Distance: ~8-10 Miles Out & Back ~16-20 Total Difficulty: Easy Terrain: Flat, friendly(pine-needle cushy single-track) Usage: Hikers, mountain bikers horses, leashed dogs Caution: Cougar and bear country
If you’re in the Port Angeles area, a visit to lovely Lake Crescent is a must do. It just a scenic 20-mile drive out of town. There you’ll find a delightful trail that meanders along the shore and through the forest on a pine-needle path lined with ferns. This is the splendid Spruce Railroad Trail, great for hiking, running, or mountain biking.
The trail is part of the 134-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail, a mountain bike-able route that crosses the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. The trail follows the former Port Angeles Western Railroad route.
The trail begins with a short paved section. Scenic views of Barnes Point and Mount Storm King (post coming soon) loom above the lake.
At ~ 2.5 miles in, you’ll traverse a short bridge and have a gander at the spectacular, “Punch bowl” of Lake Crescent—crystal clear as far 40 feet down.
While there are plenty of more technical and longer rides around Lake Tahoe, the Flume Trail is world-renown for its scenic beauty and an absolute “must do” if you’re in the area. (I’m sure you’ll see why after you watch the videos.)
Lake Views: Spectacular,
Stunning, Jaw Dropping
Moderately difficult due to elevation of 7000′ to 8157 and a 1000 ft climb in
the 1st 4 miles, technically simple
Description: Ride begins at the trailhead in the Spooner Lake Day Use Area in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on the east side of Lake Tahoe. Follow the Flume Trail signs from the parking area via the North Canyon Road. In the first 4 miles, you’ll climb 1000 feet on fire road through aspen groves and meadows, followed by short descent to picturesque Marlette Lake.
After ~1.5 miles of riding the dirt road along the lake, you’ll have ~4.5 miles of smooth, flat single track and breathtaking views 1600 feet above the east shore of Lake Tahoe. If you’re afraid of heights. some of the single-track sections might feel sketchy. Slow down and savor the beauty – the best section ends too quickly. You descend on a 3-mile fire road with lots of sand traps – beware.
Hourly shuttles summer and fall: $18 The Flume Trail Bike Shop (mtb rentals too), 1115 Tunnel Creek Road, 775-298-2501
Notes: I’d say a shuttle is a must. In my opinion (and others’) it’s not safe to ride on the roads in Lake Tahoe.
I did this trail 4 years ago and didn’t stop once on the climb. This time the ride was more of a workout with stops for me—a humbling combination of altitude, lack of bike training, the fact that I was in the hospital 2 weeks prior, and perhaps being 4 years older (sigh). Would definitely do it again if I have the chance–those views (unlike me) never get old.
For those of you who might be wondering, here’s a sample of what biking (road biking and mountain biking) looks like around St. George, Utah. As you can see, the views for much of this 60-mile ride were splendid, quintessential Utah—Virgin River, canyons, red rock, and snow-capped mountains. Road quality varied. (Utah drivers were not quite as courteous as I’d hoped. Lots of trucks sped by us without moving to the left or braking.)
Not bad, eh?
Toquerville /La Verkin Road Bike Loop ~60 Miles, ~2500 feet of climbing
A friend of mine, now a St. George local, guided us on this 60-mile road bike sampler with ~2500 feet of climbing on surrounding highways and byways. We took the lovely, low traffic 7 to Sand Hollow Road (rough surface) by Sand Hollow Reservoir (Half-Ironman site) across to State Street / 9. (The 9 is a main thoroughfare with heavy, fast traffic -not so nice. Maybe save this one for Sunday mornings when most of the locals are at church.)
At the halfway point, we enjoyed some refreshments and superb views at the super scenic, ever popular River Rock Roasting, which is perched on a cliff overlooking Virgin River in La Verkin. If you’re in the area, River Rock Roasting is a must stop and is definitely my top pick for coffee, food, brews and views. It’s slammed on Sundays (apparently everyone who is not in church goes here) so pick a weekday if possible.
Our route back on State Street/9 was topped off with a stop at dazzling Quail Creek State Park and Reservoir. And yes, you can swim in it. No, I didn’t this time, but will next! It’s 120 feet deep in places and stocked with rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, crappie, largemouth bass. There’s boating, kayaking, SUPs, hiking, biking and camping here.
There’s another route through the Gunlock and Snow Canyon area that has less car traffic, but we’d already explored those two areas so checking out the are on the flip side of St. George made sense.
Next time, will definitely try the Gunlock loop.
Desert Canyons Mountain Bike Trails: Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce ~8 miles
Our mountain bike sampler was limited as it had recently rained, but we’ve heard there’s tons of epic trails around here. The driest trail option was the newly developed Desert Canyons Trail System. We cruised around two of the trails, Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce, both pleasant easy to moderate with views from the top of the mesa out to the horizon. Unfortunately, these views are slated to be filled in by a Master Community in the near future. (The developer’s concession / gift was this mountain bike trail system.) We were lucky to have it to ourselves with no building encroachment yet.
Directions: From St. George, take the I-15 S to Desert Canyon s exit and take a left under the overpass
We were told that there’s plenty of great mountain biking in and near St. George, but it wasn’t in the cards for this trip. We did make it to Moab for an epic mountain bike ride – stay tuned for that post.
As far as these 2 rides go, I’ll give them 2 thumbs up.
Cruising the 21.8 mile Lakeview trail around Diamond Valley reservoir on mountain bike during the wildflower super bloom last weekend was a delight. It’s a flat, family-friendly fire-road with lake and snow -capped mountain views that don’t disappoint. Yes, this was seeing it dressed in its wildflower season best. And no, you probably won’t want to do it in the blazing heat of the summer as it’s all exposed. But it’s just right, right now – for running, hiking, biking, boating, and fishing. (It’s stocked with rainbow trout, large mouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, small mouth bass – catch and release only though.)
How many places can you take a scenic, peaceful 21 mile bike ride and have it virtually all to yourself on a weekend? Ok, Catalina, but where else? (Granted the little wildflower hike was much busier, but less by the time I was done with my mountain bike ride.)
Here’s your wildflower sampling: Poppies, Arroyo Lupine, California Goldfields, Brittlebush, Owl’s Clover, Canterbury Bells, Chia, Baby Blue Eyes, and more!
Did I mention to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes?
[Rattlesnake video courtesy of Ken Wells.]
Fee: $10 per car, $3 per person for trail entry – worth it.
The entrance to Diamond Valley Lake is off of Domenigoni Parkway, which connects with Highway 79 on the west side of the lake and State Street on the east. You can take State Street south from Highway 74 in Hemet.
Granted, I was lucky enough to hit this hike at its most beautiful, during the spring super bloom (poppies and native wildflowers galore), but year-round, on clear days , you can enjoy lovely views of Batiquitos Lagoon and the coastline from Camp Pendleton to La Jolla.
Denk Mountain is part of Rancho La Costa, a habitat conservation area in Carlsbad made up of several non-contiguous parcels of land, including Denk Mountain and Ridgeline Trail above Box Canyon. These are some of the most rugged in the area, which make it a local mountain bikers’ favorite.
Trail notes: You have choices on this loop trail. For surer footing sake, I recommend you go up the steeper, more rugged / rocky Mule Deer Trail and come down the more moderate, less rugged Switchback Trail. The hike is completely exposed so be prepared with sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
Easy to moderate – depending on your fitness level
Leashed dogs allowed
FREE, along Corte Romero
Getting there: From the 5, take the La Costa Ave exit East and continue for 4 miles. Turn left onto Rancho Santa Fe Road and at .8 miles, turn right onto Camino Junipero, then in ~ .2 miles turn left onto Corte Romero. Park along the street. The trail head is on the right.
A popular spot for mountain bikers and hikers, the San Dieguito River Park in Escondido is squeezed between the I15 freeway and a couple housing developments. It’s not wilderness, but it still makes for a decent, suburban excursion and nature fix.
As I mentioned in my Cruising Lake Hodges post, the main mountain bike route on the Coast-to-Crest Trail is beginner friendly. The Bernardo Summit trail is not—it’s rated difficult due to loose rocks and steep technical sections. In other words, it’s way out of my mountain bike skill league so I left it undone on my last visit, vowing to come back and hike it. Note don’t let the words summit and mountain deter you. We’re only talking about a ~1k ft in elevation gain here. But that elevation is enough to deliver views that do not disappoint.
If you’re like me and want to bypass some concrete “hiking” and walking under the freeway, you may want to start your hike at the bicycle/pedestrian bridge (the world’s longest stressed ribbon bridge) which crosses the variably wet/dry section of Lake Hodges. After traversing the bridge, take the trail to the left heading towards the Lake. Before long, you’ll hopscotch on a couple rocks across Felicita Creek, a small perennial brook, and round the bend from there. Look for the summit trail splitting off to the right (the sign for it is facing the other direction). It’s a gradual, steady climb – mild to moderate and absolutely runnable – you just need to watch your footing on the loose rock sections. (I find it easier, more fun and less painful to run up vs. down.)
At the last and steepest section, you’ll encounter a fenced-in water tank – not very pretty, but don’t be discouraged. Your final ascent will be rewarded.
I highly recommend this hike for the best views in the park and a good workout. If you’re not up for incline, you can keep going straight along the North Shore trail to Del Dios Community Park and eventually, past the Lake Hodges Dam. Note it’s an out and back.
Hiking difficulty: Mild to moderate+ depending on your fitness level
Elevation change: ~1,000 ft
Distance: ~6.2-7.2 miles roundtrip, depending on where you start
If you hike around Prescott, you’ll notice that they name and number their trails, which is nice. The only problem you may encounter is when a local gives you a hiking tip by the number only and happens to be off a digit or two. Could be the Prescott way of telling you to “Go take a hike.”
Anyway, I found the high-country trail that leads up Spruce Mountain, which isn’t hard to find if you know the trail’s name and number. It’s the Groom Creek Loop Trail #307. Some (Prescott National Forest Service peeps) say that it’s “one of the most attractive trails in the Prescott National Forest. Despite the misleading moniker, there are no Spruce trees on the trail to Spruce Mountain, but that’s okay—it’s a lovely shady trek through Ponderosa pine, Gambel oak and Douglass fir. I chose the trail to the left as it was a hot day and this side of the loop is pleasantly shaded. On a cooler day, I’d go for the loop. Perhaps start with the opposite, more exposed side (on the right) and come down the shady side as it gets later in the day.
The trail begins with a gradual climb and easy terrain, ramping up to a steady climb with rockier and rootier terrain near the top. You definitely have an opportunity to get your heart rate up if you’re so inclined (pun intended). The trail is runnable—the deer I startled on the way up concurs.
On top, you’ll find a picnic area with an outhouse and a fire lookout tower. If the lookout-in residence is accepting visitors, you might just be lucky enough to soak in the panoramic views of Prescott’s lakes and forest from the tower’s vantage point as I did.
Distance: ~6.5 miles, if you do the loop it’s ~8 miles
Elevation gain/ loss: ~1,400 ft (starting elevation is about 6300 feet and the top is 7693 ft)
Getting there: ~15 min drive from Prescott, AZ: Take Mt. Vernon Avenue south for 6.4 miles. It becomes Senator Highway and passes through the small community of Groom Creek. Look for the trailhead on the left side of the road.
Notes: Free parking. MT Bikes & Dogs allowed.
Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.