This past Spring, I joined the hipsters and bought a gravel bike, and it has led to no end of trouble. Obscure riding routes, kitschy and expensive bike bags, solitude in nature, and bonified adventure on poorly described trails. Wanting to expand my bike touring to the Utah desert, I also managed to talk Taylor into buying a 27.5+ hardtail bike so that we can tour the red rock. We wanted to do a test route closer to home to check out our bags and gear, so I turned my attention to the Uinta mountains, just an hour from our home.
As it turns out, there is no information available on proper bike routes in the Uintas. None. A video from the Provo Brothers provides some clues. Utah Mountain Biking describes some limited roadside attractions. Vague notions of gravel rides exist in other forums but provide no useful information. It is impossible that a mountain range this large, and so popular with OHV users, could have no good routes by bike.
So, I made one. Expanding generously on a “gravel ride” described in the Soapstone Basin above Mirror Lake Highway, I spent hours on CalTopo squinting at satellite images of roads and trolling ATV forums for descriptions of roads. I cobbled together a route that combines high quality roads, quality backroad OHV trails, great views, and days that end with descents. Camping for the overnight lies along the West Fork of the Duchesne river, with access to water throughout the biking season. The description of the route, map, and TCX files for use on bike/GPS are found at the bottom of this article. Give it a go! Let me know how it goes.
Beginning from the Soapstone Summer Homes pullout, the road descends to and crosses the Provo river before turning to gravel and climbing several switchbacks on generally solid dirt into Soapstone Basin. Here, the grade mellows and rolls past RV camping pullouts. Another nice section of gravel leads to a short and refreshing downhill before turning left onto the more-adventurous FR181. Here the initial climb is a bit steep, and the terrain rockier and better suited to mountain bikes. A few short hike-a-bikes over broken rocky terrain stay short and painless. This road rejoins well graded forest road and climbs South towards Wolf Creek Pass. A short descent onto the highway and a welcome, smooth 1/4 mile pedal down the shoulder leads to Wolf Creek Pass, where there are pit toilets and picnic tables.
After a stop here, a short but steep climb gains the Duchesne ridge, where the road winds along the edge of the valley with great views off to the South. The apex of the route lies at the North end of the ridge at just over 10,000′. Here the descending begins, with some of the smoothest gravel of the route up front. As the road turns South and down into the West Fork valley, the road becomes progressively more primitive, and speed is limited by careful descending. Along the river but above the small West Fork reservoir, the road is rough and suitable only for mountain bikes. Near the reservoir, a number of potential camps are available along the creekside with flat ground and good access to water.
Beginning on the West Fork road below the reservoir, this day begins on smoother gravel. While generally downhill, there are rolling hills and short climbs that lead out of the wilderness and into ranch country, with great views of the river valley and Eastward towards Hanna. At the bottom, another quarter-mile on pavement leads to FR174 up Mill Fork and the business begins. This road is graded, but steeper than others before it. Still climbable seated with a 12-speed cassette, it winds through pretty aspens and past a small spring, potability unknown.
In a clearing, turn left onto FR151 and let the fun begin. This is the technical crux of the route, with sections of challenging but rideable doubletrack interspersed among mandatory hiking sections. The worst of it comes in the first half, with mellowing grades and more opportunities to ride above. At the apex of day 2, this road becomes substantially better where it joins FR415 and heads West. From here, a long string of downhills interspersed with short and gentle climbs lead Northwest back to Soapstone basin on progressively better gravel. Rejoining Soapstone road recognized from day 1, you finish with 6 miles of rolling downhill back to the car on familiar terrain.