Looking east while descending the White Fir trail. Initial photos and ride review by Bruce on June 3, 2021. Last updated June 13, 2023.
Slate Creek Trail System
The Slate Creek trail system was designed for mountain biking. Hikers may use these trails
as well, but they're closed to horses. The system consists of the Slate Creek Loop, the Left
Hand Loop, White Fir, and Ponderosa. Slate Creek opened in 2021, with Ponderosa in 2022 and
White Fir in 2023. This is a well-built and fun trail system with plenty of pretty scenery.
The trails begin just off the Mirror Lake Highway at 7050 feet elevation. In general, the trails
are directional for bikes -- one-way -- with only short sections of two-way traffic. The top
elevation is 8200 feet on the Left Hand Loop. The expected riding season will be June through
early October.Beginners and kids will like the short Ponderosa loop (1.5 miles). The Slate Creek Loop is
5.6 miles with 750 feet of overall climbing and has some challenges on the downhill side. The
loop of Slate Creek, Left Hand, White Fir and lower Ponderosa is 9 miles with 1300 feet of
climbing. (A new trail to make a full loop of Left Hand is under construction in 2023.) For
stronger riders, a figure-eight ride that descends both sides of the trail system will be around
15 miles and 2000 vertical.
Climbing away from the Slate Creek Loop on the Left Hand trail.
Descending through ponderosa pine on the Ponderosa Trail.
The riding here will be fun for a wide variety of skill and fitness levels. I'd rate the climbing
trails as easier-intermediate. Ponderosa is an easy downhill for beginners and kids. The other
downhills get an intermediate rating, assuming that less-skilled intermediates will walk through
the worst of the short rock gardens on the downhill side of the Slate Creek Loop.
The trail system is located along the Mirror Lake Highway just 6 miles east of Kamas. There's
a large gravel parking area with a bathroom at the trailhead. While the trailhead is also used
by horsemen, horses will be routed onto a secondary trail 1/2 mile uphill. The
trail is located right across the road for those who want either extra miles or easier riding.
Looking toward the western (down-canyon) side of parking. No water here, but a bathroom is always appreciated!
My Rocky reads the trail sign at the entry to the Slate Creek Loop on the northern side of the parking lot.
The outgoing trail starts at the north end of the parking lot. As you face away from the Mirror
Lake Highway, the Slate Creek trail goes up the broad valley at the uphill end of the parking
area. This is your access to all the other trails. The singletrack trail a bit to the left
is Ponderosa (one-way downhill for bikes), and the trail to your right across the bridge is
the returning Slate Creek Loop (also one-way for bikes).
The Slate Creek one-way loop ride is 5.6 miles with 750 feet of overall climbing. It's rated
intermediate in difficulty.After around 1/4 mile on singletrack, the trail joins a dirt road. (You'll share the next 1/4
mile of trail with horses now.) Aim for the right side of the corral that lies ahead, then
keep straight along the right side of the corral to the gate and continue uphill on the dirt
road. (There's a singletrack hiking trail on the far right that descends to the creek. Don't
Doubletrack and the corral you'll pass by.
On the doubletrack. It's just a quarter mile, dude! You can live with that, right?
At 1/2 mile from the trailhead, the dirt road veers to the right. At this spot, the singletrack
forks 120 degrees to the left. (As of 2021, there's a sign here. Bikes go left, while horses
go to the right. Hikers can go either direction.)After 1/10th mile, the Ponderosa Trail continues straight ahead while Slate Creek forks to
the right and reverses direction.
The singletrack winds through a mixed forest of pine, aspen, and oak. There will be occasional
cedar and choke cherry. Pines give way to fir at the higher elevations.
Winding through pine and baby aspen.
Looking down into Slate Creek toward Beaver Creek during the climb.
There are frequent breakout views, both uphill and down. This is a very pretty ride.On the way uphill, you'll keep to the right at two trail intersections: the Ponderosa trail
at mile 0.6, and the two ends of the Left Hand Loop at mile 2.8 from the trailhead.
The climb is fairly smooth at this time. Turns are gradual (no switchbacks). The rate of climbing
is always gentle. From time to time, you'll coast for a bit before the next uphill starts.
Looking up Slate Creek as we climb higher.
A shadier section of trail with large aspen and fir.
For most of the ride uphill, the trail will be exposed enough that you don't get much benefit
of shade. Even here in the mountains, it does get toasty warm on summer afternoons. And you're
up high enough in elevation for a mean sunburn.
When you hit the wooden bridge crossing a tiny creek at mile 2.2, you're almost through climbing.
You just need to go up and around one more hill into the next drainage.At the highest point of Slate Creek at mile 2.8, the Left Hand Loop joins. Fork right. (On
the far left is the unfinished inner half of the loop. Ahead and slightly left is the outgoing
outer Left Hand Loop, and to the right is the downhill side of Slate Creek.)
Bridge. A wet creek crossing is coming up. Here's hoping nobody builds a bridge there!
Bruce hits the creek in July (see video below).
After a short bit of downhill, you'll cross Slate Creek. You're now at 7700 feet elevation,
mile 2.9. After splashing through the creek, there's a short easy climb before you can turn
The downhill has banked swooping turns. There's an occasional short bit of pedaling to keep
you honest, but overall it's a steady flowing descent. There will be a few short rock-pile
crossings that you should hit with moderate speed. The boulders are big enough to trap your
tire if you dawdle.
Typical downhill section, with slow turns and banks on the turns.
There are quite a few of these stump-jumps on the upper part of the downhill. A dirt ramp takes you to the stump for a bit of flight. The stump is just to the right of the trail in this photo.
A short bit of rocky fun. Some of the rock gardens are long and would rate "expert" while others just mean you stop pedaling for two seconds while you bump through.
There are spots where you can take your eyes off the trail for a few seconds and enjoy the views.
There are no steep spots on the downhill. Most turns are wide and banked. I found a couple
of turns that were tight enough to make me brake, but most of my braking was for line-picking
in rocky areas. Or just speed control 'cause I'm timid.
The terrain on the eastern side of Slate Creek is a bit drier. So while there will be the same
pines and aspen, there's a lot more sage and oak than during your climb.
Typical slow banked turn.
Almost done. That's the cattleguard in the middle of the photo.
As you approach the bottom, you'll reach a flat area of open sage brush. The trail crosses
a small cattleguard, then descends to the horse trail. You'll now join Yellow Pine for the
trip back to the trailhead.Make a right turn onto Yellow Pine, heading west down the main canyon. You'll share the next
0.3 miles with horses. At first, I thought the lines of big rocks across the trail were "Wrong
Way - Don't Go Here" barriers. No, they're just water diversion structures.
This section of the trail may be less fun for you, but it doesn't have to be. It's a tad "trenched"
so there are sometimes sidewalls you can hit. And those rock water-bars just beg you to bunny-hop
The bridge over the creek takes you into the parking lot.
Time for another lap. Or a cruise on
Water-diversion hump lined with boulders. The last 1/3 mile, the old horse trail, is thick with these.
This is the trail fork -- with a temporary sign -- where Ponderosa begins as Slate Creek forks away to the right.
The Ponderosa Loop consists of the first 0.6 miles of the Slate Creek trail, then the Ponderosa
trail back to the trailhead. The loop will be 1.5 miles, with 150 vertical feet of climbing.First, get uphill on the Slate Creek trail. New beginners and kids may want to ride the gravel
road uphill (found to the left of the parking lot as you look uphill) to avoid the narrow and
sometimes bumpy singletrack.
At mile 0.5, the doubletrack diverts to the left on singletrack. 1/10th mile later, keep straight
onto Ponderosa as the Slate Creek trail climbs uphill to your right. Note that this first 0.2-mile
section of Ponderosa is a two-way trail, as riders will be coming downhill from White Fir and
heading to Slate Creek for another trip uphill.After 0.2 miles on Ponderosa, keep to the left as White Fir joins on your right.
We're now at the junction with White Fir. Keep to the left on Ponderosa. (White Fir is downhill-only.)
Looking east as the trail wiggles around between long-leaf pines.
The downhill is easy for kids and beginners, with a very gentle slope. Sight-lines are generous
here, as bushes are short and the trees are spaced well apart.Turns are wide in radius and banked.
When the trail hits the gravel road, continue straight across to a narrower, more-bumpy singletrack
for the last 1/10th mile. Or, don't. If your kids don't like bumping over boulders, just turn
to the right and take the gravel road downhill, then turn left at the gravel road intersection
to return to the trailhead.
A typical turn on Ponderosa. Wide, smooth, and banked.
Arriving at the Left Hand Loop while climbing Slate Creek. Keep straight to climb the outer side of the loop.
The Left Hand Loop is named after Left Hand Canyon, which it enters at the loop's highest elevation.
Only the outer (northwestern) side of the loop is complete at this time. In 2023, the second
half of the loop is under construction and the completed portion is closed. The inner portion
will tie the outer side back to its origin on the Slate Creek trail.
The trail is a machined bench-cut and it's smooth and easy to ride. At this time, 2.5 miles
of Left Hand is complete. The trail continues seamlessly downhill as White Fir at mile 2.5
where the future returning side of the loop will fork left.
Most of the climb will be in aspen forest.
A rare breakout.
The Left Hand Loop is reached by climbing the Slate Creek trail. At mile 2.8 (the highest point
of the Slate Creek loop) you'll come to a 4-way intersection. The trail at the far left is
the (closed and unfinished) inner side of the loop. Straight ahead and aiming uphill is the
outer side of the Left Hand Loop. To the right is the downhill side of the Slate Creek loop.
(See the photo above.)
The trail climbs gently, first to the west then south. There are a few sets of climbing turns
to gain elevation. This side of the hill is maple and aspen forest.
A typical climbing turn. No tight switchbacks and nothing tricky.
Traversing around the hill just below the summit, with the left fork of Beaver Creek deep in Left Hand Canyon below.
Around mile 1.5 from Slate Creek, the trail will cross over a saddle in a fir and pine forest.
You're now officially in Left Hand Canyon as the trail contours the hill heading south.
You'll now begin to descend. There's no specific marker between "up" and "down" sides of the
trail. No "you've arrived."This part of the ride lies in deep tall conifer forest. There are two or three quick hints
of spectacular views to your right. When you finally find an opening between the trees, you
can look across Kamas and the Heber Valley to Timpanogos and Provo Peak.
A quick sight of Timpanogos between the trees.
The inner side of the loop will descend into the valley then climb back to the trail fork with Slate Creek where you started on the outer Left Hand Loop.
As the trail curves back to the east on the ridge, Left Hand will become the White Fir trail.
This is the location of the future trail fork for the returning (inner) side of the Left Hand
Loop. (There's no marker or other sign of the future trail's tie-in. For now just keep your
bike flowing downhill)
Looking east as the trail breaks out of forest briefly.
The White Fir trail is a one-way downhill trail. It begins as the continuation of Left Hand
-- that is, until the rest of the Left Hand Loop is finished. The trail is 3 miles long and
drops 750 feet in elevation. White Fir ends when it joins the Ponderosa trail. A simple loop
ride of Slate Creek uphill, outer Left Hand Loop, White Fir, and lower Ponderosa is 9 miles
with 1300 feet of climbing.
The trail begins in thick forest, a mixture of aspen and fir. Like the other Slate Creek trails,
the trail is a highly-engineered bench-cut that's been excellently constructed. The path is
constantly in motion.Turns are smooth and highly banked. Straight sections have undulations to shed water and to
keep things interesting.
A typical nicely banked turn.
A random stretch of straight trail as we head downhill on White Fir.
Another similar spot.
Looking down at a piece of twisting trail that we'll be riding shortly.
This trail is a joy to ride and I highly recommend it!As you shed elevation, fir forest gives way to aspen, then oak brush and sage.
When the trail stops descending at mile 3.0, you're approaching the Ponderosa trail fork. The
gentle uphill is designed to slow you down so you don't wipe out any kids on Ponderosa. Keep
left if you're heading back to the top on Slate Creek. It will be 0.2 miles of two-way trail
on Ponderosa, then keep left again at the trail intersection to climb Slate Creek (one-way
uphill). If your plan is to loop around Slate Creek for the next part of your ride, you're
looking at a total ride of around 15 miles and 2000 vertical.To continue on downhill to the trailhead, fork to the right and descend Ponderosa 0.7 miles.
Almost done as we approach the trail fork with Ponderosa.
Bridge to the parking lot from the downhill side of the Slate Creek Loop.
This is the trail system that riders have been begging for -- a bike-specific ride in the Uintah
Mountains along the Mirror Lake Highway. (Note that while the system is "mountain bike preferred,"
all trails are open to hikers. So heads up.) Slate Creek is more than worth doing. It's a great
map of area in 2023
In Kamas, turn east towards the mountains on the well-marked Mirror Lake Highway. Drive 6 miles
to the border of the National Forest. Turn left into the Slate Creek parking area. (If you
will also be riding the Beaver Creek trail, you need to pay a recreation fee. Go 1/4 mile up
the highway and leave your dough, then backtrack to the parking lot.) The outbound side of
the Slate Creek bike trail is at the middle of the northern end of the parking area. This is
the route to ALL of the rides here. The wooden bridge will be your return from the Slate Creek
Loop, and the singletrack to the left above the parking area is the downhill end of the one-way
Ponderosa trail.There is a bathroom at the trailhead.