Utah’s Paiute Trail: Lots Of Ups And Downs

Mountain trail riding at its best

Published in the July 2014 Issue July 2014 Powersport News, Travel Lane Lindstrom

When it comes to off-roading and trail riding in the mountains, it’s all about the ups and downs. And after spending two full days exploring the Paiute Trail in central Utah, an area full of amazing ups and downs, we discovered for ourselves that mountain riding doesn’t come much better.

Don’t let the name of the riding area—Paiute Trail—mislead you though. It’s definitely more than one trail—it’s dozens offering hundreds of miles of paths to explore. The looping Paiute Trails is about 275 miles long but there are 97 trails connecting to the main trail offering 800 or so miles of additional riding. Yea, it’s big.

Looking back at our two-day ride where we dialed up just 161, miles it’s obvious we barely scratched the surface of what is available. We plan on going back to do some more exploring.  

One of the most alluring features about the Paiute Trail is being able to ride from any number of small towns into the mountains. That means you can usually ride right from your motel or drop into a town for food and/or fuel. Obey a few simple rules (know before you go) and it’s very easy to access most any service you might need. In fact, this ability to access services might make you a little spoiled compared to other areas you might ride where you have to be more self-sufficient.

Leaving Beaver

Our two-day journey started from the town of Beaver (pop. 3,112; elevation 5,902 feet) on the 05 trail heading east toward the Tushar Mountains. In minutes we were outside of town in farm and ranch lands, which gave way to a sliver of high desert, then to the foothills of the mountains, and eventually to the Tushars, which have plenty of ups and downs.

Prior to our ride, central Utah had received a series of rainstorms over the previous days and so the somewhat dry conditions that usually prevail during the dog days of summer (our ride took place in mid-August) were not-so-dry. It was lush and green and more so in the mountains as we gained elevation. In fact, it had rained the night before our ride so the trails weren’t dusty at all and there was even a puddle or two along the trails.

As we gained elevation on the west side of the Tushar Mountains, the Juniper trees faded in the distance, with Quaking Aspen and pine trees then covering the landscape. There are a couple of spots on the trail map that note “steep and rough” conditions on the 05 before you get to the first Utah Highway 153 crossing. Indeed there were some steep and rocky sections on the trail but nothing our Teryx4 couldn’t handle. It just upped the fun factor for us.

Our first stop was an overlook that allowed expansive views of the valley to the west, including the town of Beaver. In the distance you could also see the Mineral Mountains, another area you can ride that is close to Beaver. That’s a ride for another day.

We crossed Utah Highway 153 at Merchant Creek and followed Three Creeks to Three Creeks Reservoir (which was pretty much dry when we passed by) and then again across Highway 153. That stretch of trail along Three Creeks went through a beautiful canyon and included three bridge crossings.

After crossing the highway the second time, there were two trail options, one for 50-inch wide vehicles and one for 60-inch wide—we took the 60-inch wide trail to Big John Flat. It was a tight trail through the Quakies with no room to spare on either side of our Teryx4. It wasn’t an overly difficult trail to navigate, just tight.

Still Climbing

By the time we arrived at Big John Flat (elevation 9,800 feet) we had gained nearly 4,000 feet but we weren’t done climbing yet. In fact, some of the most exciting climbing was yet to come as we left Big John Flat and took trail 01 up to backbone of some of Utah’s tallest mountains. The views were simply spectacular from the top of trail 01. From Big John Flat there are some amazingly fun switchbacks that lead up to the top, where, once you’re there you’re above the treeline and have an unobstructed view of several peaks, including Mount Baldy (12,122 feet) and Mount Belknap (12,139 feet) to the west and Mount Brigham (11,765 feet) to the east. You can also see the ski runs at Eagle Point Ski Resort off in the distance.

As we descended 01 we headed east to where 01 meets trail 02, which drops down into Marysvale. As you lose elevation, the trails get a little wider and faster so it was a fun run to town.

Our destination for the night was Hoovers River Resort so we left Marysvale, following the Sevier River through Marysvale Canyon until we got to the resort.

We clocked 56.2 miles on that first day of riding.

Side Trips

Before heading back to Beaver the next day we took a couple of side trips. First we left directly from Hoovers River Resort and headed west on trail 74 and then a bit north on 01 to the Silver King Mine. Trail 74 from Hoovers to the top of the hill was another great trail through a canyon and along Deer Creek. There were tight spots and creek crossings, giving the trail a lot of character and fun to traverse. We saw beaver ponds and some wildlife along the way.

Silver King Mine is worth a stop to look around at the old gold mine which still has several old buildings standing. You can even see the old small tracks miners used for their ore cars. Of course, use caution and respect the remnants of the old mine, which dates back to 1894.

The other side trip had us leaving Marysvale headed west on trail 77. We followed the 77 loop all the way back to U.S. Highway 89 and then back to Marysvale. We then basically retraced our tracks back to Beaver.

There are lots of things to like about the 77 as it climbs and hugs the mountains on the east side of Mount Brigham. It has some fast, open stretches—mostly along the lower elevations—as well as tight, twisty sections through the trees. Near the top of the trail the landscape opens up, offering impressive views to the east, which includes the Paiute Reservoir. At the highest point we were at about 11,000 feet.

Once on trail 02 and then 01 back to Beaver we again took some time on the top of the ridge before heading back down toward Big John Flat to take some photos and take in the view. It was a little chilly on top but the temps warmed quickly as we descended toward Beaver. By the time we parked our T4 in Beaver our odometer showed 105.5 miles from  day two’s ride. It was a splendid two days of riding.

We’ve always been kind of partial to mountains and our ride through the Tushar Mountains on the Paiute Trail just drives home why: challenging riding, spectacular scenery and lots of ups and downs.


Paiute Trail


Elevation 5,000-11,000 feet plus  

Full Service Town Fillmore, Richfield, Kanosh, Meadow, Salina, Beaver, Circleville, Junction, Marysvale, Koosharem

Nearest Airport Cedar City (53 miles from Beaver); Salt Lake City (144 miles from Fillmore)

Getting Started Beaver County Travel (866-891-6655 or www.beavercountytravel.com) or Millard County Travel (www.millardcountytravel.com)

Getting There The Paiute Trail is in central Utah basically between Interstate 15 on the west, Utah Highway 62 on the east, U.S. Highway 50 and Interstate 70 on the north and Beaver/Piute/Iron county lines on the south. There are numerous access points to the trails on all sides with the towns listed above as good starting spots.

Getting Around There are ATV/side-by-side rentals in the area. Check the Getting Started websites listed above for a list.

Bedding Down There are several lodging options in the area. Camping is also available. Again, the websites listed above are a good place to start. We stayed at the Best Western Butch Cassidy Inn (435-438-2488) in Beaver (yes, Beaver is the birthplace of Butch Cassidy and Hoovers River Resort (435-326-2028) in Marysvale.

Eating Out There are lots of dining options as well in the area. Check out the contact websites above.

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