Lewis Peak/South Skyline
Halfway to summit on South Skyline Trail
Rating: Hikers moderate to difficult
bikers intermediate skills
Distance: 18 (out and back)-25 (loop) miles
South Skyline trail is not one for the faint of heart, let alone the spur to Lewis peak on top of that. The first three miles of climbing are exceptionally warm and if there is any danger of afternoon lightening, be certain you begin in the morning. The most popular starting points are at the North Arm t.h. (advantage: warm-up) or Windsurfers parking lot. Cross the highway directly from Windsurfers parking and gear just right to get up the initial ascension to miles and miles of challenging single-track.
Two main components make this trail the mother of all climbs in the valley: the constant grade, and when dry (which is most of the time) offers a loose, rocky surface. The best experience I ever had was after an all night rain storm allowing at least the smaller rock/gravel surface to firm up and become easier to roll over. After the first three miles of climbing, you arrive at a beautiful vista of Pineview. For many, this is the turn-around point, but if you are prepared with fluid (preferably with electrolytes) and at least a little energy food, feel free to proceed another 3.5 miles of similarly challenging climbing, and even more amazing panoramic views. Be sure to pace yourself.
You can choose to go back the same way you came. In my opinion it is long, tedious and I am averse to out and back rides in general. You can make a loop by crossing that ridge and descend an intimidating, steep, forested drop to the North Ogden Divide (also an alternate trailhead, but so steep it's at least a mile of hike-a-bike when started at the N.O.D.). There are no services other than a pit toilet. The finale involves heading down what locals call Spring Mountain Trail (located East of the parking lot enterance). Once you've stretched your tired hands, proceed downhill for the next 2 miles of single/double-track to the valley floor. This trail will spit you out into Nordic Valley and it's smooth sailing from here down mellow roads and highway. When you get to the 4-way stop in Eden, you're either finished or it's just a few more miles on the North Arm trail to Windsurfers parking lot and South Skyline trailhead.
View South skyline/Lewis Peak in a larger map
By mid-June there are flowers and deep greens all-around, but also hike-a-bike snow fields. Be thankful though; on a hot day, snow packing your chest, back and helmet can save you from dehydration should you be traveling light on fluids.
Once you've progressed about 6 miles from the highway, there will appear to be an option to take a trail to the right (due North). Do not be fooled by the appearance of downhill relief. Continue traveling west toward the ridge (and possibly snow), and you will save yourself time and energy. This portion is clear of intruding roots and branches that render the other option unbearable. By the end, you've felt a burn in your buns and thighs like no other and have arrived at the top of a ridge (mile 7) offering insane 360 degree views and you must make a choice.
Should you choose to head southwest 2 mi. to bag that peak, make sure you have fluid, food and energy to spare. It's not getting there that's the kicker, it's climbing back. Beware of snowfields early in the summer. They are much more difficult to navigate on your way back than on your way to the peak. Avoid them by going over the tops of the hills on the motor-bike worn trails. If you have given everything you've got and cannot imagine climbing another vertical foot, head north and crank out your final (and I do mean final) climb across the gorgeous ridge. When you crest this final hill you will actually be at a higher elevation than Lewis Peak!
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