If there's one thing snowmobilers aren't very fond of, it's feeling hemmed in while riding-especially in the West. We like our space and being able to roam, explore and boondock without having to worry about boundaries.
It's not very often you find a compact (relatively speaking) area that is as much fun to snowmobile as Utah's Wasatch Mountain Snowmobile Complex.
The complex-Utah's name for designated snowmobile areas-is roughly between Midway in the Heber Valley on the east to American Fork Canyon on the west and Midway Reservoir on the north to near the Sundance Ski Resort in the south. Essentially that's the area covered by groomed trails, but the riding expands a bit farther out from there, with the exception of the Wilderness areas that are spread along this part of the Wasatch Range. You're also close to some of Utah's biggest and most famous ski resorts, such as Park City, Alta, Snowbird and Brighton. Sledders can ride right up to the backside of a few ski runs which, of course, are also off limits to riding.
Within that compact area you'll find the terrain amazingly rugged and the scenery about beyond belief.
All the riding is on the east side of the Wasatch Range, which not only serves as an impressive backdrop for scenic views of Mount Timpanogos and the surrounding area but also for a challenge to nearly every skill level a snowmobiler can imagine.
Also within this compact area are Wasatch Mountain State Park-where it's legal to ride-and Cascade Springs. The 22,000-acre state park might be familiar to many as it was the host of a few events of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
We unloaded at one of the parking areas in Wasatch Mountain State Park and tackled the complex from that side of the riding area. There are several other trailheads that provide snowmobile access to the area, with most sledders coming from the western edge in American Fork Canyon. That's closest to the population base of Utah Valley. There were fewer sledders on the Wasatch Mountain State Park side of the system, but as we rode over near the Utah/Wasatch county line and Tibble Fork areas we saw more snowmobilers. Still, when we wanted to, we found plenty of untracked snow and lots of play areas we had all to ourselves.
A fun stop sometime during your ride is Cascade Springs, especially if the family is along. Cascade Springs is near the junction of trails E (Cascade Springs) and C (Cummings Parkway). Park your sleds near the entrance to the scenic area and walk (very carefully) along the boardwalks (definitely not clear in the winter) among the ponds and cascading springs. The green moss in the ponds is quite a contrast to the deep blanket of white snow that hangs at the edges of the water.
Several springs make up Cascade Springs, which flow into the Provo River. Just about 7 million gallons of water surface from the springs every day.
Jump Off The Trails
Another great run is on the upper end of American Fork Canyon, where the ungroomed trail generally follows a four-wheel drive path among huge boulders. Once you reach the top you're on the backside of Snowbird Ski Resort (which offers snowmobile tours) and are sitting near 10,000-11,000 feet. Spots like this in the Wasatch Complex provide your Kodak moments. Up this canyon you'll also pass several old mining spots.
We experienced a near perfect day of riding-nice, smooth trails that led to lots of off-trail riding and boondocking among the quakies and pines. You forget all about the feeling of being "hemmed in" as you explore the drainages, play on the hillsides and bust the deep powder that is everywhere. Then, when you find an opening or break out of the trees and see the mountains to the west or Heber Valley to the east, you think that's just icing on the cake-a thick layer of icing.
While not impossible, it's tough to get lost if you keep your bearings because the trails are never very far away. Perhaps the biggest trouble you might experience is if you drop off into one of the deep canyons that dot the area. You'll be a while trying to get back out-and that's on foot because your sled won't make the climb up.
We logged 78 miles that day and used every last drop of fuel we had-to us that's a great day of riding.
Snowmobiling in Wasatch Mountain is definitely compact but it's big on fun.