The request was unusual. A neighbor who has never been on an ATV adventure approached me about an ATV ride for their anniversary.
Always looking for a riding buddy, and in this case my wife would come along on a real double date, I took them up on it. We chose Manti and the Arapeen Trails for this inaugural experience.
In planning a route for our friends, Rick and Debbie Worthen, I thought, why give them a plain old vanilla ride? My four-place Kawasaki Teryx is set up as street-legal so we set out south down Main Street to the end of town and turned up the Sheep Trail.
The Sheep Trail starts out with a short steep climb and proceeds to climb some 2,600 feet to the 9,000 foot level. The views of the valley are worth stopping to see. The chance to take a break after that long climb was also welcome.
Debbie was quick to ask, “Would you call that extreme or what?” I replied that it was about intermediate. Her response was simple — “I’m glad I wasn’t driving!”
This was the first ridge. The Sheep Trail goes over five ridges on a climb to the Skyline Trail at the top of the Manti-La Sal Mountains. After crossing each ridge, the trail drops down into a saddle with amazing views down into Mayfield Canyon on the south and Manti Canyon on the north.
After repeating the ridge crossings, the sixth ridge presented itself as a long rocky climb on a narrow crest that elicits a sigh of relief as the trail smooths out and joins the Skyline Trail. Debbie whispered almost inaudibly, “If I had been driving, we would still be sitting at the bottom.”
We headed north on the Skyline enjoying the views from the top. This trail travels some 58 miles without dropping below 10,000 feet so the changing views are worth the trip.
We came around Jet Fox Reservoir and stopped at Snow Lake before dropping back down toward Logger’s Fork Reservoir. The reservoir is situated at the bottom of Elk’s Knoll and is fed by Logger’s Fork Creek. We rounded the knoll and crossed the creek on the north side of the mountain as we headed down the canyon.
Spotting another UTV coming up the trail, we pulled over to let them pass. Not being in a hurry, this couple stopped a minute to get acquainted. We have met the nicest people on the trail.
When I asked where they were headed, he said, “We don’t know.” They were just out enjoying the backcountry. Before continuing their ride, they told us about a cabin and a waterfall that we knew nothing about. We set out to see them for ourselves.
We found the cabin perched on the side of the mountain at the 9,000-foot level. Referred to as the John R. Nielson cabin, it was built in 1949 as a hunting and recreational property on public land. It is now open to the public by reservations made at the city building in Manti.
It is a real mountain cabin built with hand tools because of its remote location. We chose to eat our lunch on the roughhewn logs that made up a picnic table in front which overlooks the canyon.
While we were there, the descendants of the cabin builders arrived and invited us to take a look inside. It is about as cozy as a storybook cabin could be. We enjoyed talking with them and then continued on our ride.
We found the waterfall we had learned about high up on the side of the canyon to the north. We would have missed it, but the people we had met showed us a photo they had taken with their phone so we knew where to look.
We came out on a trail marked No. 37 which took us down into Ephraim. We got gas at the Maverik and headed back to Manti finishing a ride of about 50 miles.
I am happy to say that the Worthen’s really enjoyed the adventure. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and if you have a four-place UTV, you could be a part of someone’s anniversary present.
Lynn R. Blamires can be contacted at quadmanone@gmail.