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AF Canyon A Slice Of Powder Heaven

Riding Area Small but Offers Big Fun

Published in the January 2011 Issue Published online: Jan 20, 2011 Feature LANE LINDSTROM
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If it's true that good things come in small packages, then put American Fork Canyon on your wish list of places to ride.

This is just a sliver of an area open to snowmobiling but it's a slice of heaven when it comes to terrific terrain and deep snow.

Located east and a bit north of Utah Valley in the Wasatch Mountains, American Fork Canyon can be accessed from Utah Valley on the west or the Heber Valley on the east. As you look at a map to get your bearings, you'll notice the snowmobiling spots are surrounded by Wilderness areas, ski resorts and other non-motorized locations closed to sledding. In fact, you'll think there is little area for sleds (remember, we did say a sliver).

Don't panic, though. There is still room for snowmobiling.

Good things really do come in small packages and American Fork Canyon is proof positive.

While you're still digesting how such a relatively small area can be such a good one for snowmobiling, let us throw out a comparison snowmobilers might think twice about. If you want to get an idea of the kind of terrain there is up American Fork Canyon, just look at the number of ski resorts that flank the riding area. These include some of Utah's most popular and biggest downhill resorts, like Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and, over the mountain, Park City and Deer Valley. Aside from the snowfall figures the resorts tout (upwards of 500 inches, which can be verified by various snotel sites), another number that should pique your interest is vertical drop-which varies from 1,700 to 3,200 feet at those ski hills.

 

Take What We

Can Get

Now we've got your attention. Yes, we would really like more riding area, especially in this stretch of the Wasatch Mountains , but we'll take what's there because it's spectacular.

On day one of our ride up American Fork Canyon, we accessed the riding area from Utah Valley on Utah Highway 92. There are two parking areas on the west side: Tibble Fork and Pine Hollow (or as it's sometimes noted on maps, Mutual Dell). We parked at the Tibble Fork trailhead (the parking area is right next to Tibble Fork Reservoir-elevation 6,392 feet), which was about the only flat place we were all day. Bonus.

There are two groomed trails leaving from Tibble Fork, the 2.6-mile Trail J that leads to Silver Lake Flat Reservoir and Trail D/Mill Flat-Tibble Fork, a 15.7-mile path that goes into Wasatch Mountain State Park and parking areas on the east side.

Don't be confused with Silver Lake and Silver Lake Flat Reservoir. Silver Lake is in the Lone Peak Wilderness while Silver Lake Flat Reservoir has a groomed trail leading to it.

Sledders need to pay attention to Wilderness boundaries while riding American Fork Canyon. Many of the popular off-trail riding spots go right up next to the Wilderness and it's the snowmobiler's responsibility to know where those boundaries are.

We followed the Mill Flat-Tibble Fork Trail to Mary Ellen Gulch, where we peeled off the trail and headed up the gulch toward even higher country. Up Mary Ellen Gulch is the old Live Yankee Gold Mines and Globe Mines with a few abandoned buildings (including an old outhouse that sits on the edge of a cliff, offering great views of the valley below and surrounding mountains).