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Corkscrew Trail  (Lapoint area)

The Corkscrew Trail is a 9.2 mile lariat loop located just east of Lapoint, about 12 miles west of Vernal on Highway 121. The highlight is a long undulating downhill through the red dirt and rock. It shares a trailhead with the Racetrack Trail, an easier loop.

Just getting started. Looking west as we start riding out toward the loop. Photos June 3, 2010 by Bruce.

The Corkscrew trail climbs from 5600 to 6300 feet elevation. Except for one little granny-gear slope, the climbing is so mellow it's hardly noticeable. The trail is intermediate technical overall. The climb is easy. The descent is hard only if you want to ride at blistering speed -- the tight corners and off-camber turns are nature's speed bumps.

Coming over a rise, we descend to the fork where the loop starts. The Lapoint highway turns to climb the mesa at upper left.

After riding west about a mile from the trailhead, we come to a fork. Keep left to ride a clockwise loop.

The trail will turn north and begin climbing a gentle slope up a broad valley.

View north as we climb clockwise around the loop.

About 4 miles out, the trail turns east in a small valley, then turns briefly south to climb a stiff little slope. At the top, you'll cross a dirt road. On your left is a strip of junipers separating you from the mesa's drop-off; to the right is a broad grassy meadow. Once you enter the junipers, you'll climb toward a choke point on the ridge.

View north from the mesa as the Uintah Mountains loom over the badlands.

About mile 5, the trail does a 180 and you begin to descend. At first, the trail is a bit tight as it twists around junipers. You'll brush a few trees. The dirt of the trail surface is a loose granular stuff -- not sand, not silt. On my racing tires, it acted like little ball bearings. Once speeds hit the low 20's, I'd tend to drift out a bit on tight turns. Trenches just outside the turn radius (with little biker-shaped depressions further out) showed where other riders failed to control the drift, digging into the soft shoulder and coming to a quick unplanned halt.

View south from the apex of the mesa as we begin the descent.

The downhill is a lot of fun. After a mile you'll exit the tight trees onto a more open area where you can see the trail and plan your moves. It's constantly turning.

Heading downhill toward the south, still high on the mesa.

If I had one quibble, it's that there are a lot of very tight off-camber turns that force you to shed speed down into the mid-teens. (Yes, wanting to go too fast is a character flaw.) Rail 'em if you can, but don't mess up the dirt by overshooting turns. The shoulder is really soft.

There are a few jumps installed on the downhill. Nothing big.

After a satisfying 3.5 miles of downhill bliss, the trail rejoins the outgoing route. Back to the car. Or turn the bike around and do another loop.

Handlebar view as the trail rockets toward a ridgeline.

Riding notes, clockwise loop ride:
0.0  Find westbound trail at NW corner of parking
       N40 24.782 W109 43.710  Cross dirt road
0.9  Fork L to begin loop N40 24.891 W109 44.570
1.0  Cross dirt road N40 24.921 W109 44.828
4.1  After sharp climb, cross dirt road
       N40 26.815 W109 44.435
5.0  180 turn and begin downhill
       N40 27.362 W109 44.115
8.3  Back at loop fork
9.2  Back at parking

View downhill as we re-enter the flats before completing the loop.

Getting there:  
From within Vernal:  From the middle of Vernal, go north on Highway 44 to 500 North (Highway 121 to Lapoint) and turn left. Zero your odometer here. Drive 12.2 miles west on 121. About a half mile past mile marker 29, watch for a dirt road on your right. Just through the fence, there's a broad parking area on your right.
From Roosevelt on US-40:  From where US-40 makes a 90-degree right turn in Roosevelt, drive 7.9 miles east. Turn left on Highway 246 to Lapoint (just before the town of Gusher). Drive 7.3 miles north and turn right at the T intersection toward Lapoint on Highway 121. Drive 5.7 miles east. (After dropping down into a canyon and turning rightward, ignore the first dirt road on the left. The dirt road you want will be about 1/3 mile past mile marker 28.) Turn left, go through the fence, then turn right into a broad primitive parking area.
To begin the ride, find going west from the parking area.

Riding resources for this trail:
Single-page riding guide
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    Garmin     GPX
Large-format area topo map (220K):  View map
Lodging, camping, shops:   Links to Vernal area resources
Camping: Allowed, primitive
Bike services, maps, trail conditions:

Altitude Cycle, 580 East Main, Vernal. 435-781-2595

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