The Forebay system in lower Payson Canyon has around 12 miles of
singletrack trail. The 15 interconnecting trails lie along a bench-like
area at an average 5600 feet elevation in maple and oak groves. The loops
allow you to select a ride of the desired length and difficulty. Most
trails are easier intermediate. This system is worth a visit, even if you
don't live nearby.
View to the south as we ride through
maples in grassy meadows. Photos and ride description by Bruce
on June 13, 2015.
There are three access points to the trail system. Most
riders are parking in the paved lot across from Maple Dell scout camp.
However, the system wasn't really designed for this, and you might find
yourself wondering where the trails are.
Roadside parking on the Nebo Loop. This
gate is one possible Forebay access, with a duck-under on the left to keep out
About 1/3 mile below Maple Dell is rough trailside parking with a
log fence. The Forebay Access gravel road takes you up to the
singletrack trails. If the dirt parking is full, there's a paved lot just
100 yards up the road. This access is the least complicated. Just pedal up
the road and you'll find the first trail at the orange gate.
Looking south up the canyon as Bruce hits the Overlook
There's an access point where the JMC trail hits the Nebo Loop road. There's
room for a couple of cars along each side of the road. There's no obvious
sign that there's a trail -- you have to know it's there and head for the
metal gate on the east side of the road. See
JMC has some side-trails that offer a bit of more-advanced riding. Ezra
is a little loop in the middle. Little Shawn is a winding route that's good
either up or down, offering a longer, less-steep alternative to much of JMC.
K-Launi is a narrow and twisty route that offers some ridge views. I'd rank
it expert in skill requirement.
Cruising through tall trees on Favorite.
The trails are, for the most part, smooth dirt ribbon.
Because this area isn't overgrazed, you'll enjoy deep grass and trailside
flowers. There will be frequent views at the forested ridges south up
Payson Canyon, and of Utah Valley with Lone Peak and Timpanogos in the
distance to the north.
Mules Ear blooms at trailside.
Most of the trails are in maple forest with occasional
grassy meadows. Dryer areas will have sage and scrub oak.
The trails are hand-built, with constant swooping turns. This is a nice
change from long machine-cut grunts. You'll enjoy these trails.
Cruising through scrub maple forest.
OK, now let's get you on the trails. One reason most riders
select the east Maple Dell parking lot is, there's a bathroom there. But
as mentioned, it's currently (June 2015) not a friendly intuitive path to
the trails for newbies. So I'll help you find the trails.
You'll see the canal curving around the east side of parking. On the
north side, there's a gate on gravel road just west (left) of the canal.
Step around the gate and start riding. The trail will rapidly turn to dirt
and narrow. Some riders have found cheater spots to drop through the trees
down to the Forebay Access road, but you're on your own there.
Looking back south toward the Maple
Dell parking area on the Canal Trail.
The Canal Trail ends at a small reservoir. The easiest way
to find the trail system is to fork 90 degrees left, just as you reach the
pond. As you get to the second pond (which may be empty), fork hard left
downhill on gravel road. This is the Forebay Access road. The Overlook
trail will be on your right about 300 feet downhill.
Once you're familiar with the area, you can connect to Jax at the pond
by forking to the right and dropping down the canal bank to doubletrack.
About 200 feet later, just before another doubletrack joins, the Jax trail
will be on your right.
Looking north as the Canal Trail
reaches the reservoir. Two ways to get to the Overlook Trail: after
first going left, you can go north to reach the north end of Overlook, or
you can go south to catch the south end.
If you're climbing the Access road, the first trail you
encounter will be the Orange Gate trail, appropriately enough, at a big
metal orange gate. It's on the left a few feet uphill from the gate.
(There's a cheater path to the right around the gate. If you ride it, you
may not notice the singletrack over your left shoulder as you rejoin the
Cruising northbound in scrub oak and maple.
The Orange Gate trail will take you 0.2 miles to a lariat
loop of JMC and Little Shawn (see map). This loop will involve a bit of
climbing, even if you don't descend JMC all the way to the highway.
There's 300 feet of elevation change over the two miles of this lariat
Trails are newly marked with metal
cutouts on posts.
The point at which the JMC trail forks off of the Orange
Gate Trail (your return point if you descended to do the JMC/Little Shawn
lariat loop) is the beginning of the Favorite Trail. This trail meanders north
about 1/2 mile to rejoin the Access road.
Westbound on Round Top, where the terrain changes to add a bit of rock,
bitterbrush, sage, and oak.
About 100 yards uphill on the Access road, the Overlook
Trail forks away on your left. After meandering 0.3 miles through sage,
oak brush and the occasional maple, you'll reach another lariat loop. This
is Round Top, 0.6 miles. This loop is dryer and more open, with some rough
View south up Payson Canyon.
As you complete Round Top and return to going northbound on
Overlook, the singletrack will hit the edge of the reservoir then curve
around it to go eastbound. Keep straight here as ATV tracks cross.
Overlook will become doubletrack and plunge through a wash. Seeing the
dirt road straight ahead on the opposite side, you might think you've lost
the trail. Never fear. Just rocket down and up the opposite side.
Meadow with a bit of swamp.
As you reach the far side of the wash, you'll spot the trail
sign for Ray Gun, northbound at 90 degrees on your left. This is fast fun
singletrack, a bit straighter than the twisty stuff you've done so far on
the two southern loops.
More Mules Ear blossoms on the
Your first trail fork on northbound Ray Gun will be Taze.
This is a short trail that rejoins after only 1/10 mile. It's only real
purpose is to get you to Jax. Jax, in turn will take you uphill to the
most advanced trail in the system, Kaya.
But whether you're heading for Kaya or not, at this spot I recommend
you keep northbound on Ray Gun.
View to the north on the Lariat trail
At the north end of Ray Gun, you can continue to the Lariat
trail (and save Kaya for later), or hit Kaya now. If you're going on, the doubletrack through
the gate in the fence takes you to Lariat. Straight across that DT is the entry to
Kaya (currently unsigned). If you're game for it, cross over and begin
climbing. The average rate of climb is around 400 feet per mile, but only
1/3 mile is sustained climbing.
Kaya will twist and undulate through the forest, traverse south, then
descend. Kaya will hit Jax near the Jax trail's south end. You can fork right uphill,
as you'd only be missing about 200 feet of Jax singletrack (which just
goes down to ATV track). Northbound, Jax will end on Taze. If you're done, take Taze
left southbound. To keep riding, fork right and rejoin Ray Gun to repeat
about 1/4 mile back to the gate at the north end.
This loop will add only about 1.8 miles to your ride.
Looking towards Timpanogos and Cascade
Mountain on Kaya, near the ride's highest point at 5800 feet.
After passing through the gate (keep straight and cross the
ATV tracks running parallel to the fence), fork left on the Lariat trail
singletrack. When you
get to the next trail fork, consider whether you want to do a
loop-de-loop, or pick up the connecting piece on your way back.
For a loop-de-loop (repeating about 1/3 mile in the middle) keep right,
then take the next left. You'll come back to your original trail fork,
where you'll turn left to repeat a section of trail. Then you'll keep right and northbound at the next
fork to go on.
To hit only the loop and skip the connector, fork left. At the end of
the loop (the next trail fork), turn left and head north.
Note the shoulder-high grass. Much of
Utah was like this before overgrazing damaged the hillsides.
The connector from the loop takes you 0.1 mile to rejoin the
ATV track as it goes through another gate. (NOTE: Please close gates
after going through them.)
Now again find your singletrack just beyond the gate. You're now
entering the stem of Karl's loop. A short distance later, the trail will
split. There are no signs here as of June 2015. Forking right feels most
natural, so keep right and continue uphill. You'll do the loop
View over the golf course from Karl's
There are game and stock trails through this area. Karl's is the
least-defined of the system. Also the loop
will very briefly join ATV track in three spots. But I didn't have any trouble navigating.
"Competing trails" had a branch dropped across them to indicate
the proper path.
Karl's loop will add 1.8 miles to your ride. While you're there, say hello to the pair of friendly and curious mules.
Still on Karl's Loop, heading south.
Here's a complete tour of the trail system that takes you
through both trailheads (the Access road trailhead on the highway and the
Canal Trail at Maple Dell). It hits all but about one-tenth mile of the
singletrack with only a tiny amount of back-track on the stems of the
lariat loops. Yes, it will be a bit complicated to navigate on your first
outing. (The ride guide is the most complicated one I've ever published
for any trail page.) So if you can, just download the GPS file to your
GPS-enabled cycling computer or cell phone and follow along as you ride.
See the resource links below, where you can also print a full-page topo
map of the trail system to take with you.
Riding Guide, Forebay Tour from Access
0.0 Around/over gate, up gravel road
N39 58.767 W111 41.516
0.4 Pass orange gate, immediate L on ST
Orange Gate trail N39 59.027 W111 41.467
Alternate route, from Maple Dell parking:
0.0 North from parking on road left of canal
N39 58.407 W111 41.488
1.2 At pond, L south of pond
N39 59.303 W111 41.395
200 feet, then L
downhill on DT
1.3 Pass Overlook Tr on R
Pass Favorite Tr on
1.6 At gate, R on Orange Gate Tr
N39 59.027 W111 41.467
(Add 1.2 to
Continue Orange Gate Trail
0.6 L on JMC N39 59.087 W111 41.614
1.0 Keep L on JMC (R = return)
N39 59.171 W111 41.738
1.3 R on Little Shawn (L = to road)
N39 59.277 W111 41.869
2.1 Straight (L), back on JMC
N39 59.171 W111 41.738
2.5 Back at fork, L on Favorite
N39 59.171 W111 41.738
2.9 Straight uphill on road
N39 59.218 W111 41.458
200 feet, then L on Overlook
N39 59.267 W111 41.442
3.2 L on Round Top N39 59.376 W111 41.522
3.3 Fork L on loop N39 59.447 W111 41.557
3.6 Back at fork (from 3.3), keep L
3.7 Back at Overlook, go L
N39 59.376 W111 41.522
3.9 Through gully, immediate L on Ray Gun
N39 59.376 W111 41.341
4.0 Keep L (R = Taze) N39 59.412 W111 41.286
4.1 Keep L (R = Taze rejoins)
N39 59.480 W111 41.227
4.5 L on DT through gate
N39 59.672 W111 41.078
(Note Kaya on uphill for return
Veer L on ST (Lariat)
4.6 L on loop of Lariat
N39 59.707 W111 41.120
5.3 L to exit Lariat loop
N39 59.854 W111 41.116
5.4 L to join DT, through gate
N39 59.900 W111 41.084
Find Karl's ST just past gate
Fork R uphill (Karl's Loop)
N39 59.910 W111 41.074
7.1 Back at loop fork, keep R
Through gate, L on ST (Lariat)
7.2 Keep L N39 59.854 W111 41.116
7.7 Keep L N39 59.707 W111 41.120
7.8 Join DT through gate N39 59.672 W111 41.078
Immediate L uphill on Kaya
8.8 R uphill on Jax N39 59.354 W111 41.260
9.0 L on Taze N39 59.462 W111 41.230
9.1 Keep L, join Ray Gun
N39 59.413 W111 41.289
9.2 R and plunge through gully
N39 59.376 W111 41.341
150 ft, then L and climb wall
N39 59.396 W111 41.373
Ride south between the ponds
9.3 L at end of pond toward canal
N39 59.316 W111 41.428
(DT on downhill side = back to
road if you're skipping
the canal trail)
100 feet, then R on trail along
N39 59.302 W111 41.395
10.6 At Maple Dell parking
R downhill on road 0.3 miles
10.9 Back at Access parking
Ride video -- up JMC to Favorite,
Overlook, Ray Gun, and Lariat
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Take the Payson Main Street Exit 250 from I-15 and turn south towards town.
Drive into Payson on U-115 to the traffic light, then turn left on 100
North, U-198. About 1/3 mile later, at a traffic light on the top of a
small hill, turn right at 600 East. Drive up the Nebo Loop Road. JMC Trail: Your first option for trail access comes around
mile 4.7 from the spot you turned off Highway 198. As the road crosses
Peteetneet Creek, there's a spot on the left side of the road uphill from
the creek, just big enough for a single car. The JMC trail starts uphill
here N39 59.217 W111 41.884 at a metal gate. There's a wide shoulder
nearby on both sides of the road for a few additional vehicles. Access road: The Forebay Access road will be on your left
at mile 5.5, but you won't see the road or gate until you've pulled into
the parking area. Look for a wide shoulder with an old log fence N39 58.764 W111 41.513.
The ride starts by heaving your bike over the gate and ducking under the
dork-basher. There's paved parking and a kiosk about 200 feet further
uphill on the right if the trailhead parking is full. Maple Dell parking: Drive uphill to mile 5.8. As you see the
signs for the Maple Dell scout camp up the road on the right, turn left
into the paved parking area. There's a bathroom near the entrance.
On the downhill (north) side of the parking lot, go to the cindered path
to the left of the canal.
Note: The Nebo Loop sees a fair amount of bike
traffic, but there will also be big rigs, trailers, and scenery gawkers.
If you want to close a loop from the JMC trail back to Maple Dell via the
road, you'll probably survive. But on a summer Saturday, I'd personally
consider it a Stupid Idea.
Bathroom: Maple Dell parking
Water: Payson City park, 3 miles down canyon
Camping: Payson Lakes, Blackhawk