ATV Adventures: Stopped by snow on the Prospector ATV Trail - 1188

On the west side of Vernon Reservoir with snowcapped peaks in the background.

In my last article, I reviewed some lessons learned the hard way in my years of riding. I neglected to say that the pictures in that article were of a ride in the rain on the Skyline Trail seven years ago. The mud-packed machines pictured prompted a reader to call me on that decision to ride a muddy trail.

That lesson came to bear on a ride two weeks ago on the Prospector Trail. Before the ride, I tried to research trail conditions.

The plan was to ride from Vernon on the east side of the Prospector past Vernon Reservoir to a junction that would take us to Cherry Creek. Talking with a rider who had ridden the Cherry Creek Trails, I learned that he encountered very little snow. I also talked with the Tooele County trails coordinator about conditions on the trail between Vernon and the Cherry Creek Junction. He said that I shouldn’t have any problems.

Armed with that information, we staged at the Vernon trailhead. As we unloaded, we were greeted by the pleasing song of a meadowlark — a sure sign of spring. That set the stage for a great ride.

The trails were dry as we made our way to Vernon Reservoir. I had just had a new set of Maxxis Big Horn tires mounted on my Kawasaki Teryx4. I love the feel of new tires. I can feel the difference even though it is something my wife doesn’t understand. That first ride is something I look forward to with new tires.

While Vernon Reservoir is not large, it was easy to see why it is such a popular place. The ice was just coming off the surface, indicating that it would not be long before people would be setting their camps. The views of the snowcapped mountains surrounding this spot give it such a peaceful feeling.

Moving on past the lake, we came to a trail 1 ¾ miles from the reservoir and decided to take it. According to my map, it would make a nice loop up on the side of the mountain and drop back down to the main trail.

It was a fun one with lots of twists and turns. We were stopped short when we hit the snow line at the 6,800 foot level. Turning back to the main trail, we decided that this would be a good one to take later in the spring when the trails are dry.

Following Vernon Creek, we continued south. I noticed that the trail began to climb. However, I wasn’t too worried about it because I understood that the trail was open to the junction, which to my way of thinking would make the elevation of that section of trail to be below 6,800 feet.

I watched my GPS as the elevation began to edge up from 6,500 feet to 6.600, then to 6,700 feet. By the time we reached Horse Valley, we were at 6,800 feet.

There we sat, staring at a trail covered with snow for as far as we could see. Did I just not ask the right questions or did I hear the answers wrong? I thought I heard that we would have no trouble with snow on this trail.

Not wanting to ride in snow with its accompanying mud, we turned around and headed back to Vernon Reservoir. It was obvious that I had not done enough research.

On the way back, we found a short trail that went up to a very old concrete foundation for some kind of building. We went up to take a look. While the purpose of the structure didn’t reveal itself, it was interesting to see.

When we reached the reservoir, we found a picnic table and stopped for lunch. It was not situated in the shade, which was to our liking because it was not a day for short sleeves. It felt good to sit still in the sunshine.

When you are riding, you get to see some beautiful country, and this day was no exception. However, some of the best parts of a ride are sitting down and talking about what you have seen. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to pack a good lunch.

Making it back to the trucks, we had finished a ride of 37 miles. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and when doing research on the ride, ask the right questions.

Lynn Blamires can be reached at

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