Provo Canyon Race Loop
Includes Cliff Trail (and Zorro trailhead)
The Provo Canyon Race Loop is a fun 1.7 mile
winding singletrack romp in lower Provo Canyon. It lies on a shelf area
between the steeper upper and lower mountain slopes. At an altitude of
5200 feet on a south-facing slope, the riding season is usually May
through November. You can reach the trail from other area trails, with
many riders taking the paved Provo River Parkway from
View southeast, with Squaw
Peak showing itself above the ridge of gambel oak. Original ride
review October 15, 2001. Updated by Bruce
on July 14, 2016 with new photos, maps, and tracks.
|The race loop includes a lot of up-and-down riding and rapid
turns. There are a few short-but-steep pitches, making this ride
appropriate for skilled intermediates. Although there's only 300 vertical
feet between top and bottom, the climbing pitch would be quite strenuous
View south from the trail in October 2001. Cascade
Mountain (like Timpanogos to the north) is made of Pennsylvanian Period
limestone, deposited 320 million years ago in a deep ocean basin.
||The loop is mostly in grass meadows as the trail winds
through small stands of gambel oak. By meandering back and forth (and up
and down) it manages to put 1.7 miles inside a circle only 0.2 miles in
There are constant views of Cascade Mountain to the south, Timpanogos
to the north, Provo Canyon to the east, and the conglomerate cliffs of the
canyon entry to the west. It's a pretty ride.
Meandering uphill to the north. A piece of the
roadcut for the Orem Bench (designated as the route for the Bonneville
Shoreline Trail) can be seen on the top of the saddle.
The quickest way to reach the loop is from below, via a half-mile gravel
road from Canyon View Park.
Many riders enter the loop from the uphill side, descending from the
Bonneville Shoreline Trail. This section of the BST is the Orem Bench
On the west, the BST trailhead is near the water treatment plant (see
below). In Provo Canyon, the Orem Bench Road is reached via the Great
Western Trail (GWT) from Canyon Glen Park, climbing the Dragon's Back.
And now we're going back south and downhill toward
Cascade Mountain. This is typical trail, as it sticks to the meadows
between oak stands.
From Canyon View Park, the route will be 2.7 miles with 550 vertical feet
of climbing. Go uphill on the gravel road, keeping to the left at the
0.3-mile road fork. At 0.4 miles, hop on the singletrack. You'll reach the
loop at mile 0.5 from the trailhead. The natural direction for this access
trail orients you for a counterclockwise ride.
Going northeast toward Timpanogos, near the bottom of
Stay on what appears to be the main trail. The race loop can seem confusing without a
map, because there are many "cheater" routes and older trails
that interconnect. Expect that you may go the wrong way, but please don't
intentionally add your tire tracks to the shortcut trails.
You'll pass a cheater joining uphill on the left, then arrive at a fork
0.2 miles after joining the loop. Go left. The trail that descends into
the ravine is the East Access trail. Now keep generally flat and straight
to avoid being suckered onto a shortcut.
And now we have a few of the conglomerate cliffs at
the canyon mouth. This rock was deposited under ancient Lake Bonneville
around a million years ago.
At mile 0.7 of the loop, you'll hit a confusing area with
an "H" configuration. DO NOT turn uphill 180 degrees -- where
most riders seem to be going -- or you'll cut off a long 1/3-mile meander
of the trail. Instead, keep left and drop downhill through the oak. You'll
come back to this spot shortly, going straight to get onto that upper
At mile 1.2, the Upper Access trail will fork right uphill. Keep
The next fork is at mile 1.5, where the Cliff Trail (West Access)
descends steeply to join you on your right. Keep straight, and in 0.2
miles you'll be back at your starting point.
Heading around the loop counterclockwise on my Rocky
The easier route is the Upper Access trail. Stay on the BST. When the road
turns sharply back to the right, start watching for a singletrack on the
right (downhill) side. If you reach a trail heading uphill (Betty), you
went a little too far. Keep straight as the steeper alternate trail
crosses over and descend 0.5 miles to the race loop.
Timpanogos looms over the hill as we climb up.
Cliff Trail option...
Many riders drop into the loop via the Cliff Trail. This is an
expert-level trail descending from the BST. It's 1/2 mile long
with 200 feet of elevation change.
course, you can also climb from the the Race Loop to the BST on the Cliff
Trail. The first pitch is a little steep as you climb away from the loop,
then it's fun.
View from the Race Loop shows the
location of the Cliff Trail as it descends from (or climbs to) the BST.
| To find the Cliff Trail as a route to the Race Loop, pedal 0.9 miles
east from the Orem trailhead. (Harder alternative: Take the Zorro Trail up
the hill from the end of 1560 East in Orem. It will deliver you right to
the top of Cliff.)
The Bench Road will begin to turn to the left near
a cement water-handling thingy and a tower. Before the turn, drop downhill
to the right on doubletrack. Keep straight and left (ignoring a
singletrack or two forking 90 degrees downhill) and roll into singletrack.
Just getting started here, heading north with Big
Baldy straight ahead and Timpanogos on the right.
The Cliff Trail descends on the top of the cliffs (of course). Enjoy the
views to the east up Provo Canyon, and of Timpanogos straight ahead. At first,
the coasting is very mellow and non-threatening. Then the edge gets closer and closer
to the trail...
Approaching an area of open rock.
| ...and then you realize why I've recommended the Cliff
Trail for expert riders, not newbies. You need to roll over some rock
outcrops. Timidity is your enemy here. If you try to go really slow, you
can seize up your front wheel or side-slide on the rough limestone. So
just let the brakes loose and go.
Looking over the edge from the trail. The Race Loop
intersection is mid-right in the photo. The upper singletrack is the Cliff
Trail turning down toward the loop.
Using the Race Loop as a climber...
If you're just riding through the Race Loop on your way uphill to the Timpanogos
foothill area trails, take the Bottom Access. But now go left (clockwise) on
the Race Loop. In 0.3 miles, keep straight to pass Cliff. Exit the loop at
its highest point on the Upper Access trail and climb to the BST.
And if you don't see Betty forking uphill within 100 yards of reaching
the Bench Road, you went the wrong way on the doubletrack.
Looking west as we take a clockwise route uphill to
get to Betty.
After many years, the Race Loop remains a quickie favorite of local riders. It's a
fun and rapid ride, either as an after- or before-work hammer-it, or as a
side dish to other riding in the area.
And a look up Provo Canyon from the Race Loop trail in the
fall of 2001. Timpanogos is on the left; Cascade Mountain on the right.
Riding notes, loop from
Canyon View Park:
0.0 DT uphill (west of upper parking)
N40 19.531 W111 38.702
0.3 Keep L and straight
N40 19.607 W111 38.826
0.4 R on ST (Bottom Access)
N40 19.602 W111 38.951
0.5 Straight onto Race Loop
N40 19.618 W111 39.033
0.55 Keep straight N40 19.641 W111 39.017
0.7 Fork L (R = East Access)
N40 19.677 W111 38.935
0.8 - 1.1 Keep straight x 4
1.2 H intersection! Go L downhill
N40 19.764 W111 39.102
1.5 Back at H, go straight on upper trail
1.7 Keep straight L (R = Upper Access)
N40 19.809 W111 39.068
2.0 Keep L (R = Cliff Trail)
N40 19.660 W111 39.213
2.2 Back at Bottom Access
||Getting there, Canyon View Park: Exit I-15 on Orem's 800 North and drive straight towards the mountains.
Keep left to enter Provo Canyon. After 1 mile, you'll pass the entrance to
Canyon View Park on your left. About 100 yards later, there's a diversion
dam, then a bridge over the river. Drive over the bridge and park in the
lot. Ride to the northwest corner of the parking area. Begin your ride by pedaling up the gravel
road. Keep straight at the road fork at mile 0.3 if you're heading
for the Bottom Access trail (recommended), or fork R uphill for the Ravine
or East Access trails.
Via Orem BST Trailhead: Drive towards the mountains on 800
North. At 800 East, turn left and drive north about 1 mile. Immediately
past the cemetery and just uphill from the fence, turn right (east) on
Cascade Drive just before the Y in the road and drive 1/2 mile, go up 2
short switchbacks, and park in the paved parking area or the gravel
overflow parking below it. Take the Bench Road (BST) east one mile and
pick the Cliff Trail (starts as a doubletrack near the water structure),
or go another half-mile to the easy Upper Access trail.
Water and bathrooms at Canyon View Park
|Via the Zorro Trail (1560 East Trailhead):
Take 800 North in Orem toward the mountains. Just as the road starts to
descend into the canyon, turn left on 1560 East. Go to the end of the
pavement and park on the right. The ugly jeep road switchbacks east of the
trailhead take you uphill -- 0.4 miles with 200 vertical -- to the Zorro
singletrack. Zorro will add another 300 vertical and 0.6 miles. (Don't
fork onto the steeper Bramber DH. You'll know it as you pass it.) When
Zorro hits doubletrack, turn right onto the Cliff singletrack.|
Via Dragon's Back (GWT and BST): Drive 2.6 miles up Provo
Canyon and turn left into the parking area for Canyon Glen. After
finding your parking spot, go back to the end of the parking lot where you
entered, then turn right and go directly north toward the river and find the bridge across to
the parkway. Turn right, and find the
GWT on your left about 200 feet later, forking uphill just before the paved
parkway curves around a rock outcrop. Take the singletrack uphill. When the
singletrack trail ends at a gate on gravel road, you have two
options: (1) uphill then left for the BST (Orem Bench Road), and (2)
drop immediately to the left downhill on gravel road. When the road turns
from southwest to east, take the singletrack west. Cross through the
ravine and climb to the Race Loop.