North of Vernal and southwest of Manila in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, the Elk Park Loop is an 18 mile route deep into the scenic backcountry with dense forest and cool streams.
To reach the cross-country skiing trailhead from Vernal, head north on US 191/UT44. At the junction for the Flaming Gorge Dam, continue on UT 44 to the Deep Creek turnoff 9FS 539), located between mileposts 11 and 12. From Manila, FS 539 is 16 miles south on UT 44. The trailhead is located 2 miles down the Deep Creek Road at Elk Park. Pedal west down the Deep Creek Road, through the campground, and across Carter Creek. The trail here climbs for about 2.5 miles to the junction with FS 221, signed for Spirit Lake, Browne Lake, and Sheep Creek Lake. Follow this dirt double-track road for 1.5 miles to FS5. Turn left of this trail, climbing up to the lookout tower on Ute Mountain.
On the south side of the tower, head down the trail signed Ute Mountain Trail 005. Follow the trail through the meadow ahead to the fence line bordering Browne Lake. Follow the fence line briefly (50 yds.) then cross the meadow on the single track. The trail here is vague. Look for posts, tree blazes, and diamonds marking the route. The trail then parallels Carter Creek. After about a mile, stay right at the junction for Lost Spring Trail (FS 007), and continue straight to Youngs Spring Park. Take an immediate left for Young Spring and climb the short hill to the junction for Old Carter Trail #016. Head east, following posts for FT 016. This trail intersects Trail #014, but stay on #016 on the ride side of the meadow. Continue on the rough trail to a faint junction signed for South Elk Park, Elk Prk, Old Carter Trail, and Young Spring. Turn left on the single-track trail, cross the East Fork of Deep Creek ahead. In the meadow ahead, take a right, than a left (carsonite post here), and follow the trail back.
Overall, Elk Park Loop Trail is the 9th most popular cross country ski area of all 17 Nordic ski destinations in Utah. Several of the better cross country ski trails are nearby Elk Park Loop Trail including Dowd Mountain Loop Trail and Swett Ranch Loop.
Local Contacts: ANF (435) 784-3445; Flaming Gorge Assoc. (435) 885-3305; Local Tourism (435) 789-6932; Flaming CoC (435) 784-3445; Utah Tourism (800) UTAH-FUN.
Best Season: Dec. - Feb.
Average Difficulty: Moderate
Base Camp: NFS Skull Creek Campground; NFS Deep Creek Campground
Luxury Loding: Red Canyon Lodge (cabins) (435) 889-3759; Flaming Gorge Lodge (motel) (435) 889-3773
Breakfast Restaurant: Gorge Cafe, Manila
Reference Source: click here http://www.fs.usda.gov/ashley/
GPS: 40.85388, -109.67754
Date Published: 12/27/2015
Date Updated: 7/27/2016
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