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Northern Skyline Trail

The Northern Skyline Trail is a great hill-climb with awesome ridgetop views over Ogden and the Great Salt Lake. The trail is intermediate technical but very strenuous aerobic. From the southern end (North Ogden Divide trailhead), it climbs 2600 vertical feet over 6.5 miles. 

Handlebar view from the ridgeline, looking towards north Ogden 4000 feet below. The islands of the Great Salt Lake can barely be made out below the horizon. Photos September 21, 2001 by Bruce Argyle.

You can get to the trail's top via the Ben Lomond trail, with a climb of 3000 feet over 6.1 miles. (This does NOT include the side-trip to Ben Lomond Peak, an almost-impossible brute climb.) The combined trail is 12.6 miles in length, with several different riding options. This is an awesome ride, if you've got the thigh and lungs for it.

Option 1: Southern out-and-back. Ride north from the North Ogden Divide trailhead to the Ben Lomond intersection, then turn back for 13 miles, 2600 vertical.

Option 2: Point-to-point. From either the North Ogden Divide or the Ben Lomond trailhead, ride the entire 12.6 miles, using a shuttle to return.
Option 3: 20-mile loop. (If you're riding clockwise from North Ogden Pass, you'll have to fight up 1000 vertical feet of paved road at the end of your loop.)

Climbing from the North Ogden Divide, green manzanita (foreground) contrasts with red maple, with yellow aspens higher up among the fir. We're heading towards the highest point on the ridge.

From the North Ogden Divide trailhead, the trail rises at a 10% grade over several switchbacks. The surface is fairly smooth, with a bit of loose limestone rock and occasional rough outcrops. At 2 miles, the trail rises along a ridgeline, heading west away from the Ogden Valley. At 3 miles, the trail is in fir, pinion, and quaking aspen as it climbs along the east side of the rising ridgeline.

Trail view on a cooler northern slope, with ferns among tall Douglas Fir.

At 4 miles, you've climbed 2100 vertical feet, and the trail crosses to the west side of the ridge, which it follows to the Ben Lomond intersection. The grade here is generally uphill, but with a little up-and-down. You'll climb another 500 feet over the next 2.6 miles. This ridgeline ride is visually stunning -- you're 4000 feet above a valley that's horizontally only 1/2 mile away -- while viewing rocky cliffs on the skirts of Ben Lomond peak.

View back south along the ridgeline with stunted fir and pinion. You can see the trail below the ridgeline rock outcrop.

At 6.5 miles, you reach the intersection with the Ben Lomond Peak trail, and the Skyline Trail's highest point. From here, you can turn around, try your luck at Ben Lomond, or turn east for a steady descent to the North Park trailhead at mile 12.6.

View of Ben Lomond Peak, from 2.5 miles away at the start of the ridgeline ride.

Crazy-biker Option: The 1.5 mile trail to the peak of Ben Lomond rises 1000 feet over multiple sharp switchbacks. Average grade is 15%, and the surface is loose and rocky. If you decide to take your bike to the summit, expect to pack it much of the way.

Bruce flies along the ridgeline descending the
Northern Skyline after climbing Ben Lomond.
Dominic Bria drops down "the wall" -- a short
rock garden along the ridge. August 2008.
For most of the climb, you're riding on limestone from the Cambrian and Ordovician Periods, about 500 million years ago. On the ridgeline south of Ben Lomond, you'll also pass through quartzite outcrops from the Precambrian Period, with occasional metamorphic slate and schists. This area of the Wasatch is geologically complex, with rock layers up-lifted, tilted, and over-thrust, so older rocks may be found at higher altitudes than younger ones.

Looking northwest towards Willard Bay, rough quartzite tops the cliffs near Ben Lomond Peak.

The ridgeline is an unusual ecosystem of pinion pine and manzanita shrub, plus other low woody brush. On the eastern downwind side of the ridge are more typical Wasatch forests of fir, aspen, choke cherry, and maple.

Even in late September, a lupine blooms along the trail.

Getting there: From the Ogden 12th Street exit, drive east (towards the mountains). At 400 East (Washington), turn left (north) and drive 5 miles. After the street narrows, veers slightly east, and enters a residential area, turn right (east) at 3100 North. Drive 4.1 miles to the parking area on your right, at the highest spot of the North Ogden Divide. The trail begins right across the road from the turn-in to the parking area.

FYI:  Alternative ways of reaching Ben Lomond Peak are the Willard Peak (Inspiration Point) and Ben Lomond trails.

Alternate, via Ogden Valley: Drive straight into Ogden Canyon from the 12th Street exit. At Pineview Reservoir, turn left across the dam. At the stop sign in Eden (shopping center and gas station), turn left. Turn left again at the stop sign in Liberty, then go straight west until the road begins climbing up to the Divide.
Alternative, North Ogden Trailhead:  The North Ogden Canyon trailhead is 2750 N. 1375 E., just south of 3100 N (the street that heads from Ogden up to the Divide). From here, it's a 2.4 mile fire-road climb up to the trailhead at the Divide.
Riding Resources for Northern Skyline:
  Topo map:  View Hres Topo
  Single-page riding guide
  Lodging, camping, shops:    Links to Ogden area resources
GPS track files (right-click and "Save as..."):
     Northern Skyline:  Garmin     GPX
     Skyline Epic (Pineview to Ben Lomond Loop)
            Garmin     GPX

Original review 2001. Updated with a new ride 2008.
Copyright 2008 Mad Scientist Software Inc