A point-to-point route in the Pine Valley Wilderness. One of the more runnable options in the PV. The better direction is to start at the White Rocks trailhead and end at Whipple: the Whipple trailhead is a lovely spot next to the Santa Clara River whereas White Rocks is a bit middle-of-nowhere.
Noteworthy (distances from the White Rocks trailhead)
0.5 miles: Mill/White Rocks junction. Following the Mill Trail means veering right at this junction and shortly passing through a gate into the Wilderness Area. The Mill trail climbs a narrow, rocky canyon and entails multiple creek crossings.
5.5 miles: join the Summit Trail at Mill Flat. This does not feel like a junction as much as a bend in the trail, but several other trails dump into various connection points in the meadow.
7.6 miles: Kolob Canyons overlook. At the turn of a long switchback, just before reaching the high point of the route, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the Kolob Fingers and beyond.
8.9.-10.0 miles: North and Whipple Valleys. Two beautiful alpine meadows connected by a very short canyon. Whipple in particular has one spot that has pretty good water (treatment recommended) most of the summer.
10.0 miles: Summit/Whipple Junction. The junction is right after the trail reenters the trees from Whipple Valley. Stay right for Whipple.
10.7 miles: begin long, gradual, two-part descent into Pine Valley.
16.0 miles: Whipple Trailhead.
Trailheads: White Rocks, Whipple
Trails linked: Mill, Summit, Whipple
Distance: 16 miles
Total Ascent: 3,800 feet
Water sources: Mill Creek, Whipple Valley
Map & elevation profile
A fun, challenging loop into the Pine Valley Wilderness, with the option of convenient side trips to Signal and Burger Peaks, the two highest points of the Pine Valley range.
The Brown’s Point Trail follows a bony ridge whereas Forsyth mostly tracks a drainage. Brown’s Point is the steeper of the two trails; finishing with Forsyth means you’ll usually have water for the last two miles or so of your outing. Another generally reliable water source is at Further Water, one of the numerous alpine meadows spread across the top of the Pine Valley range at semi-regular intervals.
To close the loop, link Brown’s Point and Forsyth using the Equestrian trail at the foot of the mountain and the Summit trail on its top. The Summit Trail proper navigates a saddle between Signal and Burger Peaks. Two short spurs of less than 1/2 mile and 500 vertical feet each take you to the two peaks.
Trailheads: Brown’s Point, Equestrian, Forsyth
Trails linked: Equestrian, Brown’s Point, Summit, Forsyth
Distance: 14-16 miles
Total Ascent: 4,500-5,000 feet
Water sources: Forsyth Creek, Further Water
Map & elevation profile
The upland portion of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is a good place to work on becoming a more resilient runner. Although there are no very long, sustained climbs to be found, the hills are relentless and the footing taxing. For good measure, the brittlebrush and blackbrush will give you a good gash if you’re the least bit careless.
The area also happens to be a great spot to go when southwest Utah gets a bit of winter weather. When such conditions prevail, lower elevations turn sloppy from rain and higher elevations get buried with snow. But the terrain between about 4,000′ and 5,000′ gets nice: it usually doesn’t get much more than a few inches of snow and the deep, abundant sand is much more enjoyable to run when wet than when dry.
One fun option in this category is Red Mountain trail, which makes a north-south traverse of the Red Mountain Wilderness. There are not many trails onto the giant red block of sandstone, but once there, you are rewarded with hours of potential exploration and expansive views in all directions.
The week after Thanksgiving I carelessly slipped on an icy footbridge and took a very hard fall during a road run. The dull ache from the bruises to my hip, knee and shoulder subsided on a reasonable schedule, but something about the trauma badly pissed off my piriformis. So, December was spent trying to restore an approximately normal, twinge-free walking stride rather than ramping up my running mileage as I had intended.
Anyway, I made slow and steady improvement during the run-up to Christmas. Finally, cautiously, I ventured back onto the trails the past week for short runs and my arse tolerated it pretty well. As planned, today was the first day I stretched myself out a bit. Having learned that a quicker tempo irritates the injury more than going slowly up or downhill, I opted for a day on the Oak Grove trail in the Pine Valley Wilderness.
Runners who are passingly familiar with the St. George area tend to think almost entirely about the desert terrain at the immediate edge of town. Folks who know the area a bit more may also think about the mesas and big canyons of Zion and its immediate surroundings. But there is much more to the area, as you might imagine once you realize the altitude within a roughly 15 mile radius of downtown St. George ranges from just over 2,000 to more than 10,000 feet above sea level. And a lot of it is gnarly. (Compare a few of the photos below to the Grigne pic at Anton’s post; I don’t doubt anyone so inclined could find a few hair-raising routes twisting up and around the vertical granite spires that dot the Pine Valley like dandelions.)
A hike up the Oak Grove trail typically starts from the Oak Grove campground, but in the winter the Forest Service closes the gate four miles downhill, about where the prickly pear and redrock peter out. Having the extra bit of mileage on the access road is probably just as well, since it gives you time to set your jaw, so to speak, before hitting the truly steep, rugged terrain when you hit the trail.
5,100 feet of gain in seven outbound miles, with 3,400+ doled by the three miles of singletrack. The steep, southeast-facing slopes don’t hold much snow or support much vegetation, so this is an ideal shoulder season trail. It also works straight through winter during a dry year like this one. The majority of the trail was completely dry today and the deepest I post-holed in the small patches of snow under the trees was mid-shin.