||Three Peaks Loop
Three Peaks Trail System
The Three Peaks Loop is a classic route
near Cedar City at the Three Peaks recreation area. The loop itself is 7.5
miles in length, but you need to pedal a couple of miles from the mountain
bike trailhead to reach the loop. This brings the typical ride to about 11
miles with 1200 vertical feet of climbing. The route is appropriate for
upper-intermediate to advanced riders.
View south as I ride clockwise on the Three Peaks Loop.
Rough granite outcrops mix with pinion pine and juniper. Original review June 11,
2003 by Bruce. GPS tracks and topo map updated 2016.
|Three Peaks is 6 miles west of Enoch
(just northwest of Cedar City), about 10 minutes by car from I-15. Riding season is
March through early December. The area is a popular motorcycle and ATV
area, but the bike trails avoid the gas-guzzler folk.
The system has a dedicated mountain bike trailhead located just off the
main road as you enter the Three Peaks area. The trailhead altitude is
This is the new mountain bike
trailhead (photo 2016). There's a bathroom, water, picnic table, and map kiosk.
Just northwest of the mountain bike parking lot are group camping, picnic
and camp spots, a playground, and group pavilion.
|| You have several options to reach the Three Peaks Loop from
the trailhead. The classic route is via the Race Loop (see the main Three
Peaks page), which will take you to the northeastern side of the loop. You can also take Twilight
Zone to the southeast side of the loop. Or you can head counterclockwise around Big
Hole to hit the northwest corner of the Three Peaks Loop.
Kristen Argyle hits some rock on
the Race Loop as she works through the picnic and camping area, heading
towards the east side of the Three Peaks Loop in 2004.
|The ride I describe below uses the race loop outbound, then
circles the loop clockwise. (Many locals ride the loop counterclockwise.
Your choice. I'll describe the counterclockwise ride later.)
But instead of closing the loop back at the race course, my
ride continues on to Big Hole and returns back
to the picnic area via Lost World. There are many other options. See the
main Three Peaks page for individual trail
Going northwest on the race loop,
about 1/2 mile from the junction with the Three Peaks Loop. The ladder
bridges are nice!
From the trailhead, take the Practice Loop clockwise 1/2
mile to the Outlaw Trail, just after you turn the corner of the fence. Go
westbound on Outlaw. (The Outlaw Trail avoids the confusing route of the
Race Loop through the picnic and camping area.)
When the Outlaw Trail ends on the Race Loop, turn right. Stay left on
Race Loop at the junction with Shortcut (aka Sunnyside). You'll meet the
Three Peaks Loop at mile 1.9 from parking.
The riding gets tough as we reach the
technical rock near the Whale Trails. (We're
|Head south on the Three Peaks Loop. Stay straight and left
at Iron Creek (unmarked in March 2016) and climb up and over a low rise.
Now sage and juniper gives way to open rock. This is the most technical
section of the ride.
The rock is igneous, not sandstone. It's large-grained and gives
excellent traction, but some areas here must be considered expert-level
technical. It you love this spot, consider a detour on Petrified
Whales before continuing.
The rock is getting easier as we roll
into the southern end of the loop.
||The loop will curve around the southern end of the mountain,
with views of old iron mine tailings on hillsides across the valleys to
Just after passing the west end of the Iron Creek Cutoff, you'll
drop down to a dougletrack. Crossing the road to go north puts
you on the classic ride, with some new singletrack bypassing part of the
old dirt road. Dropping west and downhill on the dirt road will get you to
an alternate route,
called "Three Peaks Technical" on the map.
View southwest as
the singletrack curves around the south side of the Three Peaks.
|Shortly after the two options rejoin, you'll reach the Big
Hole Loop. Forking left takes you around the mountain to the north for a
longer ride. The right fork offers somewhat shorter paths back to parking
via the southern side of Big Hole. There are five separate trails forking
off the southern side of Big Hole that will start you back towards the
trailhead. And they're all good choices. See the topo map and it will make
Granite and limestone alternate on the
western side of the loop.
route takes the Big Hole Loop counterclockwise around the northernmost
mountain to reach the Three Peaks Loop trail. From the trailhead, keep to
the right at every trail fork. Practice Loop, Outer Limits, Orange Forks,
then Big Hole. And then at mile 3.4, you'll keep right to start Three
Leaving Big Hole, we drop downhill and
west through juniper and low sage..
Just over 1/10th mile later, you'll reach a
fork. The doubletrack to the left is the classic route. (It will turn into
singletrack. It's much faster and easier than the alternate.)
the top of Double Take Drop, marked by the exercycle.
The alternate, labeled Three Peaks Technical on the trail
map, has steeper and rougher terrain and is about 1/2 mile longer. But
it's do-able by a good intermediate rider.
View down Double Take Drop. There's a
ride-around, but seriously it's not that tricky.
When the Tech route crosses a dirt road, it
will turn uphill and get rougher. And the trail signs no longer say
"Three Peaks." You may think you've lost your way, but keep
heading uphill as the trail merges onto the very rough rocky road. When
you reach a dirt road junction, you'll see the classic (main) trail
joining from the left.
Keep heading uphill. Find southbound
Three Peaks on your right a little further up the doubletrack. (I have a
track file in the links below that uses the tech route. If you're unsure
of the terrain, following the track is good insurance.)
Rolling along on the technical
From the doubletrack the trail climbs uphill. The Iron
Creek Cutoff trail on your left offers a quick return back to the
We've rejoined the main
Three Peaks trail southbound. If you're aiming to shortcut the loop via
the Iron Creek Cutoff trail, it's a bit hard to see. If it weren't for the
bucket, I wouldn't have spotted it, and I'd ridden it only two months
Now comes a couple of miles of
uncomplicated southbound riding on the western slope of the Three Peaks.
The granite spires of the peaks are uphill to your left, with views of the
Great Basin to your right.
Looking southeast from the trail, as
the afternoon sun highlights the rock outcrops.
At the southwestern corner of the loop, you'll have views
of the iron mines to the south. Enjoy a little bit of cruising -- there's
techy stuff coming up.
Almost to the southern end of the
loop. The scar on the hill is part of the iron mining complex.
As you round the southern tip of the loop,
you'll hit a mile and a half of the most technical riding of the trip.
Heaps of igneous rock force the trail up and down. There are a couple of
well-marked dicey alternate lines for experts.
Looking southwest. Very pretty
Intermediates will find a few spots that they'll choose to
walk. If wooden structures spook you, there are some black-diamond bridges
Little Rocky rests on a granite heap
as the trail climbs up and over. Just in front of my wheel is a wooden
ramp, eight feet in the air, which will deliver you between a couple of
junipers before touching earth.
After the (unmarked as of June 2016)
intersection with Four Loco at the southeast corner, there's a stretch of
easier trail, but with some cruising up and down. A couple of narrow
black-diamond bridges cross wide flow areas.
bridges cross broad sandy wash areas. The decks here are 18 inches, but
with bends and tilts they are rated "expert."
As you approach the Whale Trail
area, you're back onto slickrock. It's a bit bumpy here, and tougher in
the counterclockwise direction because it's slightly uphill. (One ride
option at this point is to detour onto Petrified Whales, then take
Twilight Zone back to the trailhead.)
The trail climbs
gently up and over the ridge before beginning a long downhill into the
main trail complex.
Northbound through the raspy open rock.
| There are a few easy ladder bridges as you cruise
northbound. After passing the Iron Creek Cutoff, you'll reach a T
intersection. This is the Race Loop. Left takes
you up to the ridgeline for a longer ride. Fork right to head for the main
trail complex and the trailhead.
Fossil Cyclosaurus Rex along the
My track takes the Race Loop to Outlaw, then the practice
loop back to the trailhead, for 11.7 miles with 1200 vertical feet of
climbing. Experts should allow 2 hours; intermediates around 4 hours with
a lunch break.
Rolling southeast downhill after
leaving the combined Big Hole and Race Loop trail.
|Riding Notes, Three Peaks Loop w Big Hole clockwise:
0.0 Left through fence then keep R
N37 46.017 W113 10.090
0.2 Keep right (Practice Loop)
N37 46.145 W113 10.147
0.5 Trail turns L w fence
N37 46.363 W113 10.147
0.6 Straight onto Outlaw
N37 46.381 W113 10.257
0.9 Keep L (R = Sweet Pea)
N37 46.459 W113 10.547
1.2 R on Race Course Loop
N37 46.333 W113 10.765
1.6 Fork L (R = Short Cut)
N37 46.646 W113 11.030
1.9 Fork L onto Three Peaks
N37 46.541 W113 11.247
2.3 Keep straight (R = Iron Creek Cutoff)
N37 46.213 W113 11.369
3.5 Keep R (L = Petrified Whales)
N37 45.381 W113 11.559
3.6 Keep R and R (L = Petrified Whales
then L = Four Loco)
N37 45.344 W113 11.583
|4.0 Keep R (L = return Four Loco)
N37 45.137 W113 11.935
6.4 Keep L (R = Iron Creek)
N37 46.413 W113 12.031
6.6 L, then L on DT to Three Peaks Technical
N37 46.512 W113 11.971
7.8 Rejoin Three Peaks, keep L
N37 46.971 W113 11.548
7.9 L on Big Hole
N37 46.971 W113 11.441
9.7 Keep R (L = Orange Fork)
N37 46.955 W113 10.118
9.9 L on Lost World
N37 46.901 W113 10.350
10.2 Keep R (L = Orange Fork)
N37 46.702 W113 10.258
10.4 Keep L (R = Sweet Pea)
N37 46.576 W113 10.359
10.6 L on Practice Loop
N37 46.510 W113 10.215
11.5 Back at trailhead
|Getting there: Just north of Cedar City, take the Enoch/Minersville I-15 exit #62. Go north on U-130 (towards Minersville) 2.6 miles, then turn left on Midvalley Road. Drive 6 miles straight west.
Pass the "welcome area" which is the first turnout. Now watch
for the sign indicating the Mountain Bike Trailhead. Turn right on a gravel road
into the trailhead. The ride starts behind the kiosk and the picnic table.
Note: Click on this topo
map link for specific trail names and accurate alignments.
Camping: On site, option group or individual
sites, option developed vs primitive
Water: Trailhead, pavilion, and campground
Bathrooms: Trailhead, campground, picnic area, pavilion
Bike services: Cedar Cycle in Cedar City