The interest in developing ATV trail systems is growing across Utah. People with ATVs want places to ride and counties want to provide them — and for good reason. The tourist dollars brought to a county with nearby trails are significant.
The Paiute ATV Trail System is one of the most well-known systems in the country. Covering four counties in central Utah, the Paiute consists of 1,276 miles of trail connecting 16 communities providing key services to riders.
Each of these towns has comfortable motels with hot showers. A variety of restaurants offer fast food to home-cooked meals and there are groceries available for meals on the trail. Gas is available so you don’t have to carry extra fuel.
I have strapped on all the equipment needed to camp and cook meals on the trail, but I felt like a rolling hazard. With everything packed onto my ATV, I could barely see over the top to navigate the trail. I prefer to take advantage of the amenities these towns have to offer.
The main Paiute Trail makes a 238-mile loop through Sevier, Millard, Piute and Beaver counties. It crosses three mountain ranges — the Tushars, Phavant, and Monroe. The lowest point is 5,200 feet, while 11,450 feet in the Tushar Mountains is the highest spot on the trail.
In addition to the views from the tops of the mountains, the Paiute Trail abounds in historic sites.
Marysvale is a good place to start for mining history. Miner’s Park up Bullion Canyon is an outdoor museum featuring a self-guided walk through historic tools and equipment used by early miners.
High above Marysvale is the Silver King Mine, packed with information on what life was like as a miner. From there, the trail descends through the Kimberlys, where the mountain is riddled with old mining operations.
South of Marysvale in Circleville is the home of Butch Cassidy. There is a log cabin in a meadow on the northeast side of Manning Meadow Reservoir where it was discovered by local law authorities that Butch’s gang was holed up. The ensuing shootout was stuff that movies are made about.
Fillmore is home to the Territorial Capitol of Utah. The original capitol building is well-preserved and worth a visit. Stories are plentiful about the Blackhawk Indian Wars, and mysterious rock art holds secrets about hidden gold east of Fillmore up Chalk Creek Canyon.
Ties to the Great Western Trail, the Gooseberry Trails, the Fremont, the Arapeen Trails, the Paunsagunt, and Markagunt Trail systems, make this the largest interconnected motorized trail system in the country.
Max Reid, a member of the Paiute Trail Committee, has been collecting data on the Paiute Trails since 1995. Using trail counters and game cameras along with information gathered from sign-in sheets at historic sites on the trail, he has come up with some pretty accurate information about who rides the Paiute.
The data shows 1995 saw 23,660 riders on these trails. That was when a machine could carry only one rider. With the advent of UTVs capable of carrying up to six people, it became necessary to count the riders separately from the machines.
In 2017, the numbers showed 162,000 riders on 110,164 machines. The year 2020 was a banner year for the sale of ATVs and bookings at resorts, but the impact has not reached the trail systems yet. When it does, I think it will be significant.
The numbers were down a little as far as activity on the Paiute in 2020, but the tourist dollars were up. Here is an accounting of the money spent in three different categories of riders:
• A rider from outside Utah spent an average of $392.97 per day.
• A rider from within Utah spent an average of $90.85 per day.
• A rider from within the four counties spent an average of $64.19 per day.
In 2017, the groups were split equally with a third of the riders in each group. Then 2020 saw a big change – 40% of the riders made up each of the first two groups, with only 20% in the last group. When you do the math in 2020, ATV riders spent almost $33 million riding the Paiute trails.
It is little wonder that other Utah counties are interested in developing ATV trails to attract these tourist dollars.
When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and support the economy by riding Utah’s ATV trails.