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View north to Box Elder Peak and Pfeifer Horn.

Deer Creek South Fork Loop

This classic 6.6-mile singletrack loop is great fun, and not too tricky. Like the Timpooneke Loop and the Tibble Fork Loop, this trail uses a portion of Ridge Trail 157 as its middle section. There's about 1200 vertical feet of elevation gain for the entire loop. Some South Fork portions of the trail are narrow with elevated sidewalls, requiring good bike handling. The Ridge Trail portion is wide and well-traveled, but is the toughest part of the ride..

View north from the first section of the South Fork trail. Beginning elevation is 6900 feet. Original review and photos October 2, 1999 by Bruce. Latest update August 18, 2018.

 

There are two trailheads for the loop itself:  the Alpine Loop summit trailhead and Elk Glen (a primitive camp that connects to the loop via a short spur).

Many riders make the loop a lariat by starting from trailheads at Timpooneke, Salamander Flat, or Pine Hollow, then pedaling uphill to the loop.

View of the trail as it skirts a meadow on the way to the Alpine Loop summit. Some spots have sunken narrow trail, requiring good handlebar action to keep on track. October 2, 1999

A trip down memory lane! Riding DCSF in 2002 with Jackie...

Many riders begin the ride from Elk Glen on the Cascade Springs Road in the North Fork of Provo Canyon. That way, you complete 1.75 miles of steady uphill right away. Beginning from the Elk Glen (aka Elk Camp) parking area on the south side of the road, ride uphill 1/4 mile and join the DCSF trail. Keep straight and uphill. The narrow singletrack trail climbs gently, passing through meadows between aspen and pine.

 Heading uphill from Elk Glen.

Deer Creek South Fork uphill

Watch for deer and moose, especially in early morning or late evening. As you climb uphill from Elk Glen, you'll pass through three meadows.

This area tends to be relatively more wet than other trails in American Fork Canyon. If you encounter mud, turn around and find somewhere else to ride. 

Much of the climb is smooth ribbon winding through the aspens.

When you reach a gravel road, look for the continuing trail straight ahead. You'll come out on the Alpine Loop paved road, right at the intersection with the Cascade Springs road. Straight ahead across the road is the continuation of the Deer Creek South Fork trail.

Climb up to a trail fork and turn right. (To the left is the Lame Horse trail. It descends to Aspen Grove.)  1/10th mile later, you'll arrive at the Alpine Loop summit parking area.

Almost to the top. The moisture and rich soil in this area results in tall ferns and huge berry bushes.

Ridge 157 Trail

Veer to the right in the paved circle at the trailhead. Take the trail near the entry road, on your right, marked by an official trail sign. Pedal 60 feet, then cross the Alpine Loop road to the Ridge 157 trail.

On the Ridge trail, you'll reach the ride's highest elevation of 8100 feet.

Portions of the Ridge trail are bumpy.

The ridgeline is the remains of a col, a fin left standing between an eastward-flowing and a westward-flowing glacier. Glaciers, dating from the last Ice Age, are responsible for many of the flat-bottom, rounded valleys in the higher Wasatch.

The first trail fork on the Ridge trail comes in about a mile. To your left is the Ridge Connector. Keep right to stay on the Ridge. At mile 1.3, keep right again as the Pine Hollow trail joins on the left.

Bruce rolls up to the classic viewpoint on the Ridge trail. This comes just before you descend down to Mud Springs.

Take in the views, and note the difference in the mountains north and south. The American Fork Canyon area falls on the edge of a massive igneous rock intrusion, where the sedimentary limestone (Oquirrh formation from the Pennsylvannian Era -- 300 million years ago -- as seen on Mt. Timpanogos) gives way to granite in the Lone Peak-Little Cottonwood area.

There are several spots where you can get a good look at the mountains.

At mile 2.2, turn right uphill at the fork with Mud Springs. A short bit of tough climbing here.

Three miles from the summit trailhead, you'll reach a 4-way trail intersection. (The Ridge trail continues straight; Tibble Fork is on your left.) Go right downhill. 

Heading up the last of many climbs on the Ridge trail. Almost there.

Deer Creek South Fork downhill

The trail now begins a steady descent into the South Fork of Deer Creek. At first, it's the usual aspens, with a smattering of oak and maple.

Rounding the first turn below the ridge.

After the first turn, the trail drops into a forest of tall evergreens. There are a few root drops, nothing more than 10-12 inches. This section of the trail is pretty buff.

After a short climb, the trail re-enters forest of oak, maple and aspen as it curves around to the sunny side of the hill.

Flowing trail through fir forest. 

When the trail reaches the Cascade Springs road, cross to the continuing trail. In around a tenth of a mile, you'll hit the spur to Elk Glen. If that's where you started, make a hard left downhill to return to your car.

Almost at the end of the deep forest. A quick little uphill, then more descending down to the Cascade Springs road.

View south towards Timpanogos Portions of the trail are usually snowbound until mid June. Snow usually covers the trail again in late October, but even then, hard-core riders can be found thrashing the snow on the Ridge. Late September is an excellent time to ride this trail, as the fall colors change.

View over the aspens and spruces towards Mount Timpanogos. The Mad Scientist's bike "Banana Thunder" sits among bitterbrush in the foreground. October 2, 1999

Bottom Line:
This is one of the greatest little loop trails anywhere. Since discovering Deer Creek South Fork we can't get enough of it. And, lucky you, we're sharing our secret.

Bruce  posts a turn on the Ridge Trail near the descent into Deer Creek South Fork on June 30, 1999. Photo by Dominic Bria.

The Doc enters a tunnel of trees, with Timpanogos as a backdrop.

 Deer Creek South Fork Loop in 2018

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Getting there: (Cascade Springs Road trailhead) From I-15, take the Alpine-Highland exit just south of Point-of-the-Mountain. Go east towards the mountains on UT-92 and continue up American Fork Canyon. There's a $6 fee (as of 2009). About 6 miles up the canyon, turn right at the North Fork junction. Drive up to the summit of the Alpine Loop. (The summit trailhead is on your right just before you reach the top of the loop.) For the lower trailhead, drive further to the Cascade Springs Road, where you'll turn left. About 1.5 miles later, turn right on a gravel road and go 100 feet. The trailhead is in the trees straight ahead. GPS N 40 26.801' W 111 36.489.

Camping:  multiple improved and primitive campsites in AF Canyon
Bathroom:  Summit trailhead
Water:  developed campgrounds

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
     GPX DCSF Loop from Summit
     DCSF From Timpooneke TH   Multi-track area file
High-res topo, loop only:  View   Topo via Timpooneke:  View
AF canyon multi-trail topo map for printing:   View map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to AF Canyon resources

Copyright 1999 Mad Scientist Software Inc
Latest update 2018