Mountain Bike Tours: Esprit de Knobby
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Outside magazine, April 1993
Mountain Bike Tours: Esprit de Knobby
Time spent tricking out your mountain bike is inversely related to time spent bumping down the trail. But come a spell of warm spring weather and even the most discriminating gizmologist has to lay down the catalogs, pack up the panniers, and get some mud on the knobbies.
Situated far from the madding buzz of bicycling techno-babble, these weekend mountain-bike rides offer everything from manicured single-track to meandering logging roads to creek and scree crossings. Some routes are painstakingly mapped; others seem all but forgotten. Explore from a base camp, pitch a tent near the trail, or crash at a nearby lodge or motel. You might have to
Fishlake National Forest, Utah. This remote two-million-acre swath of dense pine, piñon, and juniper forest in central Utah feels like the edge of the world, but it probably won’t for long. The uncharacteristically canny Forest Service has already mapped 21 mountain-biking routes in this backcountry oasis, which is destined to become a
Set up base camp at Fish Lake, off Utah 25 southeast of Richfield; then choose from hundreds of miles of single-track trails and gravel and dirt roads. Start out on the 26-mile Fish Lake Loop: From the rustic Fish Lake Lodge, head north on Utah 25 up 1,000 feet to a ridge overlooking the sandstone gorges of Capitol Reef National Park; then make a screaming gravel descent back
Fish Lake is three hours south of Salt Lake City. Take I-15 and Utah 28/U.S. 89 south toward Richfield, then Utah 24 southeast to Utah 25, which leads to Fish Lake Lodge. The Windy Ridge-Cathedral Valley trailhead is at Heart Lake; take Utah 24 southeast to Utah 72 north, then take Forest Road 206 to the lake. Pick up trail maps at the Fish Lake Lodge visitor center. Pitch a
Craftsbury Sports Center, Vermont. Dairy cows generally outnumber humans in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but in late spring you’ll see almost as many fat-tire riders along the area’s twisty nordic-skiing trails. Surrounding the Craftsbury Sports Center, a seasonal ski area-cum- biking mecca, nearly 200 miles of dirt and gravel roads snake out
The 28-mile West Glover Loop makes a good Vermont sampler. From Craftsbury’s Nordic Ski Center you follow a series of lightly traveled dirt roads north through villages flanked by maples, spruces, firs, birches, and the occasional barn or graveyard. Grab sandwich fixings at the general store in West Glover and take a dip at Parker Lake before heading back to Craftsbury. The
Craftsbury is an hour north of Barre via I-89 and Vermont 14. Pick up trail maps at the Craftsbury Sports Center, as few of the roads have names or signs and one intersection looks hopelessly like the next. The center also offers bike rentals ($25 per day), tent camping ($15 per night), and dormitory lodging ($56 per person per night, including three meals); call 800-729-7751
Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia. The Cherokee Nation laid out a wicked network of trails through Georgia’s Appalachian Mountains, some of which have recently been converted by the Forest Service to single-track for mountain bikes. If you’ve got a hankering to ride them, a topo map is crucial. It’s easy to lose your bearings in these black
Rich Mountain Trail, an 8.8-mile out-and-back from Stanley Gap to Lake Blue Ridge, south of the town of Blue Ridge, is fairly demanding, so don’t be embarrassed if you have to carry your bike on the steep, rocky parts. The Bear Creek, Mountaintown Creek, and South Fork trails, west of Ellijay, are more manageable. The 6.7-mile Bear Creek Trail is actually a single-track
Chattahoochee National Forest is two hours north of Atlanta. Take I-75 and U.S. 411 north to the Cohutta District ranger station in Chatsworth, Georgia (706-695-6736 or 706-864-6173), where you can pick up trail maps and directions to the trailheads. The Bear Creek and Mountaintown Creek trails are about 15 miles east of Chatsworth, off Georgia 52. The Rich Mountain and South
Camp on primitive sites at the Bear Creek Campground, near the Bear Creek trailhead, or at Jacks River Fields, adjacent to the South Fork trailhead. There are no fees; bring your own water. You can bunk at Ellijay’s Stratford Inn ($42- $44 for a double with breakfast; 706-276-1080) or Top of Ellijay ($36 for a double; 706-635-5311).
Silver Mountain, Idaho. Years ago, these Idaho mountains were stuffed with enough silver and zinc to give a miner palpitations; nowadays, mountain bikers are the ones pinching themselves. As soon as ski season ends the hills start echoing with the sound of shifting gears, rattling water bottles, and cries of gravity-induced ecstasy.
Just south of Kellogg at the Silver Mountain Ski Area, you can take the world’s longest gondola 3.1 miles up to the Mountain Haus at 5,700 feet (individual rides cost $8.95, so you might as well purchase a day pass for $13). From there, six trails totaling 63 miles wind down through the hemlocks and Douglas firs. Start with the 22-mile Pine Creek Trail, which follows an old
Silver Mountain is one hour east of Spokane, Washington. Take I-90 east to the Bunker Avenue exit and follow signs to Silver Mountain Resort, where you can pick up trail maps; call 208-783-1111 for information. You can camp at the KOA in nearby Pinehurst ($14 per night; 208-682-3612) or stay in Kellogg at Patrick’s Inn ($54 for a double; 208-786-2311) or the McKinley Inn ($45