Mountain Bike Leaf-Peeping

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Here in Northern Utah seasons often change abruptly. Yet I’ve always liked living in a climate with distinct changes. When I lived in Australia, I felt out of sync with the land and grew homesick for seasonal change. Autumn is now officially here. It is time to eat apples, bake, and huddle over bowls of warm stew. Those manic late summer evenings when we played outside until nine o’clock and ate dinner at ten have passed.

Unfortunately, the passing of summer means the article I was writing about boating and swimming holes around Ogden is now irrelevant until next summer!  You have to change with the seasons, so as fall is the season of leaf peeping, I’ll write about that. My favorite way to peep leaves is by mountain bike. I’m not going to use the term fall in the same sentence as mountain biking because I’ve had a disproportionate number of friends who’ve had accidents this year and I don’t want to associate the word fall with mountain biking. So don’t peep too hard while riding or you might have an accident.

Now that the evenings are cool, we can ride  on the east bench without the discomfort of flesh melting heatstroke. Last year, I was going to write an article about the new North Bonneville Shoreline Trail (NBST). As it is spitting distance from my house, I decided against it because I feared it would become crowded. Well that is really selfish. The truth is mountain bike trails improve the more people ride them (except when muddy of course).

One of my favorite things about autumn riding is when the trail disappears under deep piles of dry leaves on downhill single-track. It kind of reminds me of powder skiing. There was a nice little loop off the NBST through thick scrub oak, which provided just this type of biking experience. Unfortunately, trail interruptus, a giant man made boulder field now blocks that trail. I think it might have been a renegade trail, so no official complaining can be done. No need to despair. Weber Pathways has expanded the Bonneville all the way out north past Pleasant View. After trying in vain to deal with private landowner curmudgeons they have even  figured a way to connect the north and south Bonneville Shoreline Trails. This may be completed by spring 2014. Click here for more info. 

What is your favorite autumn ride? For color, my favorite is the Maples. Of course, maple trees are known for the brilliant red color they turn in autumn.  Here are some websites that give information about bike trails around Ogden. Mountain Bike Project is a user generated resource. Rock climbers might be familiar with Mountain Project, which is a community generated info site for climbing. Now they’ve expanded into mountain biking. Here’s another site with some local mountain bike info:

My favorite way to ride Maples is Wheeler Creek to Ice Box to Maples and then on to Sardine if I have enough time and or energy. In the description below I’ve included some other options.

Start at Wheeler Creek in Ogden Canyon just below Pineview Dam. This trail parallels the Wheeler Creek on a wide rocky road. This part is not really that fun, but I’d still rather ride it than drive the Old Snow Basin road to the Art Nord Trailhead. You can also start the Maples ride by driving to Art Nord on the Old Snow Basin Road.

Before you get to the Art Nord Trailhead, there will be a single track trail on the right (west) side that goes down a little steep hill and crosses a bridge. This is the Ice Box trail. A lot of people complain about riding up Ice Box, but I like it. Yes, there are a few places I put my foot down, and at least one place I have to get off, but it is probably less than 1 mile and it improves my technical riding skills. Ice Box has been improved and smoothed over the years, so if you did it a long time ago and hated it give it another shot. Or maybe skip it on the way up and just ride down.

If you skip Ice Box, simply keep riding to Art Nord (1.9 miles from Wheeler) and stay on the single track on the right side of the paved road until you get to the sign for Maples. If you cross the old Snow Basin Road and follow that single track you will be on the Green Pond trail, which is a very nice ride too, but you might not see the bright red colors of the Maples. Follow the single-track about 3.3 miles through meadows, aspen and maples, all the way to the Maples Campground road.  There is often a resident moose lurking in one of the ponds so keep an eye out.

You’ll know when you get to the end because the single-track runs out. From there you can turn around or keep going. It is usually smooth on the way down with some fun Woop De Doohs. If you don’t feel comfortable with a bit of a technical downhill go back via Art Nord and avoid Ice Box.

If you have time and energy keep riding! You can go south down the trail toward Snowbasin and connect to the Snowbasin trail system. Or follow the road up to the north. Yes, we are usually going up in Utah unless we are going down.

If you keep going up, you will see a little single track on the right that goes over some bumps through a meadow and leads you toward the Overlook and Sardine Trails. *I forgot to mention that somewhere on the way up the Maple trail you will see a turn off on the right to the Sardine trail. I always ride Sardine going the other direction so I can’t comment on this, other than to say it seems longer and more grueling that way.

At this point, you have officially finished the Maples Trail. The trail up to the Overlook and Sardine is so smooth we used to ride it with our toddler in a rear-bike seat. Ride up these smooth long switchbacks through aspen until you get to the saddle and the trail forks. From the saddle, the left trail goes to the top of the Overlook, which has a nice view into Coldwater Canyon. If you go north-east (to the right)  you will be on the Sardine trail. Sardine will take you on a nice long loop right back to the Maples trail.

Have fun and ride this soon before autumn slips away and the leaves are gone.


About Alison

Alison McLennan recently graduated from the Solstice MFA Program of Pine Manor College where she was awarded the first Dennis Lehane Fellowship for Fiction. Her first novel, Falling for Johnny, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Utah Original Writing Competition. She is currently working on a historical novel set in Ogden. She loves rock-climbing, mountain biking and most anything involving snow, especially fluffy powder.


  1. One of my favorites too, but I prefer riding Sardine in the counter clockwise direction, much more fun & flow on the downhill.

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