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Blackhawk Trail (Loop with Rock Spring Trail)

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Basics
Location:
Payson Canyon, south of Provo
Length:
18 mile loop
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Elevation Change:
800 feet

Description

The Blackhawk Trail is a narrow singletrack that twists through aspen and pine along the top of the Nebo Loop in Payson Canyon. Almost unknown, this trail is among the nicest alpine rides in the state. The Nebo Loop is famous for its beautiful trees and mountain vistas -- especially in late September to early October when the red maples and golden aspens draw Sunday-afternoon gawkers from around the state. Elevation is 8000 feet.
Location:
Payson Canyon, south of Provo
Length:
18 mile loop
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Elevation Change:
800
Additional Details:
The loop we describe here (18 miles) is for very strong riders but requires only good intermediate technical skills. You can make a shorter loop by connecting other trails in the area (see below). The big loop has only 800 feet of elevation change, but you do it three times! You''ll need strong thighs, plenty of water, and a Powerbar or two.

From the Loafer Mountain trailhead, you roll down 0.15 miles, where you take the right fork to the Blackhawk Trial. You''ll climb 1.5 miles through aspen, maples, and pines to Bennie Creek Ridge. Dropping over the back side, it''s up and down through meadows, springs, and small creeks until you reach Blackhawk Campground at mile 4.75.

Go straight onto the double-track until you reach a paved road. Go straight across to a single-track. Cross the paved road again, and fork right in the middle of the large meadow.

Keep right at the next trail intersection. Next is a 4-way intersection. Straight ahead takes you up the hardest section of the trail, to the ridge at the top of the Nebo Loop. (Forking right takes you up to the Black Campground road, just off the Nebo Loop Road. From here, you can turn left to take the paved road to the summit, or go straight across to the Bennie Creek Ridge Trail. This trail returns you to the Blackhawk Trail for a short loop of around 9 miles.)

Turn left on pavement and ride over the crest of the Nebo Loop. After 2 miles, turn right on the gravel Santaquin Road. Exactly one mile later, the Rock Springs Trail drops down on your right, taking you back east. Keep straight at all trail intersections.

Save some muscle to climb Done Ridge, the last mountain between you and your car. Then roll 2.5 delightful miles along the creek through beautiful aspens and pines. Again, keep straight at all trail intersections, (unless you want to visit Payson Lakes as an alternate return route). When you reach the Nebo Loop road, turn right and head uphill to your car. (There are a couple of alternate singletracks near the end of the trail. They all take you down to the road.)

Shorter loops can be constructed as follows:

Blackhawk-Bennie Ridge Loop: After the Blackhawk Campground, keep right at the next two intersections. As you come up through the log fence, you encounter the campground road (the Nebo Loop road is about 1/4 mile to your left). Go straight across the pavement to the Bennie Ridge trail and run the ridge back to the Blackhawk trail. Length 9 miles.

Tie Fork to Rock Spring: After Blackhawk, go right at the first intersection, straight at the second. Arriving at the Nebo Loop road at the ridgetop, go straight across to the singletrack trail (Tie Fork Spur). You''ll join the Rock Spring trail near a gate at the ridgetop. Turn right, grind over Done Ridge, and run straight down the canyon. Length 13 miles.

You''ll cross two sections where logging has occurred. It will be interesting to see how the soil recovers. Even with "environmentally minimal impact" spot-logging, the amount of damage to the understory and topsoil is surprising.

The trail is best in the fall. Snow clears in mid-June, but the many sections stay wet with springs and bogs until late summer. Most of the creeks that cross the trial have a solid base, but if you see deep horse hoof prints, you''d better bail and walk.

Basic Directions
If you're going south, take the Payson exit 254 from I-15 and turn left. Head into Payson on U-115 to the traffic light, then turn left (100 North, U-198). About 1/3 mile later, at the top of a small hill, turn right at 600 East. Drive 11.7 miles up the Nebo Loop Road to a small turnout on your left at GPS N 39° 56.447' W 111° 38.652', with a sign "Loafer Mountain Trail."

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