Stansbury Island, on the west end of the Great Salt Lake, can be biked
almost all year. This is an advanced technical trail. Early spring and late fall are
best. Most of the trail is on southern slopes, so snow melts quickly. After crossing the
valley (seen here from the trailhead), the trail begins a brutal one-mile, 800-vertical
foot climb to the top of the mountain. The loop (returning by dirt roads on
the salt flats) is 10 miles.
View south from
the parking area of the trailhead. November 5, 1998
|The singletrack trail climbs the west face of the Stansbury
Island mountain to the top of the ridge. The trail is hard-packed but liberally coated
with round quartzite boulders and chunks of limestone. The combination of steep grade
(15%) and rocky trail will challenge your thighs. From here, we're looking west over the
shallow west end of the Great Salt Lake.
west over eroded quartzite formations. The trailhead is on the plain below. November 5,
||The trail descends about 200 feet from the ridge, then hugs
the shoulder of a horizontal band of conglomerate as it follows the canyons carved into
the south face of the mountain. (The trail is just above the gray band in this picture.)
The canyon walls are rocky and steep, with exposed cliff areas. Only advanced riders
should tackle this ride -- novices may wind up as magpie bait.
View from the trail, looking at the trail across the canyon. November 5, 1998
by Bruce Argyle
|Geologically, Stansbury Island is also an island of older rock sticking up
through younger strata. As the Great Basin sank down, large blocks of rock
pulled apart. The areas in between filled with sediments, leaving the
"basin and range" topography of the Great Basin.
Photo showing salt deposits on fence
posts. Photo by Giant Warp, April 2008
|| During the Silurian
(440-410 million years ago) and Devonian (410-360 million years ago, "the
age of fishes") periods, this was a near-shore area, where layers of
dolomite ("limestone" that is high in magnesium carbonate, from times
when the water was deeper) are separated by conglomerate (from times when rapid
erosion deposited rock and debris along the
shoreline at this location).
Close-up of a salt-encrusted
post. Photo by Giant Warp, 2008
Outcrops of quartzite (highly compressed and heated
rock formed from sand, indicating shoreline or near-shore deposits) from the
Devonian Period are found on the southwest corner of the island
Heading toward Stansbury on the
causeway. Photo by Giant Warp, 2008
||After following the shoulder where the limestone and
dolomite meets the conglomerate
layer around two canyons, the "official" trail descends back to the lake shore.
(A trail continues on the shoulder area further around the island, but it becomes more
technically difficult, and more dangerous. This is NOT a good place to be injured in early
spring or late fall, as the weather can turn nasty quickly.) Following the road southwest
to the "fork" (see below) then back northwest to the trailhead closes an 11-mile
My battered old Rockhopper hardtail poses for a portrait below the rugged limestone spires of the upper mountain.
Although the weather looks great, within two hours a blowing snowstorm was chasing this
bike across the mud flats. November 5, 1998.
||Getting there: Take I-80 westbound out of Salt Lake.
About 30 minutes later, you'll reach the second Grantsville exit (#84, UT-138, near the
Morton salt plant). After exiting, proceed straight (onto the crummy road) rather than
turning towards Grantsville. Follow the road north as it turns into gravel and crosses the
mud flats, about three miles. At the fork, stay left. There should be a "Stansbury
Island Mountain Bike Trail" sign at this fork. (Look around -- this is where the
trail returns after you come off the mountain.) Two miles later, you'll come to a four-way
intersection. There may, or may not, be a stop sign there. Go straight through. 1.1 miles
later, you should see a "Bike Trail" sign and a road branching off on the right.
Turn right and drive a few hundred yards to the parking area. There are no fees (and no
facilities of any kind).