View down Bear Canyon from near the top. Photos September 23, 2010 by Bruce
Bear Canyon to Salt Creek
Bear Canyon is a three-mile singletrack on the south slope of Mount Nebo, about 10 miles from
Nephi. I recommend this trail as a 12.7-mile loop ride by climbing the scenic Nebo Loop Road
to the top, then bombing down 2100 vertical feet on singletrack over 3.1 miles. There are some
very technical creek crossings.
The ride starts from the Bear Canyon Campground in Salt Creek Canyon, found right at the end
of the Salt Creek Road. This road forks off the Nebo Loop near the southern end. Park just
before the bridge, outside of the campground, so you won't have to pay a fee. (Or camp and
ride the next day.)
Start by retracing the Salt Creek Road, two miles with a very gradual downhill slope. Then
fork left and begin climbing the Nebo Loop Road. The Nebo Loop is famous for its beautiful
trees and mountain vistas -- especially in late September to early October.
This is the bridge you'll cross at the end of the ride.
View of aspen and maple forest from the Nebo Loop as we climb.
The slope of the Nebo Loop makes for an easy spin. Constantly changing vistas will distract
you from the steady uphill. Stop at the occasional pullout. Take the quick hike to the Devil's
Kitchen. Before you know it, you'll have completed 7 miles of climbing, gaining 2200 vertical
Watch for a log-fenced parking area on your right, just as the road turns to the left. There
should be a "Bear Canyon" trail sign. The trail is on the left side of the road, right at the
apex of the turn.
Drop off the road and begin your downhill. The first mile is fairly mellow, with aspen alternating
with maple and fir.
Heading downhill on smooth singletrack trail through a grove of white fir, with a scattering of maple.
As the trail mellows, more pretty trees.
The middle mile of the downhill gets a little trickier. There will be a few sudden plunges
into the rocky creekbed, where outcrops of rough conglomerate are ready to trip you up. All
but experts will walk a few of these crossings.
The last mile of the downhill is fairly pleasant cruising on buff trail. At 1/4 mile from the
end, you'll come to a metal gate. Go through, and pass several primitive camping spots until
you cross the bridge to the parking area.
It's possible, but very difficult, to ride the Bear Canyon trail uphill. It will average 700
vertical per mile. It's a fun climb, and can be done with a few very short push-a-bikes, but
only the strongest climbers should consider this.
View of the hillside to the north of the trail near the bottom, showing rough conglomerate outcrops.
Note for the adventurous:
On the big
sign at the trailhead, you'll see a nice-looking 4-mile "Salt Canyon
Trail" that looks like it could make a good loop ride when combined
with Bear Canyon. As of 2010, don't even think about it. The upper portion
has an impossible 850 vertical in a mile. And for about 3/4 mile, the
trail simply does not exist. The steep hillside is a jumble of deadfall,
pitted and torn up by horses and cattle with no visible trail. When (if)
the trail is restored by the Forest Service, let me know.
A trailside dead tree has chunks of bark piled nearby, precisely chopped up like firewood. This is where a bear has pulled the bark away to get at grubs.
Riding notes, from Bear Canyon Campground:
0.0 Head back down Salt Creek Road
2.1 L on Nebo Loop Road, begin climbing
8.2 Devils Kitchen on L (take a hike)
9.6 Turnout on R, drop LEFT on ST
Head down Bear Canyon
12.6 Through gate, past camping spots
12.7 Back at bridge
From I-15 in
Juab County, take the Nephi 100 North Exit. Turn east, toward the
mountains. Drive about 6 miles up the canyon, then turn left on the Nebo
Loop Road (Scenic Byway). Drive another 3.5 miles on the loop road and
turn left on the Salt Creek Road toward Bear Canyon Campground. Go 2 miles
up the road, and park on the right just before the campground entrance.
Water: At the campground
Toilets: At the trailhead, plus Hells Kitchen on Nebo Loop Road
Camping: Bear Canyon, nearby Cottonwood campground.
Nearest bike services: Payson
Bear Canyon map