselves in some heavy brush and doing some bushwacking. 

 After about 15 minutes, we found the trail again and proceeded past familiar places. We missed another turn off which took us down a creek bed that was totally unfamiliar.  I knew we had never been that way before.  However, that way did intersect with the correct trail, but we missed it and after some more serious bushwacking, we found the trail.  Yay, but we didn't realize we were now going the wrong direction.  After a little while, we realized we were definitely going the wrong way.  We checked the GPS and knew where we were, but didn't know how to get to where we wanted to go.  We thought, this road must intersect with the main road.  We kept riding and riding and getting closer to the main road.  We could even hear the traffic.  Then we came to a cattle guard that was way around it, so we followed the fence line, thinking there has to be a gate.  There were several old gates, but they were so boarded up, they couldn't be opened.

 Kept going.  Could see the road, but couldn't get over the fence.  The terrain got really rough and we determined we must cross the fence.  Bob began taking down posts and hoping we could somehow cross the barb wire.  I happened to see some boards and thought they could be used to put over the wire.    Eventually, we got the horses to walk over the board onto the other side of the fence and we put it back together. 

 We rode up to the road and followed it for another 3 miles up to the trailhead parking.  Our little detour had added at least 4 extra miles.  After getting home and looking at our tracks on GPS, I saw where we should have gone.  Wow, what an adventure.  Some other friends of ours got lost on this trail and ended up in the darkness.  Please do not attempt this longer loop trail without a guide! (or at least a GPS where you can mark waypoints). Also recommend water and at least a headlamp or flashlight....just in case.

Place where we had to cross a barbed wire fence.  


  1. Could you provide directions to the trailhead as well as the trail itself? A guide isn't possible for us and we'd like to ride this trail this weekend. I can't find details from the GPS info you posted. Thank you!!

  2. Could you provide directions to the trailhead as well as the trail itself? A guide isn't possible for us and we'd like to ride this trail this weekend. I can't find details from the GPS info you posted. Thank you!!