Explore: Mountain biking at 11,000 feet on Bunker Creek Trail

Rider Monte Lutz crosses a bridge on the Bunker Creek Trail near Brian Head, Utah, July 18, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — When the Southern Utah summer sun sears down on the desert, outdoor enthusiasts tend to look toward higher elevations and cooler climates where they can still enjoy the outdoors.

A handlebar view of a portion of the Bunker Creek Trail near Brian Head, Utah, July 18, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

This is particularly true of mountain bikers, visitors and locals alike, who want to take advantage of southwestern Utah’s impressive network of trails while also staying cool.

Enter: Bunker Creek Trail.

Beginning at a breathtaking 11,000 feet, the Bunker Creek Trail is an intermediate level downhill trail that takes the rider roughly 14 miles from Brian Head Peak to the Burger Barn near Panguitch Lake.

The point-to-point trail requires the rider to shuttle to the drop-off point near the small vault toilet area just below Brian Head Peak. Riders can self-shuttle within their group or shuttle rides can be arranged through The Brian Head Shuttle at Giant Steps Lodge or Georg’s Ski Shop in Brian Head.

A short, steep singletrack climb begins the ride, and though the route is primarily downhill – the trail has a net loss of almost 3,000 feet – riders will feel that first climb.

Once riders reach the top, they are treated to nearly 360-degree views as they travel the high tundra above Brian Head Resort and Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Directional signs point the way on the Bunker Creek Trail near Brian Head, Utah, July 18, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

From there, the trail begins to descend into aspen and spruce trees and there are a few directional signs indicating a split in the trail. Follow signage to the Bunker Creek Trails and then take the Right Fork of Bunker Creek.

Views abound as riders traverse the singletrack through the trees and across the mountain landscape.

The bottom section in the drainage is fast and, at times, technical with flowy berms – watch for the decreasing radius turns – a small creek crossing and a few wooden bridges. The trail is rated for an intermediate rider, but a few sections are slightly more technical.

After the 2017 Brian Head fire, area mountain bike clubs and trails associations did major clearing of downed trees and trail repairs, including building an approximately 3-mile long addition to the bottom. A fork in the trail is marked by a sign indicating the new section or the option to return to a dirt road.

Riders will eventually meet the dirt road which they will follow about a mile to Highway 143 and turn left for a short ride along the pavement to the Burger Barn at Panguitch Lake. The Burger Barn is the pickup spot for the shuttle and riders can enjoy a large Mountain Burger – the restaurant’s signature burger – or a refreshing shake before heading back to their vehicles.

Know before you go

  • Because of the high elevation, riders should be prepared for inclement weather, including wind, rain and extreme temperature variations.
  • Riders should have proper safety gear including a well-fitted helmet and gloves. Elbow pads and knee pads are also a good idea.
  • Proper hydration and fuel is essential for a successful ride. Riders should carry plenty of water, even in cooler weather, and easy-to-digest snacks, or nutritional gels or chews.
  • The trail is rated for a rider with intermediate mountain biking skills but some sections will challenge even an intermediate rider.
  • Riders should learn and practice all trail ethics and courtesies to other riders as well as leave-no-trace guidelines.
  • Shuttle arrangements can be made through the Brian Head Shuttle at 702-556-8768 or Georg’s Ski Shop at 435-677-2013.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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