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Squaw Peak Downhill

The Squaw Peak downhill route descends west of Cascade Mountain through the Squaw Peak area east of the Provo foothills. It's popular with the local gravity crowd but of little interest to XC riders outside of Utah County. There are several variations of this ride. The shortest is a quick 2-mile plunge from the Squaw Peak Overlook down to Indian Hills in northeast Provo. What I'll suggest is a 6.5 mile route descending from Buffalo Peak that detours over to Luna's Trail.

View of the south Provo area with West Mountain and Goshen Bay to the left. Photos and ride description July 8, 2016 by Bruce.

Squaw Peak can be a mess of competing trails and road links. Locals know their way, but there's a high chance you'll get lost. But the area has fine cell phone reception. So assuming your cell is GPS-enabled, find yourself on the screen and figure it out. 

Most riders will do this ride using a shuttle. Hero riders will crank up the Squaw Peak Road on their bikes. Seriously, the roadies do it all day. Is your mountain bike afraid of a little pavement? (Note: in the early morning hours, the paved road is used by longboarders. Their steering ability is limited, so give them a wide lane!)

Rocketing north in the morning shadow of Cascade Mountain, heading toward Mount Timpanogos.

Your options for non-shuttle, non-pavement climbing...

1 - Straight up.  Nobody does this. It is possible to ride most of this trail in the uphill direction. But it's not pleasant. There are some steep sections with loose cobble, where even if your legs can do it, the tires won't. So if you're determined to do this trail uphill as an out-and-back, plan for a bit of push-a-bike.

Looking back south toward Buffalo Peak. We've just finished the Squaw Peak Overlook Back Trail, seen in mid-photo.

2 - Rock Canyon. Are you out of your mind? Unpleasant, steep, loose. 1900 vertical in 3.4 miles as you grunt from 5100 feet elevation at the mouth of Rock Canyon to the Rock Canyon picnic area then the Squaw Peak Road at 7000. But some riders do this, mostly pushing their bikes. From the top of Rock Canyon a two-mile climb on the paved road (rising another 600 vertical) gets you to the Buffalo Peak Trail.

Temporarily out of shadow into sunshine as we descend from the Overlook.

3 - Indian Hills. Catch the lower Bonneville Shoreline (also called the Indian Hills Trail) east of the Canyon Road at its north end. Grunt on up. Fork south on the upper BST, then back north on the Cactus Hill connector. Take the road up to the next hairpin turn and grab the west singletrack of Squaw Peak Circles further uphill (for now, the unfinished upper segment means you'll take the paved road when the trail crosses). For the shorter ride, fork right to the Squaw Peak Overlook (6600 feet elevation) and drop in. Or climb uphill by road or by the Squaw Peak Back Trail.

View of the northern end of Utah Lake, with Orem in the foreground.

4 - Lower Squaw Peak Road parking. On the left, one mile up the Squaw Peak Road. This spot is where you'll wind up if you follow my route described below. (You can climb by road or dirt from here.) From the parking area, climb singletrack to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Turn right, then take the connector uphill to the Squaw Peak Circles. Follow the main route (staying generally southbound uphill) up to the paved road (again, the upper segment is unfinished). Then climb pavement to your drop-in point. See the Squaw Peak Circles page for navigation details through the circles. Or follow my GPS track.

Back into shade as we plunge off Squaw Peak on doubletrack.

So you decided to shuttle. Places to find the trail from your car...

1 - Squaw Peak Overlook Trail Drop-in
At the fork in the Squaw Peak Road at mile 4.2, go to the right and climb to the Squaw Peak Overlook at 6700 feet elevation. The trail is just below the parking strip. From here, your ride will be 4.4 miles.

Linking up from the upper Bonneville Shoreline to the Squaw Peak Road on the Cactus Hill Connector.

2 - Squaw Peak Back Trail Drop-in
The Squaw Peak Overlook Back Trail starts on the right side of the road, where the road makes a hairpin turn to the left, 1.4 miles uphill from the Overlook road fork (5.6 from Highway 189 in Provo Canyon). This segment is 0.7 miles long, dropping from 7050 feet to 6700 at the Squaw Peak Overlook parking. The trail skirts the pavement on the downhill side of the parking strip then continues as the Squaw Peak Trail. From here, it's 5.0 miles to the bottom.

View from paved road looking up Provo Canyon, midway between Cactus Hill and Luna's.

3 - Buffalo Peak Trail Drop-in
The Buffalo Peak Trail segment starts at around mile 7.7 of the Squaw Peak Road. It will be on your right as the road crosses a saddle area. If you begin descending in your car, you went too far. The Buffalo Peak trail is one mile long, dropping from 7700 feet back to the Squaw Peak paved road at 7300. After 0.4 miles descending paved road, you'll turn left to the Squaw Peak Overlook Back Trail. If you start at Buffalo Peak it's 6.5 miles down to parking.

Luna's trail descends through maple, box elder, and scrub oak.

We're riding now!  Notes on the descending route...

From the Buffalo Peak drop-in, go 1 mile then dump to your left onto the paved road. Go 0.4 miles, then catch the Squaw Peak Back trail on your left as the road turns sharply to the right.

Lower on the mountain, we can see Highway 189 beneath the limestone cliffs.

Fly downhill to the Squaw Peak Overlook at mile 2.1. Keep just downhill from the rock wall of the parking strip, and you'll continue on the Squaw Peak Overlook trail. The trail will widen as it joins an old 4-wheeler route.

A banked turn heads into a jump.

When the wide loose main trail turns to the left and plunges sharply west downhill, go with it. The nicer narrow trail to your right just drops to the paved road, and you're not ready to do that yet. (Or maybe you are. If you take the right fork, the road will take you to an entry to the Squaw Peak circle trails -- either uphill or down. See the map.)

And we're now on the Bonneville Shoreline, heading east (up-canyon).

At mile 3.5, at the apex of the second 150-degree left turn, find the Bonneville Shoreline Trail heading north on your right. (If you miss it, the gravel roads will take you down to the city. Backtrack if you approach buildings.) Just a few feet downhill from the BST is the Cactus Hill Trail, which is not the one you want.

A peak at Timpanogos across the valley from the BST.

After 0.7 miles on the upper BST, fork right on the Cactus Hill Connector Trail.(If you descend to arrive at a T-intersection with a flat singletrack, you've reached the lower BST, and you missed Cactus Hill. Correct trail = goes over bald area; wrong trail = descends down a canyon.) Cactus Hill Connector will hit paved road at mile 4.5, where you should go to the right uphill on paved road. 

Descending through maple forest as we drop off the BST. (At this time, it's easy to ride by and not see this trail.)

Crank up the road 0.4 miles and find the unmarked entry to Luna's Trail at a spot where there's gravel shoulder on the left. Head straight downhill -- the trail fork to your right goes over to the circle trails. Luna's will hit the Bonneville Shoreline at mile 5.9 in an area of doubletrack and disturbance. Find the singletrack eastbound (up the canyon).

Follow the BST as it traverses the hillside eastbound. After half a mile (6.1 of your ride), watch carefully for a singletrack exiting the BST on your left downhill. Follow this trail down to parking, keeping straight as another trail crosses over.

Parking lot on the Squaw Peak Road! We're looking back east at the trail as it enters.

Riding notes for descending:
0.0   Buffalo Peak Trail, R of road
        N40 16.952 W111 36.312
1.0   L on paved road N40 17.458 W111 36.806
1.4   L onto Squaw Pk Overlk Back
        N40 17.760 W111 37.050
2.1   Keep straight below parking
        N40 18.147 W111 37.592
        Squaw Peak Overlook Trail
2.7   L downhill on wide trail
        N40 18.500 W111 37.925
3.5   R on singletrack (upper BST)
        N40 18.143 W111 38.230
4.2   R on Cactus Hill Connector
        N40 18.590 W111 38.283
4.5   R uphill on paved road
        N40 18.837 W111 38.183
4.9   L on Luna's Trail
        N40 18.740 W111 37.840
        (in 10 ft keep L, R = to circles)
5.9   90 degrees R (east) for BST
        N40 19.237 W111 38.035
6.1   L downhill off BST
        N40 19.118 W111 37.814
6.3   Keep straight N40 19.282 W111 37.872
6.5   At parking
Getting there...

Lower Squaw Peak Road TH:  On US-189 eastbound about a mile up the canyon, turn right on the Squaw Peak Road. Drive one mile uphill and turn left into the large parking area. Return to the road for a pavement climb, or find singletrack at the uphill east end. N40 19.393 W111 37.956
Squaw Peak Overlook:  On the Squaw Peak Road at mile 4.2 from US-189, go to the right to the Squaw Peak Overlook. The trail is just west (downhill) from the road. There's paved parking at the overlook and roadside parking downhill. N40 18.075 W111 37.514
Back Trail:  Mile 5.6 from 189, on the right as the paved ride turns sharply left. N40 17.756 W111 37.052
Buffalo Peak Trail:  On the right at mile 7.7 from 189, as the road reaches its top elevation and crosses a saddle. N40 16.952 W111 36.312
BST Nunn's Park TH:  Eastbound in Provo Canyon on US-189, go two miles up Provo Canyon to the Nunns Park exit and turn right into the parking lot. Pedal uphill on paved trail, then turn right on the BST singletrack N40 20.280 W111 36.475.
Indian Hills:  Just before Canyon Road merges onto University Avenue, and just past the last homes, turn uphill toward the water tank. Go 1/10 mile, then find a northbound trail on your left.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files and route (right-click and "Save as..."):
      Descending long-ride track as above
      Short Squaw Peak track
      Multi-track GPX area file
High-res area topo map for printing:   View topo
Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to Provo area resources

Bathrooms:  None.
Water:  None.
Camping:  Hope CG, Rock Canyon CG
Bike services:  UtahMountainBiking store in Lehi.

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