January 5, 2008

Duchesne In A Day




Every once in a while, the snowmobile Gods are smiling down on us. Last season there was a lot of frowning around the West as snow conditions were less than ideal in most places.

However, during one 3-4 day stretch, we had riding conditions that left us smiling long after the sleds were put away for the day.

One of those days found us in northcentral Utah, north of Strawberry Reservoir, on Duchesne Ridge. We were all smiles as the day dawned bright and sunny with two-three feet of new powder—light, dry, exquisite and untouched.

With conditions like that our itinerary for the one-day ride was simple: ride through the trees, up hills, track up meadow after meadow, climb up and over mountains, scoot along ridgetops.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

The area we rode was basically sandwiched between the Mirror Lake Complex and Strawberry Reservoir in the Uinta National Forest.  

We left the Nobletts trailhead, accessed via Utah Highway 35 past Woodland, followed the Nobletts Trail (E) to where it intersects with the Soapstone Trail (C), continued on Soapstone past where it meets the Wolf Creek Trail (D) and then dove off (pretty much literally) into the trees and deep powder. There the going was a bit challenging—meaning you had to stay on the throttle or the powder would suck man and machine under. Not a bad way to go, mind you, but there was too much territory to explore for us to go under so early in the day. We definitely didn’t want to get too worn out from digging our sleds out before noon.

A Romp In The Snow

Eventually we made our way to Silver Meadow where we romped in the powder before moving on to Wolf Creek Summit. The Wolf Creek Trail goes up and over the summit (elevation 9,485 feet). The closer we got to Wolf Creek Summit, the more snowmobilers we saw. So, we decided to ditch the crowd and head toward Duchesne Ridge, which we had all to ourselves for miles and miles.

To reach Duchesne Ridge, we climbed above Wolf Creek Summit and headed across a wide open plateau. Once up on top of the plateau, we could see miles and miles of the Wasatch Range, the impressive and distinctive mountains just east of Salt Lake and Utah valleys.

We than dropped off Duchesne Ridge, where you have to carefully pick your fight (or at least your route off the ridge) or you’ll be heading down faster than you want to a place you don’t want to. After some slick maneuvering, we managed to drop off the ridge into a little drainage that leads to the West Fork of the Duchesne River.

As we worked our way off the ridge, it seemed like all of central and southern Utah was spread out before us as we could see for miles on this clear, crisp day. We could easily see Coyote Ridge and beyond, including the mountains that separated us from Strawberry Reservoir.

What? Us Stuck?

One particularly fun and sometimes challenging swath of snow was in that drainage, where we worked pretty hard (read: got stuck a lot) to get back up on a ledge. Was on the ledge, we worked our way (in a real round about way) through several more drainages and up and over some hills before dropping down to a backcountry road that follows along the West Fork of the Duchesne River. We rode along the river for several miles before coming back out to the Soapstone Trail (C), several miles south of where we started the day. We never saw another track until we got close to the groomed trail. From there we played most of the way back, cutting cross country when we could and delay as long as we could our arrival at the parking area.

The day ended far too quickly and a look at the odometer showed we only traveled 45 miles but the gas tank was near empty and we had to head back home. It was one of those days sledders talk about long into the future, “Remember when we hit the snow just right at Duchesne Ridge.”

Yea, with a smile.







Tracks USA
Pioneer Country Travel Council


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