The Rock Spring Trail runs east-west near the top of Payson Canyon.
It's intermediate in tech requirement. But at an altitude of around 8000
feet it will require a bit of stamina -- or frequent rest breaks. The
trail can be part of many different riding options off the Nebo Loop road.
Heading east on the Rock Spring trail. Original
review and photos by Bruce in October
Latest update June 19, 2017.
The Nebo Loop area is famous for its fall leaves. But it's a
scenic ride anytime. You'll go through groves of aspen and maple, with the
occasional fir. In the early morning, you may surprise deer, moose, and
elk as you pop out of the trees into a meadow. Wildflowers are everywhere,
and include lupine, mule's ear, daisy, and penstemmon.
Lizard Lake, one of the highlights of the Rock Spring
The Rock Spring
trail itself is 4.5 miles long, with up-and-down riding bringing the
climbing to around 800 vertical feet. The trail is a key to several other
routes at the top of Payson Canyon. It has connections to Shram,
Lizard Lake, Jones
Ranch, and Blackhawk.
Here's the Rock Spring that the trail is named after.
You'll pass this in the middle of the trail.
On the eastern end, Rock Spring begins at a large trailhead
with a horse corral, on the west side of the Nebo Loop road above the
Payson Lakes campground.
As it heads west, it hits the Jones Ranch trail, Tie Fork (Frank
Young), Lizard Lake, and Shram Creek. It ends on the gravel Santaquin
View from Rock Spring as the Mules Ear blossom.
Compared to other Payson Canyon trails, much of Rock Spring's riding
Compared to the northern Wasatch, the trails here are
virtually empty. On weekdays you'll rarely see another human. On weekends,
it's a nice break from the crowded northern trails, yet not far away.
The Nebo Loop area is very popular for horse riding. Steeper
areas may be a bit loose after a dry spell, as the horses churn the trail.
This trail gives plenty of room to sidestep horses.
through an aspen grove.
There are many loop rides that use a piece of the Rock
Spring trail to connect between uphill and downhill routes. For example,
Jones Ranch to Shram Creek. This page will describe a loop that uses all
of Rock Spring.
the Nebo Loop Road on the Frank Young trail, we're at the intersection
with the Rock Spring trail.
The Rock Spring and Blackhawk loop
This loop is 11 miles.
Starting at 7900 feet
elevation, the trail climbs only 500 feet, but up-and-down riding will
make the total vertical about 1800. Surface is intermediate technical. It
avoids some of the meaner climbing on lower Blackhawk by starting higher
on the mountain.
In 2002, Jackie takes a break while I
check the healing of a 1999 logging zone.
The ride starts at the eastern Rock Spring
parking area, but heads across the road to the Blackhawk Trail to start a
To cut off some distance, the trail will
shortcut past the Blackhawk Campground on the Bennie Creek Ridge
(campground bypass) trail.
Fall rain drops the maple
leaves on Blackhawk just west of the campground.
Again and again, the trail breaks out to provide fantastic
views of nearby mountains and canyons. You'll look east towards the
Birdseye area, north down Payson Canyon, and south down Beaver Dam Canyon.
View south down Beaver Dam Canyon as I approach the
end of Blackhawk.
At the Blackhawk trail's west end, we'll take a bit of road to reach
the west end of Rock Spring. (For a shorter ride, you can take Tie Fork or
upper Lizard Lake to reach Rock Spring. If you cross the Nebo Loop road at Frank Young Canyon,
drop straight down to the middle of the Rock Spring Trail.)
There are a couple of gates on this loop. Be sure to close them after
you. The gates aren't to keep you out, they're to keep cattle in.
View along the trail in 2017. Much of Rock Spring
would rate as a "Cruiser" -- relatively flat and straight.
Once you find Rock Spring on the gravel Santaquin Canyon road, you just
keep heading east and straight at all trail forks. Early in the season,
Lizard Lake is a must-see.
Lizard Lake in this 2005 photo.
There are several riding options to tailor your ride. For a
longer ride, without adding a lot of climbing, loop around through the
Blackhawk Campground. Another (brutal) add-on is a dip through Holman
When you finish your loop, draw straws to see who drives the car, while
the rest of you plunge down Blackhawk and take the Bennie Creek
Cutoff Trail down to the loop road a couple of miles below.
On the final gentle descent on Rock Spring, heading
for the corral.
A portion of Rock Spring
is included on this Jones Ranch to Blackhawk video.
If the above video does not appear on your
browser/device, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking
Riding Notes, from the trailhead opposite
the Ranger Station:
0.0 From the fenced parking area, head right up the
Find the trail as the
N 39° 55.535' W 111°
0.25 Trail joins Blackhawk, turn R
N 39° 55.410' W 111°
0.55 Fork R (L= Blackhawk Loop)
N 39° 55.147' W 111°
1.9 Reach road, cross to parking area
Trail continues through
N 39° 54.542' W 111°
(Ignore smaller trails,
2.6 Fork R and slightly uphill at trail sign
N 39° 54.155' W 111°
4.4 Reach doubletrack, go R to paved road
N 39° 53.824' W 111°
Turn left on road
5.9 Fork R onto Santaquin Canyon Road
6.9 Fork R off road onto Rock Springs Tr
N 39° 54.398' W 111°
7.7 Keep straight (L=Schram Tr)
8.0 Straight (R=Lizard Lake Tr to Road)
8.7 Straight (R=Tie Fork or Frank Young Tr)
9.9 Fork R on Rock Springs (L=Jones Ranch)
11.1 Doubletrack, continue straight to road
N 39° 55.676' W 111°
Turn R on road, then L
0.1 mile later
11.5 Back at vehicle
Getting there: Going south, take the Payson exit
I-15 and turn left. Head into Payson on U-115 to the traffic light, then turn left (100
North, U-198). About 1/3 mile later, at the top of a small hill, turn right at 600 East.
Set your odometer now! Keep going up Payson Canyon. Just past Payson Lakes
at mile 12.8, you'll see a Rock Spring trail sign on your
right. About 1/10th mile down the dirt road is a large corral, with the
trail on the left side.
To start from the Ranger Station trailhead, go past the
trailhead sign for 1/10th mile. Turn left across from the Ranger Station.
Go 1/10 mile to park. Pedal a tiny ways up the dirt road on
your right and find the singletrack at the top of the ridge. GPS N 39° 55.535' W 111° 37.753'.
For the Blackhawk Trailhead, continue up the road to mile 14 and
turn left at the fork to Blackhawk Campground.
About 1/10 mile down the road, there's a turnout on the right. The
trailhead is at the log fence, heading west. GPS N 39° 54.542' W 111° 38.373'.