The deep, colorful canyons of Flaming Gorge have long been a favorite destination for water loving people, but more recently the trails along its rim and in the surrounding mountain hills have caught the attention of mountain bikers. The Dowd Mountain bike trail may just be one of the area’s best-kept secrets.
What Makes It Great
The Dowd Mountain bike trail is a 10-mile loop that is a combination of single- and doubletrack. The path winds through towering ponderosas and thin lodge pole pines and is lined with wildflowers, sage, and grass. The apex of the trail is the Dowd Mountain Overlook, where the earth falls away 1,700 feet to the deep blue water of the reservoir below. The climb to the overlook is very moderate and the descent is a rolling good time that will have you chasing elk and deer on your way back to the car.
What You’ll Remember
If this is your first time biking the Flaming Gorge area, then the Dowd Mountain bike trail is the perfect introduction. Traveling in a counter-clockwise direction, the ride begins as singletrack cut from sage and rabbit brush. From there you hop onto fast jeep roads that will take you beneath an open forest of ponderosa pines. At the halfway point of the ride, you arrive at the Dowd Mountain Overlook where there is a bathroom and picnic tables. Take in the vista and check out the information boards for info about the surrounding view.
After you’ve had a chance to soak it all in, it’s time to get ready for the second half—this loop is more fun than the first. The narrow singletrack descending from the overlook is fast and rolling. Paint brush and wildflowers line the way back to jeep roads, where you can open it up before cutting over to a sheltered drainage. Here the forest service has cut berms into the trail that make for some fun, fast, and fantastic riding before returning to the car.
To stretch the ride even longer consider taking the Hideout Canyon Trail west of the overlook. This advanced trail leads you down to the west shore of the reservoir, where you can cool off with a swim, but be warned you will have to hammer the pedals to climb back out.
Who’s Going to Love It
The Dowd Mountain loop is suitable for novice riders with a little endurance and is so much fun that advanced riders will enjoy it too. With 1,000 feet of climbing in 10 miles, it is well within most cyclists' abilities. The singletrack section west of the overlook may inch toward the intermediate ability level, but it can easily be walked. If there is any doubt, you may follow the main Dowd Mountain dirt road back to the car from the overlook. If you enjoy mountain rides with scenic vistas, this loop is for you.
Directions, Parking, and Regulations
The Dowd Mountain loop falls within a National Forest Fee Area. You may purchase multi-day passes at numerous locations along the highways of the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area and at all boat launches.
Fourteen miles south of Manila on Highway 44 and 15 miles north of the junction with Highway 191 you take the Dowd Mountain Road. The ride starts at the cattle guard.