Lower Mill Canyon
Highland, Utah (Utah) Technical Rating: 2-3
Last Updated: 06-25-2017
Alpine Ranger District
Lower Mill Canyon Highlights
Referred to as American Fork Canyon to the local wheelers, this is one of the few awesome places to offroad near Salt Lake City or Provo. Lush green forest and plenty of camping are to be expected throughout the trail. It is fairly well traveled so you will probably not be alone but there are enough trails to explore that you won't on somebody's back all day. You will get a good taste of what the Utah mountains have to offer as far as the greenery and steep inclines. There are a number of fun obstacles to test anybody's limits, but almost all of them have a bypass if you feel that they are too hard. Camping is everywhere up here and this is as close to the city as you can be while being "away from it all".
Technical rating: (2-3) Easy
Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6" depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.
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Directions to Trailhead
From Salt Lake, head south on I15 until exit 284 for Highland/Alpine. From Provo, head north on I15 until exit 284 for Highland/Alpine. Go east off of the exit and follow UT92 for 12.2 miles until you take a left on UT144. Continue on UT144 for 2.5 miles until you pass Tibble Fork Reservoir. After the parking lot by the lake, the road will U-turn uphill to the left, or you can continue straight to the dirt parking lot. This is the air down lot and the trailhead for Lower Mill Canyon.
This is a fun network of trails that are currently under threat of being evaluated for closures. This is one of few trails of its kind this close to Salt Lake and Provo in the Wasatch range. It will provide incredible green scenery in the spring and summer with plenty of wildflowers and wildlife running around. In the fall, this is a beautiful trail to do while the leaves are changing. It is a fairly mild road, however not maintained so there area few rough spots with loose, sharp rock. Once you hit the U-turns, it can get pretty washed out if there has been any rain. Be careful and pick your line to stay high. Above the U-turns, the road is rough again, but easy until the end. This is a must do for anyone in the Salt Lake Valley. There are only 6 legal trails that you are allowed to travel on up here, the rest are all private property or illegal spurs, so be sure to stay on the proper trails and watch for signs.
All routes in the Pleasant Grove Ranger District that hate a gate will close seasonally (weather permitting). This route has a gate that usually closes in November sometime and reopens when the snow has mostly disappeared (anywhere from late April-June).
1: Trailhead (0.0mi)
The start of the trail is a dirt parking lot with some trailer space for the day, however, people are encouraged to park in the parking lot for Tibble Fork Reservoir just down the road. It is a fully paved lot with plenty of parking as long as you arrive early. By mid-day on the weekends, you are sure to have trouble finding a spot at all.
2: Group Site (1.2mi)
Among all of the side campsites along the beginning of the trail, there is one larger group site with a pit toilet. There is plenty of room for camp trailers and vehicles as well as many tent sites. From here, no trailers are recommended, however, that doesn't stop some people!
3: Narrow (3.2mi)
This is a section of road that changes every year. It is a stretch of maybe half of a mile long where there is only room for one vehicle. A couple of years ago there was a washout and only a side by side or atv could get past it comfortably without needing a spotter to maneuver the downhill ditch. The drop-off on the south side is around 150-200 feet.
4: Lot (3.6mi)
There is a big dirt lot on trail right just before the turnoff to Forest Lake. This lot could be used for airing down if you haven't already. There is also a campsite here if you walk through the opening at the fence by the lot.
5: Forest Lake Trailhead (3.7mi)
The trailhead for Forest Lake will be on the right, clearly marked with an FS194 sign as well as the adoption sign. You do cross a creek here, but it is usually shallow and nothing to worry about. As with all water crossings, please check the depth before proceeding.
6: Mary Ellen Gulch Trailhead (3.9mi)
This parking lot is also the trailhead for Mary Ellen Gultch. Continue straight to finish Lower Mill Canyon.
8: Fork - Stay Left (4.1mi)
There is a short spur to the right, just after the previous spur with some more camping areas.
Camping and Lodging
There are hotels located in the Provo valley all across the Wasatch mountains that will be about 15-30 minutes away depending on location. This trail is known for its camping however so its best if you just pack up your rig and spend the night under the darkness of the beautiful Utah night sky.
Questions & Answers
Offroaded on 06-25-2017
Low Temperature: 85° F
High Temperature: 80° F
There is still a fire at the mouth of American Fork Canyon, however the Alpine loop is open from Provo Canyon and you can access the trails from there.
Offroaded on 06-24-2017
Low Temperature: 80° F
High Temperature: 85° F
There is currently a fire at the mouth of American Fork Canyon that has prompted the closure of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway and therefore access to all trails in the area. Check back for updates on reopening.
Offroaded on 07-24-2016
Low Temperature: 65° F
High Temperature: 75° F
All campgrounds and trails in American Fork Canyon have been evacuated and are closed until further notice. Fire during in steep terrain at the intersection of Major Evans Gulch and the North Fork of the canyon. Keep out of the area. Also, any drones in the area will be taken down immediately. Drones are strictly prohibited within any area of a fire. Utah law states fines and prison time.