Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Paiute Trail Overview

The Paiute Trail —

Located in South-Central Utah, the Paiute Trail connects the towns of Salina, Richfield, Aurora, Elsinore, Monroe, Joseph, Koosharem, Marysvale, Junction, Circleville, Beaver, and others. These small towns make a great place to use as an access point to explore the trail. The towns all cater to the recreational crowd so there are many RV parks, small motels, Bed & Breakfasts, and in a couple of the larger towns large motels. ATV's are allowed on many designated city streets that will allow access to the trail. With plenty of Camping, Hotels, Restaurants, Services, and ATV rentals available. 

The Paiute Trail system was designed to provide an enjoyable and scenic ride through scenery of unimaginable beauty. The trail system was formed by connecting old roads and trails that cross the Fishlake National Forest along with additional BLM-administered land. Additional sections of trail were constructed to complete the interconnecting main #01 trail loop. The main #01 trail is approximately 250 miles long, with well over 1000 miles of marked side trails and with more than 8000 miles of additional side forest roads and trails that are open to ATV, UTV, and other recreational vehicle use.

 The Paiute Trail was developed in an effort to provide miles of scenic recreational, family-oriented riding through the beautiful Utah mountains. The main loop of the Paiute Trail, the #01, could typically will take about 25 riding hours to complete - and that's without stopping to take in the scenery or exploring any of the many incredible side trails. It's best to plan to take a minimum of three to four days, but even several weeks may not be enough to satisfy your desire to explore this incredible country completely.

The Riding Season —
The weather in the area around the Paiute Trail system begins to warm up in April but the higher elevations may not be free enough of snow to ride until LAte June or even July. Sometimes the amount of snow in the highest elevations will keep those trails impassible as late as August. September and October will provide some of the best riding weather on the Paiute Trail. At this time of year the days and nights can be cool, but the chance of precipitation is less than the earlier months. Another big plus to the fall months are the trees turning color. After October storms may begin to close some of the upper portions of the trail or at least make riding unpleasant for all but the most prepared riders.

Things to Consider Before Heading to the Paiute Trail —
Most visitors are astonished at the massive nature of the trail system and the remoteness of some of the areas that the trail passes through. Because of this, some folks have expressed their concern about the dangers of encountering bears and mountain lions, along the trail. Although there are some of these animals in the area, they are typically wary of humans so unless they are protecting their young they should be of little concern. This doesn't mean you shouldn't show the proper precautions, but with the practice of keeping your food supplies inaccessible to wildlife. Without using a guide, your chances of seeing a bear or lion are extremely small. In fact, many locals who spend much of their time in the Utah mountains would love to sight either animal.

Many other species of wildlife however, are much more common and encountering these can actually enhance your experience on the Paiute Trail. Mule deer are common to the area and can be seen on any part of the trail, particularly at dusk. The Fishlake National Forest is also home to large herds of elk. At times the deer will stand and watch you long enough for you to get your camera out for pictures. Elk are more wary, so when you spot them it's best to already have the camera ready. To view or photograph these animals, stop your ATV but leave the engine running and remain on the vehicle. Some animals will be curious and may watch you for several minutes. However, changes in sound or sudden movement will startle the animals. 

Some areas around the Paiute Trail are popular wintering areas for both golden and bald eagles. Some remain year-long so it's quite possible to see one of these incredible birds as you travel along the trail. Other animals often seen along the trail include coyotes, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and numerous species of birds. There are also areas where you can witness beaver dams and woodchuck communities. 

Skunks and rattlesnakes are also present in the area. If you encounter one in the middle of the trail, common sense should tell you to stay your distance until it decides to leave or you can find a safe route around. Then you can use the encounter to spice up the description of the trip to the folks back home.
Some wildlife is only wild to those unfamiliar with the area. There are many grazing cattle throughout the area the Paiute Trail passes. Trail riders must realize that most of the trail system is on public lands where ranchers have permits to graze their cattle. Consequently, you may see cattle on practically any part of the trail. When encountering cattles on the trail, simply reduce your speed and continue driving. They will get out of your way. Some cows may even think you are there to herd them and stay on the trail ahead of you for some time. Be patient, they will eventually get out of your way. On the other hand, remember that these cows are someone's property, so do not harass then unnecessarily.

Because there is grazing, there are gates along the trail separating pastures or land ownerships. Always leave these gates as you find them; open if you find them so, or closed if they were closed when you arrived. On many parts of the trail gates are being replaced by cattle guards, some especially designed for ATV's, to make your trip easier.

At places, the Paiute Trail passes through sections of private land. All of the main loop and some of the side loops follow legal rights-of-way across these parcels of private land. When crossing private land on a right-of-way, remember not to trespass on someone else's property.

There are several factors that should be considered in planning a trip to the Paiute Trail. The elevations along the trail range from around 5,000 feet to passes at around 11,500 feet above sea level. An important factor caused by the high elevation is the rare atmosphere and low oxygen levels. People with respiratory problems or heart conditions should be aware of the potential for difficulties because of this thin air. People coming directly from near sea level must be aware that their physical stamina will be limited until they become acclimatized.
Another very important factor that's caused by the thin air at the trail's high elevations is the fluctuations in the temperature. With over a mile of difference between the high and low points of the trail, there can be as much as a 20 to 30 degree temperature difference along the trail. Secondly, it is not uncommon for there to be a 40 degree temperature change from morning to night. This fluctuation in temperature is very important for those planning to camp along the trail to consider. Along with these temperature fluctuations is the fact that it never really gets all that warm at 11,000 feet. As a result you should always carry warm clothing even if the weather appears mild at the start of a ride.

Pre-planning is the key to a successful trip. Once you embark on the trail, you are in a different world with few support services. It is important that you have everything along with you that you might need. This includes having enough fuel to get from one  service station to the next. It is important to remember that although there may be a thousand other people riding the trail at the same time as you, the trail system is so extensive that you may go for hours or even all day without ever meeting anyone.

If you are planning to camp along the trail, you'll need to be able to carry everything you'll need to camp on your vehicle. There are plenty of great camping spots along the trail. Campfires are permitted except during periods of extreme fire danger. Remember to only burn dead and downed wood. Make sure that the fire is completely out before you leave. And it's important that you clean the campsite so it looks as if though no one has been there. Always leave it better than you found it.

If you are planning to stay in motels it is important to plan ahead and make reservations. Most of the towns along the trail are small and motel accommodations are extremely limited. Eating establishments are also limited in the smaller towns. You also might also want to find out ahead of time where ATV's can be repaired in case you have trouble on the trail.

OHV Regulations on the Paiute Trail — The State of Utah and local towns have laws that regulate OHV use. All OHVs owned by residents of Utah must be registered yearly with the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. Non-residents must purchase Utah's non-resident registration permit to ride on public lands in Utah (unless they're currently registered in a state that offers reciprocity with Utah). A list of states that we reciprocate with are listed on Utah State Park's website. There are a number of locations throughout Utah (and even in a few cities just outside of Utah) that can sell these permits. That information can be found at their website.

The State of Utah recognizes three age classes with respect to driving OHV's. No one under eight years old may operate an OHV on public roads, trails, or lands. Drivers age eight through sixteen years old must possess an OHV education certificate issued by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. All drivers 18 and under must wear a helmet and be accompanied and supervised by an adult driving an OHV.  OHV drivers sixteen and older must possess a valid drivers license or an OHV education certificate. Education certificates are issued to anyone eight years or older who completes the Utah Department of Parks and Recreation OHV education course. All OHV's must be equipped with mufflers to prevent sparks which might start fires and to prevent the disturbance of others. ATV's must stop at all stop and yield signs and must travel with headlights on. Operators must travel on the right-hand side of the road, on the pavement in single file.

Most towns along the Paiute Trail have ordinances that permit OHV travel on their streets so that you can access the needed supplies and services in that town. These ordinances designate which streets are open to OHV travel and under what conditions. Streets open to OHV's are typically signed in the towns, and are shown on the Paiute ATV Trail map. In many towns, and trails that lead into the towns, the speed limit for OHV's is posted. It is very important to remember that there are many local residents living along the trail that must put up with the increased OHV traffic during the season. Please respect them and their rights.

We will have more specific information on the best trails, best places to stay, and other important things you'll need to know to make your trip to the Paiute Trail a true "Adventure of a lifetime!"

In the meantime check out our Paiute Trail videos!

And our Adventure Preparation Series!
Adventure Prep

Until then - plan your trip carefully!

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