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Horse Flat Trail

The Horse Flat Trail begins at the Alpine Loop Summit parking lot. This two-mile trail climbs up the saddle between the North Fork of Provo Canyon and the South Fork of American Fork Canyon. It turns back downhill in a grassy area called Horse Flat, the heads downhill to join the Lame Horse (Aspen Grove) trail on the Provo Canyon side of the summit. Horse Flat can be done as an out-and-back or as a loop ride.

View to the south as we pass through one of several small meadows. That's Timpanogos peeking over the ridge as we ride toward Horse Flat. Original review and photos Sept. 30, 1999 by Bruce. Latest update August 24, 2018.

The western side of the Horse Flat trail runs one mile from the Alpine Loop summit trailhead to the flat, with 450 vertical feet of elevation gain. The eastern side descends 500 vertical feet over one mile down to Lame Horse. With 0.6 miles uphill on Lame Horse back to the summit, it makes a short-but-fun loop ride of 2.6 miles.

Beginning the climb up from the summit trailhead in this June 2006 photo.

The trail requires at least intermediate abilities. Most of the trail is plush packed dirt. There's one rough steep 150-foot section on the western side that's a hike-a-bike uphill and an expert downhill. Reaching an elevation of almost 8500 feet with a moderate rate of climbing, it's more aerobically than technically challenging. 

We're looking northwest from the summit parking area. That's Box Elder that's the highest. Pfeiferhorn and Chipman Peak are partially obscured by trees. Photo September 1999.

Because the loop is short and the scenery is pretty, you'll encounter more hikers and horse riders on this trail than you might expect. Once a "nobody goes there" trail, it's become increasingly popular in recent years.

Note that the winter snow-riding route -- see the video below -- does NOT follow the singletrack trail. It passes through a draw just to the west, in a more-open area.

Cruising on a buff flat section of very scenic trail in August 2018.

The ride!

Start at the Alpine Loop summit trailhead. The loop can be done either direction. Some riders prefer to do one limb of the loop as an out-and-back -- for example as a side-trip when riding the Snow Gauge Loop.

My discussion assumes you'll start the Horse Flat trail directly from the summit trailhead for a counterclockwise ride.

Cranking up a steeper area of slope in the first part of the counterclockwise ride.

If you're pedaling to the trail from lower in the canyon, I recommend using the Willow Hollow trail for your climb. It's significantly less steep and techy than riding south on Ridge 157 from Pine Hollow or the Ridge Connector.

Another meadow, with a bit of Timpanogos appearing above the trees.

For a counterclockwise ride, find the break in the fence at the western side of the summit trailhead parking loop. The trail immediately splits into the Willow Hollow trail (right and downhill) and the Horse Flat trail (left and uphill).

Most of the riding is in aspen forest with a relatively tall understory of ferns and thimbleberry.

 Horse Flat is a popular "suncrust" riding area during the late winter!

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

After an initial climb of around 1/4 mile through a mixed forest of aspen and fir, the trail levels out. You'll pass through a couple of meadows. Between the treetops you'll catch views of surrounding peaks such as Timpanogos, Box Elder Peak, and Pfeiferhorn.

Passing by the Snow Gauging trail on the counterclockwise ride, we drop into yet another gorgeous meadow.

Left: Banana Thunder rests
against the Horse Flat sign.
September 1999.


Right:  Jackie waits for the
bike to get moving again.
September 1999.

At mile 0.45, keep straight and left as the Snow Gauging trail forks away on your right.

We're there! A short drop down to the meadow, and we're at Horse Flat.

At mile 0.55, the trail turns to the right and heads up a rough rocky trench. Or maybe it will be buffed out when you ride. But this push-a-bike section has persisted for 15 years. After 100 feet, you're back on smooth dirt again.

Before it reaches the uphill side of the meadow, the trail will make a left turn and begin a descent northbound to the Lame Horse trail.

At mile 1.0, you're at Horse Flat. Enjoy the views, then keep to the left as you continue on. Depending on horse and hunter traffic, there may be sucker trails at Horse Flat taking you further uphill. These "not the trails" usually go to the right. You should be fine if you always keep left on what seems to the main trail.

Timpanogos helps this area get more rain during the summer. It's also a north slope, so it tends to stay lush.

After turning to the north, Horse Flat descends one mile to the Lame Horse (Aspen Grove) trail. You'll hit the trail fork at mile 2.0 from the summit trailhead.

Turn to the left, uphill. Pedal 0.5 miles on a gradual slope. Keep straight and left as the Deer Creek South Fork trail joins Lame Horse from the right. 1/10th mile later, you're back at the summit trailhead.

Have fun twisting through the aspens!

Popular riding options from the Horse Flat trail

Snow Gauging trail: At 1/2 mile uphill on the western side of the Horse Flat loop, the Snow Gauging trail forks downhill. This can be combined with Willow Hollow for a 3.5-mile loop ride, or 4.5 if you make an up-and-back to Horse Flat before turning onto Snow Gauging -- as in the video below. This ride is for upper-intermediate to advanced riders.

Extended Deer Creek South Fork:  Consider adding Horse Flat to your DCSF loop ride. As you approach the summit when riding clockwise, fork to the left downhill on Lame Horse. Then fork right on Horse Flat and ride the loop around to the summit parking.

View downhill through the aspens on the Snow Gauging trail. The trail is narrow and twisting.

Riding notes, counterclockwise loop
0.0   At summit parking, go to west side to find trail
        N40 25.851 W111 36.830
        Immediately fork L uphill on Horse Flat trail
0.5   Keep L (R = Snow Gage trail)
        N40 25.687 W111 37.105
1.0   At Horse Flat, keep generally left
        N40 25.255 W111 37.170

2.0   L uphill on Lame Horse
        N40 25.469 W111 36.575
2.5   Straight (R = Deer Creek South Fork)
        N40 25.793 W111 36.811
2.6   At parking.

 The western half of Horse Flat, as seen on the Snow Gauge Loop ride...

 If the above video does not appear on your browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Getting there:
Alpine Loop summit trailhead. 
From I-15, take the Alpine-Highland exit and drive 7 miles to the mouth of American Fork Canyon. Pay your $6 fee (as of 2018) there. Five miles later at the fork in the road, go right along the south fork of the river and climb to the summit. There's a parking lot on your right just before the top of the ridge. From parking, find the trail on the west side of the loop (the side that overlooks AF Canyon). Go about 10 feet down this trail, then turn left and begin climbing uphill (south).

Bathrooms:  Summit trailhead, Salamander Flat trailhead, Timpooneke trailhead
Water:  Developed campgrounds

Riding Resources for Horse Flat:
  AF Canyon area topo map:  View map
  Single-page riding guide for printing.
  Lodging, camping, shops:  Links to AF Canyon resources
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
    GPX Horse Flat Loop
    American Fork Canyon multi-track area file

Copyright 1999 Mad Scientist Software Inc. Updated 2018.