Lookout Peak to Big Mountain Loop
This loop ride is for advanced and adventuresome riders. The ride climbs Big Mountain Pass,
then up Big Mountain itself. It includes a brutal climb, a section of rough root-strewn tech
riding, and a ball-bearing-slippery steep descent.
Handlebar view down Mountain Dell Canyon, near Swallow Rock. Photos August 26, 2002 by Bruce.
The trail rolls around the ridge that connects Big Mountain to Lookout Peak, skirts the top
of Emigration Canyon, then drops down to Affeck Park from the top of Killyon Canyon. The route
described here is 15.4 miles, with altitude change of 2500 feet, reaching a peak altitude of
8600. Up-and-down riding on the ridge brings the total vertical to around 3500. Once you've
climbed above 8000 feet, you'll spend 7 miles riding along ridgeline at high altitude as you
loop around the border of a huge deep valley -- Mountain Dell Canyon. You'll be able to see
into Parley's Canyon, the Park City area, Morgan Canyon, and Emigration Canyon. Most of the
ridgeline ride has fabulous open views. This is a very pretty ride, but is only for those with
good skills, strength, and altitude acclimatization.
The climb from Big Mountain has been often loose and
washed out, because trail maintenance here is spotty and the trail is often steep. So you can expect to hike your bike a bit. The section from
the GWT over to Lookout Peak is often seriously overgrown with trailside brush
and small trees. Until some serious trailwork is done on a regular basis, this route should
be considered only by those who are looking for new trail and a real
The Mormon Pioneer Trail is the uphill route to Big Mountain Pass. Near the top, giant ferms grow among maples and aspen.
Riding around the loop counterclockwise, the tech factor gets progressively tougher. The first
3.5 miles is the
, and it's relatively easy. The climb isn't too tough and the trail is broad and smooth. You'll
be riding in forest of box elder, maple, and oak, with occasional groves of aspen. Elderberry,
chokecherry, and fern are found in the understory.
The Great Western (GWT) up Big Mountain is narrow and steep with tight switchbacks -- you'll
gain 800 feet in 1 mile. Only the best can ride this without an occasional dab or brief push-a-bike.
At the top, look over the valley below you.
You're going to ride around the rim of this valley. Any fork that takes you away from the rim
is the wrong way. The trail turns north and rolls along the ridge for 2 miles on easy but narrow
singletrack, then 2 miles of occasionally rocky doubletrack. You're riding on open wind-swept
ridge with occasional groves of aspen. The views in this area are fabulous!
Looking towards Emigration Canyon, we see bushes of serviceberry (hawberry). These provided a tasty treat for a hungry biker!
While most of the ride is on exposed ridgeline, you'll slip through groves of trees. On the side of Lookout Peak, there's a long stretch of trees that's pretty rad.
The GWT singletrack around the north end of the valley is upper-intermediate technical, with
occasional short tough sections. Be sure you don't miss the critical turn that takes you up
the ridgeline, then over the saddle to the east side of Lookout Peak. Here you'll encounter
a mile of very narrow up-and-down technical trail with roots and tree trunks to hop over, while
small trees and brush drag at your handlebars. Much fun!
Descending from Lookout Peak requires good rock-surfing skills, as this steep trail is littered
with skittery round boulders. Roll over conglomerate outcrops, keep your butt back, and work
your brakes carefully. Despite the 1000 ft per mile rate of descent, the trail is very rideable.
Intersecting a trail at the top of Killyon Canyon, you turn left to drop down to Affleck Park
to complete the loop.
The wind can get pretty intense on the ridgeline. Note the scoured upwind (west) face, with lush downwind side.
Map of the Lookout Peak ride
Getting there, Pioneer Trail parking area:
On I-80 in Parley's Canyon, take
the Little Dell Recreation Area exit. From the exit, drive uphill 4.1
miles, then park on the right side of the road near the outhouse at GPS N
40° 47.996' W 111° 40.750'. The trail begins on the opposite side of the
road, just downhill.
Affleck Park trailhead: Drive another 0.8 miles uphill, then
turn left and descend to Affleck Park. Keep right and proceed uphill to
the north end of the park, and find the sign indicating the Mormon Pioneer
Trail. (The return trail is across the creek.) Subtract 1 mile from the
mileage below when riding the trail.
See below for link to printable topo map!
Little Dell trailhead: At mile 2 after exiting the freeway, turn
right into the Little Dell recreation area (fee required). Roll down to
the trail parking lot near the water. Trail begins paved at GPS N
40° 46.622' W 111° 41.317', then turns to cinder as you pass close by a
picnic table. Add 1.9 to the mileage below. See the Pioneer
Trail page for additional details.
For connections to Little Mountain Pass and Killyon Canyon, see the Killyon
Canyon Loop page.
Ride Notes, from the roadside Pioneer Trail parking area.
(Your mileage may vary depending on calibration, tire
size, and "packing your bike.")
0.0 Parking on R side of road, trail is back down the road on L
about 100 feet
N 40° 47.994' W 111°
40.755' Alt 6100
0.2 Faint singletrack joins from L
0.8 Affleck Park, keep L on DT, then R over creek, then L to end of
1.0 Cindered trail in Affleck Park gives way to dirt
1.9 Cross road
3.5 After three switchbacks, arrive at parking area of Big Mountain
Go across road to singletrack that
climbs hillside (GWT)
N 40° 49.680' W 111°
39.227' Alt 7500
4.5 Trail turns N after climbing Big Mountain, follows ridgeline -
6.4 Descend, then keep straight (L) on DT - view into Morgan Canyon
7.9 Fork in DT, keep straight (L) on ridge
8.0 Faint DT joins from L, keep straight
8.1 Great Western (GWT) branches off on L, just below rock outcrop
with cave at bottom
Trail curves around north end of
valley, going W
9.5 CRITICAL FORK! After steep descent on loose rock down
find faint singletrack forking L,
just after trail climbs back into trees.
(If you turn onto N slope and descend
towards valley, you missed it!)
N 40° 51.133' W 111°
42.696' Alt 8400
10.5 Mile of dodge-em riding in tight trees
11.6 Reach ridge on flank of Lookout Peak, view of Emigration Canyon
Begin steep ridgeline descent in
loose rock, then switchback into old fire area
13.6 Trail crosses in clearing, turn L and drop downhill
N 40° 48.668' W 111°
41.453' Alt 6300
14.4 Arrive Affleck Park N 40° 48.839' W 111° 40.852'
R on DT, keep R to find ST after gate
15.4 Back at parking