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Squaw Peak Downhill
(Buffalo Peak, Little Rock Canyon, Overlook Trail, Squaw Peak DH)

The Squaw Peak downhill route descends northbound through the Squaw Peak area east of the Provo foothills. It's popular with the local gravity crowd. There are several variations of this ride. What I'll suggest is a 6.5 mile ride descending from Buffalo Peak that detours over to Luna's Trail -- this route is quick to shuttle and hits the good stuff. Most riders will do this ride using a shuttle, but there are fun climbing routes, and the DH can be done on an XC bike.

View of the Orem area to the northwest. Photos and ride description July 8, 2016 by Bruce. Updated June 2018.

Squaw Peak can be a mess of competing trails and road links. There's a high chance you'll get lost for a minute or two. But the area has fine mobile phone reception. So assuming your phone is GPS-enabled, find yourself on the screen and figure it out. 

Hero riders will crank up the Squaw Peak Road on their bikes. (Seriously, the roadies do it all day. Note that in the early morning hours, the paved road is used by longboarders, whose steering ability is limited. The road turns from pavement to gravel near the Hope Campground.) You can also climb the narrow singletrack of the Squaw Peak Circles and the upper Stakeout trail system.

Rocketing north on the Little Rock Canyon portion of the downhill, heading toward Mount Timpanogos. Some of this ride is very pretty.

 
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 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. And be prepared to dodge downhillers who weren't expecting somebody riding up the trail.

Looking back south toward Buffalo Peak. We've just finished the Overlook Trail, seen in mid-photo. Seems nice here, but further uphill, it's ugly.

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.

Descending Squaw Peak from the Overlook. Pretty easy cruising here, although a bit chunky.

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 uphill, then the "Dell trails.

View of the soiuthern end of Utah Lake from the Buffalo Peak trail.

4 - Squaw Peak Parking lot. 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) through Lacey's Loops, then climb the upper Stakeout trails. Each time the trail seems to stop on a road, find the unmarked subtle continuing singletrack to keep going uphill. You can ride singletrack all the way to Buffalo Peak. If you get lost, grind the gravel of the road.

Looking up Provo Canyon near the end of the ride.

 
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. But you'll miss the best stuff.

View north of Timpanogos from 7700 feet elevation.

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.

Gap jump on Little Rock Canyon. Yeah, there's some silliness on these trails, but you can simply ride around.

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.

Pedal uphill 0.3 miles on the Buffalo Peak trail, then fork to the right on the Little Rock Canyon trail. Drop from 7700 feet back to 7300. For the most popular route,  coast 0.4 miles down the gravel road, then turn left to the Squaw Peak (DH) Back Trail. If you start at Buffalo Peak it's 6.5 miles down to parking.

At the Buffalo Peak trail. Left uphill. Yes, climbing.

 
We're riding now!  Notes on the route...
Buffalo Peak Trail

From the opening in the fence, turn left uphill on the Buffalo Peak trail. (Straight ahead is Ashleedell; right northbound is a descent to "party sites" in the little valley below the road.) We'll be heading uphill to catch the Little Rock Canyon trail on the ridgeline just below Buffalo Peak.

Note: The Buffalo Peak viewpoint is nice. It's hike-a-bike to get up there, but everybody needs to do it once. Then backtrack to the Little Rock Canyon trail fork. It will add about 1/2 mile to your distance.

Aspen, chokecherry, and lush trailside vegetation on Buffalo Peak.

From the Squaw Peak road, Buffalo Peak climbs 100 vertical feet over 0.3 miles. The trail alternates between grass meadow, mules ear flowers, and groves of aspen.

Pedal to the ridgeline, then turn right downhill on Little Rock Canyon. 

Almost to the ridgeline on Buffalo Peak as we climb through a meadow of Mules Ear.

Little Rock Canyon trail

The Little Rock Canyon trail runs straight north, gently descending at first. It gets a bit steep as it drops through maple and aspen forest, but never gets too techy. This first section of the downhill will descend 400 vertical feet over 0.7 miles.

At mile 0.6, you'll pass the big gap jump. This is the spot where Ashleedell forks away (east of the jump) if you want to climb back to the top.

Downhill, early on Little Rock. Who says DH trails can't be pretty?

At mile 0.7 from the Buffalo Peak trail, the trail enters a clearing "party zone." 90 degrees right will take you 100 feet to the Squaw Peak road. Keep straight to continue downhill on Little Rock Canyon. Note that the path to the left, right on the edge of the hill, is the Overlook trail. It's a bit more techy. See below for this ride option.

Dropping downhill through shoulder-high plants in an aspen and maple grove.

Little Rock Canyon continues another 0.4 miles downhill, dropping another 200 vertical feet. It ends on the gravel Squaw Peak Road. Turn to the left. Descend to the right-hand turn in the road. Immediately as you exit the turn, find the Squaw Peak DH on your left.

Almost to the spot where we take Little Rock Canyon versus Overlook. It's in the saddle just ahead.

Option:  Squaw Peak Overlook Trail
The Squaw Peak Overlook trail hugs the steep sideslope of the mountain. The trail is very narrow, often bumpy and frequently steep, and it's unforgiving if you mess up. I didn't care much for this piece of trail. Only aggressive experts should take this route.

Little Rocky gets ready for some techy riding on the narrow and unforgiving Overlook Trail.

The Overlook trail runs from the clearing where Little Rock Canyon almost touches the road, down to the paved Squaw Peak Overlook parking area. It's 1.1 miles, with around 150 feet of climbing and 700 feet of descending. As mentioned, the sideslope is steep alongside the trail.

Looking north. There will be steep descents and occasional tough short climbs.

When riding downhill south-to-north, there's one spot where you may go wrong. At 0.3 miles from the clearing, you're pedaling steeply uphill when you reach a trail fork. Don't take this first fork! Many have, and they wind up hiking uphill to the "real" trail. Keep right and go uphill another 30 feet and take the 2nd left.

Looking southwest on the Overlook Trail. The sideslope falls away pretty steeply.

At this trail fork, the trail straight ahead is the Overlook Connector. If you're thinking you want to bail out from the Overlook trail, keep right and uphill to the top. You'll be trading hot sideslope exposure for a cool downhill romp through meadows and forest on the Overlook Connector. It will drop you out on the turn in the Squaw Peak where you can connect to the Squaw Peak DH (Back Trail) 100 feet later.

Limestone ledges on a flatter wider stretch of trail.

From the trail fork the Overlook trail continues another 0.8 miles north to the parking lot of the Squaw Peak Overlook. As you skirt the stone barrier on the downhill side, you're now on the Squaw Peak DH.

Almost done. That's a truck in the parking lot of the Overlook just ahead. The trail is easy here.

 
Back to PLAN A:  Squaw Peak DH (Back) Trail
This next part assumes you did NOT take the Overlook Trail, but continued to descend Little Rock Canyon until it ended on the gravel road. Then you turned left for a short distance on the road.

Once you reach the top of the Squaw Peak DH on the gravel Squaw Peak Road -- whether you arrived via the Little Rock Canyon trail or the Overlook Connector -- you'll turn north and left off the Squaw Peak road onto the singletrack. At first, it's a gentle and beautiful descent.

Maple forest on the Squaw Peak Back Trail, aka Squaw Peak DH.

After 0.1 mile, Ellendell forks away to the right. Keep straight on the main trail.

At around mile 0.4, the trail begins to drop more steeply toward the Overlook. On its way to the Overlook parking lot, the Squaw Peak DH drops 500 vertical feet over 0.7 miles, with most of that coming in the second half.

Rolling through a meadow on the smoother flatter upper section.

Squaw Peak trail

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

Rolling downhill in the morning shadows on the lower Squaw Peak trail. It's a wide fall-line ditch at this point.

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.)

A peak at Timpanogos across the valley as we turn north.

Bonneville Shoreline

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.

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

Cactus Hill Connector

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. 

Riding through maple forest on the Cactus Hill Connector.

Luna's 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).

A banked turn on Luna's heads into a jump.  Luna's trail descends through maple, box elder, and scrub oak.

BST Access Trail to parking

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
Squaw Peak DH (Back) Trail:  Mile 5.6 from 189, on the right as the gravel road turns sharply left. N40 17.756 W111 37.052
Upper Overlook/Little Rock Canyon:  On the right as the road turns left at mile 6.1 N40 17.458 W111 36.806. The Overlook trail is the northbound smaller trail closest to the edge; Little Rock Canyon heads north into the woods.
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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