Lower Mill Canyon

Highland, Utah (Utah County)
Last Updated: 05/11/2018
3/5 (1 review)
Nearby Trails
Status: Seasonal Closure
Typically Open: 05/15 - 11/01
Difficulty: 2-3
Length: 4.5 miles
Highest Elevation: 7711 feet
Duration: About 45 minutes
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Highland
Nearest Town w/ Services: Highland
Official Road Name: 085
Management Agency: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
District: Pleasant Grove Ranger District
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Highlight: Lower Mill Canyon

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".


Route Information

Technical Rating: (2-3)

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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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).

Seasonal Information

Spring:Trail remains closed until snowmelt is mostly gone and trail is dry.
Summer:Trail is usually busy. This is an extremely popular trail to get away from the heat of the city.
Fall:Trail is usually dry and dusty, however this is the best time of year to run this trail. It will remain popular until its closure, but the autumn colors make it all worth it.
Winter:Trail closes sometime around November when the snow starts sticking.


1. Trailhead

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 (1.2 mi)

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 (3.2 mi)

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 (3.6 mi)

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 (3.7 mi)

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 (3.9 mi)

This parking lot is also the trailhead for Mary Ellen Gultch. Continue straight to finish Lower Mill Canyon.

7. Fork - Stay Right (4.1 mi)

Here is a short spur to the left with some camping areas.

8. Fork - Stay Left (4.1 mi)

There is a short spur to the right, just after the previous spur with some more camping areas.

9. End (4.5 mi)

This marks the end of Lower Mill Canyon Trail. From here, you can continue up Mineral Basin or take Baker Fork Road into Midway, Utah.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 40.483696, -111.642593

Starting Point: Alpine, Utah

Follow UT 92 east until you take a left on UT 144. Continue on UT 144 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 trail is very popular for its camping. There are numerous sites along the trail. Most of the lower sites are taken during the summer months but you can usually find a spot just a bit further up. There is one large group site that has a pit toilet. Developed camping is available at Granite Flat Campground just north of the start of Lower Mill Canyon. If you are looking for hotels, there are plenty throughout the Provo valley all across the Wasatch mountains that will be about 15-30 minutes away depending on location.
Camping: Lower Mill Canyon

Writer Information

TJ Bosworth

Crew Leader - Utah
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Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, he's only been off-roading since he was 16 but fell in love immediately. He attended college in Denver for Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management and wheeled in Colorado for 4 years, but ended up moving back home to Salt Lake City. He currently works in an off-road shop and spends his free time doing anything he can to stay busy, which is usually working on his jeep or playing music. Outside of off-roading, he is an avid whitewater rafter and outdoor cook. Camping at least every other weekend in any season is a normal year. The further from civilization, the better. Bring on the memories!


Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Does access to FR085 close in early winter? Hoping to go up this weekend - no snow up AF Canyon, so it should be clear. Just wasn't sure if they gate it past a certain point in the season despite if there's snow or not.
–Jen (12/01/2017)
A: Hi! I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. FR085 closes whenever the Forest Service feels that it is appropriate. If conditions are wet after a first snow, they will likely shut down the trail as wet conditions severely impact the trails. If I recall there was one snow storm that had shut the trail system down on Monday, November 27th. Once they close, they are closed for the season.
–TJ Bosworth (12/08/2017)

Trail Reviews (3)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Nothing spectacular. This trail is really only used because it has camping and provides access to the more fun trails in the area. Great escape from the summer heat though.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
***Update 6/24/17*** 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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
***FIRE RESTRICTION*** http://fox13now.com/2016/07/24/new-fire-in-american-fork-canyon-prompts-evacuation-of-campgrounds/ 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. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/utah-votes-let-authorities-disable-drones-near-wildfires-n609041