||Nebo Summit Trail
The Nebo Summit Trail starts on the Nebo Loop Road at an elevation of
8200 feet. It follows the ridgeline between the Nebo Creek drainage (west
of Thistle) and the Salt Creek Canyon above Nephi. The singletrack
is 8.1 miles long and can be a fairly strenuous ride because it requires
some stiff climbing at high elevation. The usual riding season would be
mid-June through October.
From the ridge at 8400 feet elevation, looking west
toward Mount Nebo. Photos and trail review by Bruce
on July 14, 2021.
|The Nebo Summit trail can be done as an out-and-back, as a
shuttled ride, or as a long loop that includes several miles of gravel
road and a long stretch on the Nebo Loop paved road. Experts will find a
full out-and-back (16.3 miles with 2350 feet of climbing) a nice piece of
riding. Intermediate riders would probably choose a short out-and-back,
turning around at mile 4 or 5. I'm not fond of the loop option because of
the exposure to dangerous traffic on the Nebo Loop road. To shuttle, leave
one car at the Bear Canyon turnoff parking (see below).
Fir and scrub surround the singletrack as we contour
south of the ridgline to go around a steep hump.
||Six of the Summit Trail's eight miles are new in 2019.
Instead of following the steep rocky pitches of the ridgeline for its
entire length, three miles of the trail at each end was replaced with a
new machine-cut. This rebuild converted a trail that I considered a no-go
for mountain bikes into a nice scenic ride.
Riding through a forest of tall aspen and maple.
|The National Forest here is used for cattle grazing. They
will inevitably churn up the trail surface and break down the trail
sidewalls, especially on the portion in Pole Canyon. Early season riding
is best. Whether the riding surface is plush or a sloppy moonscape depends
on weather, motorcycle traffic, and cattle.
The trail has returned to the ridgeline between the
two canyons. We're looking east, with a canyon on each side of us.
||On the upper end, the Summit Trail starts at a parking lot
off the Nebo Loop road, 8.4 miles uphill from Highway 132 east of Nephi.
From Payson, it's across the summit around mile 29 of the Nebo Loop. The
lower end of the singletrack is at the uphill end of the gravel Pole Canyon road.
My description for the ride will assume that you're starting at the top.
In this "downhill" direction, you'll do around 700 vertical feet
of climbing even as you lose 800 feet of elevation overall.
Looking at the trail from the Nebo Loop road.
|For those planning to ride a loop or to pedal up the
singletrack from the bottom (or both), there's a parking area on the Nebo
Loop road near the Bear Canyon Campground turnoff. There's a toilet here.
This parking area is just over a mile uphill from the Pole Canyon road.
(Note that there is no trailhead in Pole Canyon, and it's illegal to park
at the end of the road. To ride from the bottom, you'll need a drop-off.
Or pedal up the 5.5 miles of gravel road. Or find a flat spot off the road
downhill from the trail entry.)
A view to the south as we pedal. I think that's
||From the Summit Trail parking, the trail heads east. For the
next half mile, it will run on the northern side of the ridgeline before
permanently crossing over to the southern side. At mile 0.4, keep to the
right as the Sawmill Fork trail forks away and descends to the north.
Heading east through aspen and fir forest.
|For the next three miles, the trail gradually descends to
8000 feet elevation. There will be a few short climbs. The new trail-cut
bypasses the steep humps on the ridgeline by repeatedly contouring around the
southern slope of each little hill, then returning to the ridgeline briefly before turning away
again to skirt the next hill. At some of these spots, there's a persistent trail over these
little hills, kept open by the occasional motorcycle rider and horseman. If you
always keep to the right, you'll avoid some hike-a-bikes.
Looking west toward Mount Nebo. It looks a lot like
Timpanogos because it's made of the same limestone. But the difference --
for real -- is that here the rock layers are upside down.
||After mile 3, the trail spends a lot of time on the
ridgeline (rather than contouring around on the southern slope). The
climbs and the descents will get steeper now.
Here the trail has returned to the ridgeline between
"humps." We're looking north. The dead trees are the result of
the severe Pole Creek fire in 2018.
|At mile 3.9, you'll pass the old Page Fork trail on your
left as you ride the ridge through a sagebrush area. You might not notice
it. (The newer alternative Page Fork route is designated 88a and forks
away at mile 5.4.)
Looking southwest from the ridgeline around mile 5.
||At around mile 5, the trail reaches its highest elevation at
8400 feet. But it's not all downhill from here. You've got more
up-and-down riding to go.
The grunt climbs get tougher as you continue east.
Fresh legs recommended!
|At mile 5.4, there's a 4-way. The Page Fork alternate (88a)
forks away to the right. A steep loose trail continues straight. Again,
fork to the right for the new trail-cut.
Heading south into Pole Canyon.
||The trail now turns south to descend into Pole Canyon.
You'll drop 1000 vertical feet over the next 2.8 miles. On the day of my
ride, the trail surface in Pole Canyon was occasionally very loose and torn up by motorcycles and
cattle. Most of the trail was good riding, and even the torn-up spots
weren't bad downhill. But on returning back uphill, there were
several sections where I bogged down or spun out and had to push the bike a few feet uphill
The Pole Canyon section is deeply forested but
alternates between tall fir, aspen forest, and maple/oak scrub.
|The trail drops onto a turn-around at the end of the gravel road in
Pole Canyon. It was posted "No Parking."
doing the shuttled ride, or making a clockwise loop ride, just bomb 5.5
miles down the canyon. At the bottom of the Pole Canyon road, turn right (uphill)
on the Nebo Loop road if you parked at
the big lot near the Bear Canyon turnoff.
Bottom end of the trail in Pole Canyon, just downhill
from the turn-around (no parking here).
||For those doing the loop ride using the Nebo Loop Road, the
bottom of the Pole Canyon road is at 6000 feet elevation. You'll climb
2200 feet over 6.4 miles to get to the Summit Trail parking area. A
clockwise loop is 20 miles with 2900 feet of total climbing -- but only
8.1 miles and 700 feet of climbing are on the singletrack. But still, the
loop ride is easier
than the out-and-back ride of 16.3 miles and 2350 feet of climbing -- all
on dirt trail.
Looking down Pole Canyon. I didn't ride this because
I hate gravel roads. So I fought my way back up the singletrack for the
big out-and-back ride.
High-elevation trail with some great views and beautiful forested riding.
Downsides include some residual steep pitches in the middle section of the
trail and occasional loose challenging trail surfaces in Pole Canyon. Wish
this ride had a
singletrack loop option! Recommended for tough riders.
View into Pole Canyon from the trail, around 7600
Getting there: From I-15 in Juab County,
take the Nephi 100 North Exit. Turn east on Highway 132, toward the
mountains. Drive about 6 miles up the canyon, then turn left on the Nebo
Loop Road (Scenic Byway). Drive another 3.5 miles on the loop road. If
you're leaving a shuttle vehicle, turn left into the big parking area,
then continue uphill on the Nebo Loop road. At mile 8.4 from Highway 132,
turn right into the Summit Trail parking area.
Water: Bear Canyon campground
Toilets: Hells Kitchen on Nebo Loop Road, shuttle parking
Camping: Bear Canyon, nearby Cottonwood campground.