Navajo Lake Loop: MTB Nirvana, Cedar City, UT

I don’t tend to throw the word epic around much though I have been on some epic mountain bike rides – Tahoe’s Flume Trail, Lake Crescent’s Spruce Railroad Trail, and while not epic per se, that little gem, Diamond Valley Lake was quite lovely too. Fond memories of those rides were stirred up by my ride today on the Navajo Lake Trail. It was by accident that I arrived here as I had set out to do the Navajo Loop Trail in Brian Head, but never found that trail head. Instead, I thought I’d try my luck at the Navajo Lake Loop and I was not not disappointed.

It’s a sweet, highly scenic, nontechnical single track cruise by way of Navajo Lake Loop Trail and the Virgin River Rim Trail, aka the other half of the Navajo Lake Loop Trail. Apologies, I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do – guess I was having too much fun. Guess, you’ll have to go see how beautiful it is for yourself.

Interesting fact: The lake was created when a lava flow dammed the eastern end of the valley.

Distance: 11 Miles

Staring elevation: 9,035′

Elevation gain: 827 ft

NLT vista 1

Just right for my Sunday afternoon. In case you’re wondering what this place looks like in the winter, here’s a pic from an afternoon snow shoeing in Deer Valley.

Frozen Navajo Lake

Getting there: From Cedar City  go east on Scenic Byway SR 14, 25 miles to the Navajo Lake road turnoff and keep your eyes open for the Navajo Lake Loop Trailhead parking sign on the right side of the road. It’s free to park.

 

Ps. There are campgrounds, and fishing, boating, and swimming are allowed.

Take the Road Less Traveled: Mountain Biking the High Point Truck Trail (FSR 8S05)

Bike up the backside of Palomar Mountain. Get a great workout while enjoying some solitude and splendid views of the San Diego back country, including Vail Lake and numerous snow-capped peaks (Thomas Mountain, San Jacinto, and San Gorgonio). This is nontechnical mountain biking at its best. If you like a climb with views, it’s a good one. Exceeded my expectations.

Road restrictions
Their loss, our advantage. 
L points to trail
When you can visualize a goal, you can attain it!

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We turned around at mile 8 as the trail was getting muddy and we were running out of daylight. It’s worth coming back to finish it off. Will update this post when I do. Until then, let the good times roll! What a spectacular way to spend the first day of 2020!

L and Palomar

Miles: 12 Miles / 24 Miles Roundtrip

Elevation: ~4,000 ft

Difficulty: Depends on your fitness level, knee health, and affinity for climbs. Very doable, the super steep sections are relatively short. Terrain has some rutty sections, but mostly good. This would also be a great trail run, or training for the Catalina Marathon, or any endurance races.

Directions: From Temecula, take HWY 79 east for 18 miles. Stay on HWY 79 and make a right 2/10ths of a mile past the junction of HWY 371 to an RV park/resort. Follow the paved road for 0.3 miles then park in the large dirt area in front of the Fire Service Road 8S05

Notes: There’s no water along this exposed route—plan accordingly. It’s hot during the summer and you may encounter snow during winter, or mud after heavy rains or melts. Vehicles are allowed on this route, but seasonal closures for motorized access often occur. (A bonus for mountain bikers and trail runners.) Further up the mountain, the Forest Service has labeled the High Point Truck Trail (8S05) as 9S09 between this junction and the Palomar Divide Truck. When in doubt, stay on the most “main” looking route.

mtb dog
Celebrity MTB Canine Sighting

Bonus: Be sure to top off your ride with a visit to Ricardo Breceda’s amazing outdoor gallery of metal sculptures. Also, check out his work in wild open spaces of Anza Borrego too!

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, St. George, UT

First stop on the Utah road trip after 6 hours cooped up in the car, the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve rolled out their welcome trails. Not a bad stop to stretch the legs for hike or a mountain bike cruise. This picturesque reserve with expansive views out to the snow capped mountain range is right next to town and boasts 200 miles of non-motorized trails. (Yes, that’s 200 miles so you can stretch those legs of yours to your hearts content.)

wildflowers Red Cliffswildflower close up red cliffsmtn vistas red cliffs

The reserve was established in 1996 to protect critical desert tortoise habitat form being destroyed by development. It worked. You’ll notice tortoise scat on the rocks everywhere. And if you’re lucky, you might see one.

desert tortouise 2

I only hiked a couple miles here, but look forward to coming back to explore more. Perhaps on 2-wheels next time…

Note: the trails can be hard to follow in this terrain so bring a good map or GPS if you venture out very far, and plenty of water, of course, as it’s all exposed.

Stay tuned for more Utah adventures: Scenic delights near St. George Part I: Gunlock State Park and Ivins’ Reservoir

 

PNW MTB Explorations & More: Celebrating the Elwha River ecosystem restoration, getting in the Coleville flow & sunset at the beach

I was on (and off) a mountain bike for this wondrous single-track traverse through low-land forest and low-land river ecosystems. I’m not a very technical rider so I had to get off for the roots and rocks. Would love to come back to hike it sometime. Can’t provide much guidance about the trail as there was a major washout that I had to navigate with some detours. While the Elwha River Trail (ERT) spans the entire Elwha Valley, I was only able to make it up to the Glines Canyon Overlook before sunset.

elwah river mtb trail

History

Back in the day, the Elwha River ran wild from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its valley supported many plants and animal species. As far back as ~ 2700 years ago (per radiocarbon dating), the Klallam people lived off the land, largely relying on fishing in the Elwha River. But that all changed 1913, when the Elwha Dam was built in 1913 to address demand for the lumber. To add insult to injury, the Glines Canyon Dam was built upstream in 1927.

Despite a state law that required accommodating for fish passage, neither dam did and fish runs were blocked. The consequences were devastating—impacting thousands of salmon per year and irrevocably changing the Klallam way of life.

Finally in 1992, Congress passed a law that required the removal of both dams and restoration of the Elwah River watershed. At 210 feet The Glines Canyon Dam is the tallest dam removed to date. It took 15 tons of explosives and 12,000 cubic feet of concrete were removed, Within months of the removal of the 2 dams, salmon were spawning and trout were returning for the first time in 100 years!

The Elwha River is one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in National Park Service history.

Elwah River vertical

Glines Canyon Bridge
Glines Canyon Bridge

Feeding the Forest.jpg

scene from the trailhead
Meanwhile back at the trail head, it’s feeding time

 

 
Note: As of 12/4/2018 Elwha Road was closed to vehicles beyond Madison Falls parking lot due to washout.
Side trip: Madison Falls
This lovely 60-foot waterfall is wheelchair accessible via a .01 mile paved trail.

Madison Creek Falls Elwah River

Side trip: Colville MTB Trails
Sneaked in a quickie mountain bike right before dark at the Coleville bike park on the way back to Port Angeles. Currently under construction, the completed trails include a flowy, fun perimeter trail, a pump track, drop zone and several jump lines (whatever the last 3 are – nontechnical me, just enjoyed the 1st).
Coleville mtb

Side Trip: West Elwah Beach

West Elwha Beacj Sign

little wave elwah beachLogs and moon elwah beachsunset 3 elwah beach

So ends a gloriously full day that included a hike on Hurricane Ridge, 2 mountain bike rides, and a sunset stroll on the beach. Yes, I like to pack as much adventure and exploration into my days.

Hiking trail #307: Outlook excellent on Spruce Mountain, Prescott, AZ

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.

trail to spruce mountain

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.

wildflowers spruce mt trail
Views from the Spruce Mt Trail

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.

Spruce mt lookout tower
L in Spruce MTN outlook tower

Distance: ~6.5 miles, if you do the loop it’s ~8 miles

spruce mt

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.

Hiking:

Constellation Trails

Granite Basin

Panorama & Petroglyph Trails

Spruce Mountain

Mountain Biking

Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Restaurants: 

The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions