||Mule Ear - Mule Shoe Loop
North Fork Park
The Mule Loop consists of the Mule Ear and Mule Shoe trails in North
Fork Park. The ride is singletrack, about 5.5 miles in length. The Mule
Ear Connector runs through the loop north-to-south. The trail's elevation
is from 5600 to 5900 feet, with a riding season of late May through
trail view as we climb up the meandering Mule Ear through groves of big
maple. Photos and checkout ride October 12, 2010 by Bruce. Latest update
June 19, 2019.
Judging by the huge heaping piles
of horse crap in the middle of the trail, it's destined to become a
favorite of equestrians. That's OK. The woods are fairly "open"
so it's easy to move off the trail. I saw only two riders on horseback on
the day of my ride.
A couple of horses head down Mule Ear
with the town of Liberty and the Ogden Valley in the background.
The loop ride is
moderately strenuous in aerobic requirement. It's not particularly technical in terms
of rocks, roots, and tricky stuff. But Mule Ear, when done clockwise, has
quite a few tight S turns on the downhill. So I'm giving Mule Ear an
upper-intermediate tech rating, while ranking Mule Shoe and the Mule Ear
This is why the trail is called Mule Ear. In June,
every clearing is full of Mule Ear blossoms. We're facing southeast on the Mule Ear Connector trail.
The loop is bisected by the Mule Ear Connector trail. This
is an easy trail, gently uphill from south to north as it contours the
hillside. It lies just uphill from the gravel road. Beginning riders can
make a fun loop of Mule Shoe and the Mule Ear Connector.
Looking south on the Mule Ear Connector trail near
the north end of the Mule Loop.
For a longer ride, you can start at the 365
Trail. 365 has
two ways of connecting uphill to the Mule Loop (see the map, and see the 365
and Pipeline trail page for navigation details). The easiest to
navigate is the Pipeline to Mule connector. Get to the Pipeline-365 trail
fork (either via 365 or Pipeline), then go uphill on Pipeline. Just after
crossing a small creek, take the right (uphill) trail fork and climb up to
Mule Shoe / Cinch. When you reach the loop, straight and right puts you on the
counterclockwise loop. A left turn takes you to the road crossing, Mule
Ear, then the Mule Ear Connector trail.
You can also
connect from the 365 Trail using the McDurfee Creek trail (called Traily
McTrailface on Trailforks). See the instructions under "Ben Lomond
trailhead" at bottom.
View uphill to the west.
|Uphill from the Mule Loop are the Cutler Flat area trails.
These start about 1/3 mile north of the Mule Loop trailhead at the group
area pavilion. There's the Cutler Flat lariat
loop, Cutler's Twist, and the Traildemic-Bicentennial
To connect, you have two options. You can take the Mule Ear Connector trail down to the Cutler Flat
gate, then ride up
the doubletrack to the group picnic area. Or, you can take Cutler's
Twist from the northern side of the loop, which will take you directly
to the group area pavilion.
See the area map below.
Aspen grove on the
Mule Ear Connector trail.
||The loop is split into two halves by the North Fork Park
road. Mule Ear is on the uphill side of the North Fork Park road.
Mule Ear has a long sustained climb with lots of not-too-tight
switchbacks. Downhill, it's a plunge through a ton of turns.
Just uphill from the gravel road is the Mule Ear Connector trail. It's
1.1 miles long, running from the southern end of Mule Ear just west of the
road crossing, then crossing the northern side of the loop before
dropping to the Cutler Flat gate.
Looking around a turn on the downhill
side of Mule Ear. Notice by the condition of the trail edge that this is a
fairly fresh cut.
|Mule Shoe is the part on the downhill side of the road. Mule
Shoe is much easier aerobically. The turns are more mellow, so it's also
easier technically. Mule Shoe doesn't make
you work as hard overall, but has some short steep pitches. Mule Shoe has up-and-down
riding, and a few of the short "ups" are quite a grunt.
View south over Ogden Valley.
|| You can ride both trails as a loop, or ride just one and
head back to the car on the gravel road.
Northern trailhead altitude is at 6000 feet. Low point is
5500 feet on the Mule Shoe Trail. The Mule Shoe crosses the road and
becomes Mule Ear at 5700 feet elevation. High point is near the viewpoint
on Mule Ear at 6500.
After crossing the gravel road, we're
on Mule Shoe, the lower half of the loop. Fir and aspen hide in the
gulleys, with scrub oak, maple, and brush in the exposed areas.
I also noticed only horse trailers at the formal trailhead. All the
cyclists I saw rode into the trail system from the campground and picnic
area. The gravel in the trailhead parking slots was obviously very freshly dumped, so it might be that cyclists just
haven't found the parking area yet.
Dogs are allowed, and are supposed to be on leash.
Mule Shoe dips in and out of ravines
and through small creeks. You cycle rapidly from one environmental zone to
||The woods here are pretty, and there are nice views. I'd
give this trail a hearty recommendation. It will make a good day of riding
for an early-intermediate. More advanced riders may want to combine it
with another ride, for example Cutler Flat, just 1/3 mile down the road.
More trail as Mule Shoe heads south
toward the picnic area.
|Because most cyclists are riding this trail from
the campground road as it climbs out of Cold Canyon -- or via the Pipeline
to Mule Shoe connector -- my ride description starts where the loop
crosses the road at the south end. If you're not confident on the
navigation, drive to the new formal trailhead at
the north end of the loop.
Riding notes, clockwise loop from 1st road crossing:
Road turns sharply R at creek, climbs hill.
ST is on left about 100 hards up the hill
0.0 Hard L onto ST N41 22.424 W111 54.768
Mule Ear Trail, begin climbing
0.1 Straight (R = Mule Ear Connector, L = Traily McTrailface)
N41 22.389 W111 54.867
1.5 Hard L for viewpoint trail
N41 22.560 W111 55.350
1.8 At viewpoint turnaround
N41 22.489 W111 55.552
2.1 Back at fork, keep straight
3.1 Keep R (L = Cutler's Twist)
3.2 Cross Mule Ear Connector N41 22.847 W111 55.170
(L = to Cutler Flat, R = to south end
3.3 Cross road (parking area on R)
Mule Shoe Trail N41 22.863 W111 55.145
4.0 Keep straight N41 22.889 W111 54.685
L = Bottom of Cutler's Twist
Keep straight again (R = Cinch)
4.8 Keep L (R = Cinch joins)
5.2 Keep R uphill N41 22.433 W111 54.709
L = to Pipeline trail
5.3 Back at road
||Getting there: Go up
Ogden Canyon. (From the north on I-15, take the 12th South Ogden exit and
head east on Highway 39. From the south, exit I-15 on US 89. Pass I-84 and
climb up the hill, then turn right on Harrison Blvd. Continue on Harrison
until you hit U-39 and turn R toward Ogden Canyon.) Turn left across the
dam at Pineview Reservoir. At the stop sign in Eden, turn left. Turn left
at the stop sign in Liberty. After about 1/4 mile, take the next right.
Just after you cross the river, veer left toward North Fork Park.
Mule Ear trailhead (recommended): Turn left
again at the North Fork Park sign. At the campground entry gate, you can
turn left into the 365 Trail trailhead for a longer ride. To park at the
Mule Loop trailhead, go
1.8 miles on the main North Fork Park road from where you turned off the main road. Look for a the
trailhead sign on your right. Pull into the little loop and park. Connect to the trail on the northwest side of
the parking area.
Road-fork parking to north Mule Connector: Pass the
first entrance into the North Fork Park (on your left). Go another mile up
the road and turn left at the second entry N41 22.986 W111 54.298. Fork
left at the T intersection. When you reach a hairpin turn with a gate at
the apex (north side) of the turn, N41 22.979 W111 55.187, you're there.
Park your car. Find the singletrack near the gate. That's the Mule
365/Pipeline parking: Just after you cross the river, veer left
toward North Fork Park. Turn left again at the Ben Lomond Trailhead -
North Fork Park sign. As you approach the campground entry gate, turn left
into the 365 Trail trailhead and park. The 365 Trail is at the southwest
corner of the parking lot. For the Pipeline trail, pedal back to the road,
go through the gate and 100 yards uphill, then turn right to find the
trail post marking the entry to the singletrack trail.
Ben Lomond trailhead: Turn left toward North Fork Park just after you
cross the river. Turn left again at the North Fork Park sign. Drive past the
campground entrances, keeping generally straight and uphill. As the main
road turns to the right, turn left toward the stables. Now keep generally
straight until you see parking and a metal horse corral on your right. Park
just north of the horse corral, and you'll see the trailhead directly west.
Start uphill on the Ben Lomond Trail, then quickly fork right on the 365
Trail. After 0.3 miles, fork left uphill as a trail crosses. This is Traily
McTrailface and it will take you 0.7 miles up to where the south end of Mule
Connector hits the Mule Ear trail.