Mary Ellen Gulch
Alpine, Utah (Utah) Technical Rating: 3-5
Last Updated: 05-11-2018
Lower Mill Canyon
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Mary Ellen Gulch Highlights
Located about an hour southeast of Salt Lake City in the majestic Wasatch Mountain range is an offroad trail that offers a lot of adventure for any outdoor enthusiast. From the bottom, you get to experience some of the amazing scenery in the Wasatch National Forest and work your way up the old mining road to some of the abandoned gold and silver mines. If you look hard enough you can find iron pyrite or fools gold laying around! If you are more extreme, there have been rumors that you can get lucky panning in some of the streams. There is a story of a Jeeper who panned in one of these canyons and found just enough gold to pay for his expenses from his journey up, so who knows what you may find! All the mines you find in this area were very active gold and silver mines in the late 1800's. As you finish the trail you will also get to take in some great views of the surrounding mountains and overlook the Mineral Basin ski lift.
Technical rating: (3-5) Easy-Moderate
Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.
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Directions to Trailhead
Follow the directions to Lower Mill Canyon. Follow the Lower Mill Canyon until Waypoint 6, 3.9 miles up. You will find a large dirt lot to the left of the trail, this is the where the trail starts and you will find the white sign on a post marking the trail. If you find yourself at a water crossing you have gone too far and need to turn around!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
40° 31' 38.56"N
111° 36' 12.88"W
GPS Exchange File:
This trail starts out as just a dirt road with some smaller rocks but as you get about 1/2 a mile into the trail it gets rocky and narrow. The rocks start out small but eventually get bigger and bigger with the biggest being at the rock pile just before the large fins. The trail also has a few ledges that range from 6"-12". This 4wd trail is a cake walk with 35's and lockers but is still technical in a few spots. Once you pass the large fins, you will climb up to another mine. This part of the trail has some very tight hairpin turns that will require you to make at least a 3 point turn to get around. If you are driving a full-size vehicle it will be more. After the switchbacks, you will reach a saddle where you can turn around or continue down into Mineral Basin in the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
All routes in the Pleasant Grove Ranger District that hate a gate will close seasonally (weather permitting). This route is accessed by a trail with 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 trailhead is a big dirt parking lot with multiple roads branching off of it. The trailhead to Mary Ellen Gulch is the road farthest west and is marked by a white sign.
3: Narrow (0.5mi)
Changing every year, this really looks a lot scarier than it is. Stay straight and get a little off camber over the side of the hill to continue the trail. In some years, this will tilt you a lot to the downhill side, and some years it is wide enough to not even have to worry.
4: Loose Rocks (0.8mi)
About half a mile into the trail you get away from the dirt road and start rolling on nothing but loose rocks. The trail also narrows quite a bit. There are places where passing another vehicle is possible but most of the time it will require you to drive on a rock or off the side of the trail a little. Be very cautious where you do this, you never know how loose rock is going to react!
5: Scenic (1.4mi)
From the relaxing stream running down the canyon to the stunning rock cliffs topped with beautiful pines and quaking aspen, you will not be disappointed with the sights this trail has to offer. Often you will find yourself traveling at a slower pace to take it all in and snap some great pictures.
6: Yankee Mines Turnoff (2.0mi)
As you work your way up the trail you will come to this fork in the road at which you can choose to go right and continue up FR 111 or go left and climb a steeper trail with no big rocks or boulders leading you to the Yankee Mines. Either way, you can get to the upper mine as these two roads connect at Waypoint 9. It is recommended to run this trail on the way back down so you get to explore all the mines along this trail.
7: Rock Pile (2.1mi)
Here you will have one of the hardest obstacles on this trail. The rock pile has boulders the size of the cooler you're packing in the back and they can change places depending on how busy the trail has been and how much runoff there is. It's not too extreme but you can still have some fun depending on your lines.
8: Large Fins (2.3mi)
This can be another tricky obstacle if you are not careful. Choose your line carefully on this obstacle. Without the right approach and proper ground clearance, you're more than likely to get a touch on the diff from one of these fins causing you to get hung up.
9: Yankee Mines Loop (2.7mi)
At this fork, you turn right to head up to the upper mine. Coming down you can go right to explore the Yankee Mines and loop back to FR 111 at Waypoint 6.
10: Mine (3.7mi)
Many people refer to this mine as Siller Bell Mine, however, there are multiple sources that label it differently. This mine is very large and travels deep into the mountain. The parking area also makes for a good photo spot looking down over the canyon below.
Please Note: Walking into old mines is very dangerous. Please do so at your own risk!
11: End (4.0mi)
The end of this trail used to be blocked off by large boulders. Just on the other side of the boulders is an area where you can overlook the Mineral Basin ski lift. Currently, Snowbird has purchased the entire Mary Ellen Gulch and it is unknown as to what their plans are. As of now, there are signs welcoming you into the Snowbird property as long as you are respectful and stay on the trail. For the purpose of this guide, the GPX track will end here.
Currently, Snowbird has purchased Mary Ellen Gulch. It is unknown as to what their plans are for the future, however, posted signs have shown that OHV's are welcome onto snowbird property as long as you are respectful and stay on the trail. Keep checking back for any updates on changes to OHV legality within Snowbird property.
Camping and Lodging
Camping on this trail is pretty scarce. If you are with a big group of 3 or more vehicles it would be best to camp in one of the many camping spots in Lower Mill Canyon. If you are with just a few and wish to camp on this trail there is a campsite located just below Waypoint 6 before you make the climb up to the mines.