The ride started on CR 888 by the end of the Canyon Creek Trail at Snowblind Campground about 8 miles north of US 50 at an elevation of 9300 feet. Right from the gate the ride climbed. The climbing allowed me to warm up quickly even though it was only 48F when I started. The first four miles however were on well maintained dirt road. Along the way the road passed through the ghost town of White Pine which still has old buildings as well as newer buildings with a few residents. The White Pine Cemetery just before town was of interest with most of its "residents" deaths in the 1880s and 1890s. Many of them were children.
White Pine Cemetery
About four miles into the ride a sign marked a turn toward Tomichi Pass. From here the road became more rugged. Not too long after the turn I reached the site of Tomichi. The town of Tomichi was wiped out by an avalanche at the end of the 1800s. All that remained was the Tomichi Cemetery. Only a couple of the graves have marked stones and the rest were crude crosses made of sticks.
This is the first road split and the
start of rockier conditions. The first
stretch was particularly loose.
An interesting head stone at
Most graves were marked with crude crosses
At the cemetery the road reached another marked junction. From this point the road became a narrower jeep road. The road became increasing rough as it climbed toward Tomichi Pass. Baseball size and larger rocks covered the trail in many places. Although the road could be ridden the entire distance, sections of these loose rocks made if difficult to "clean" some of the steeper sections. Numerous creek crossing kept my tires wet and filled with sand which decreased traction on the loose rocks. Along the way there were many opportunities to see the surrounding mountains as the trail passed through the occasional meadow and clearing. Just before the summit of Tomichi Pass, I finally reached the Canyon Creek Trail after 7 miles on the road.
A typical rocky stretch along the road
One of the wider water crossings
The views began to open up as I climbed
Bigger mountains coming into view
Soon the views are nearly continuous along the road
Tomichi Pass on the horizon. Notice
the road isn't always rocky.
The remainder of the trip followed the singletrack Canyon Creek Trail. By the time I reached the trail I was already above treeline and at an elevation approaching 12000 feet. I still had another mile or so until I reached the high point of the ride. The beginning of the trail wasn't too steep or technical. The trail climbed continuously and soon became too steep and loose to ride as it entered rocky switchbacks. I had to walk the bike the final push to the summit for 30 minutes or so. Some of the reports I read reported this hike-a-bike section as an hour long hike, but it wasn't that bad. Occasionally I could ride short stretches of this section before being forced to walk again as the trail became too steep and loose. The hike allowed me to look around and enjoy the stunning alpine scenery. Finally the trail reached its apex at an elevation just under 12600 feet.
Beginning of Canyon Creek Trail
The riding starts easy on Canyon Creek Trail
Looking back toward Tomichi Creek Valley
The trail climbs gradually in the beginning
The steepness and rocks soon increase
The higher the trail climbed the more challenging it became
Parts were still rideable
The trail made its way to the peak on the right
The high point getting closer
Most of this section couldn't be ridden
The views from the summit were stunning. The summit view featured 360 degree views with mountains as far as I could see. I could see much of the trail back to the road as well as the long ribbon of singletrack that made its way across the tundra that I was about to ride. After more than 8 miles and 3500 vertical feet of continuous climbing, I was finally pointed downhill.
Even with the tough terrain, views
like this made it worthwhile
Great scenery in all directions
Fine alpine scenery
Looking back on my route you can
see the trail snaking down toward Tomichi Pass
The road going over Tomichi Pass below
Mountains as far as I could see
You can see the alpine vegetation already
changing color at this elevation
The downhill was fairly technical at places, but at least I could breathe easier. The trail followed fairly narrow singletrack across the tundra but the descent wasn't too steep in the beginning. The trail was fairly smooth to start with only a few rocks. Occasionally I would reach a rocky stretch but nothing too technical in the beginning. Soon the trail reached a fairly steep side cut section that was slightly more technical. The trail in this section was a thin ribbon through rocks and a steady drop below. At one point, my bike became squirrelly as I approached too fast and I nearly crashed as I veered to the downhill side off the trail.
The trail leaving the high point
The trail snaked through the high tundra
Looking back at the trail toward the high point
The rocky section where I almost spilled
You can see the trail is quite narrow
The trail negotiating a rocky side cut
It was hard to focus on the trail with the surrounding scenery
The remainder of my ride on the ridge was uneventful and the trail relatively smooth. As the trail dropped off the ridge the riding became more technical and precarious. As the trail dropped, it passed through a steep side cut with a nearly sheer, rocky drop below. There wasn't much room for error on the narrow singletrack. To add a more little spice, the trail itself became rockier in a few spots through here. The trail was descending and I had some speed building up so it was somewhat challenging to control my speed and navigate the rocks through this technical section. A fall in here would probably result in serious trouble, especially since I was riding alone, but I made it through cleanly.
The trail began to drop more steeply
and became rougher
Negotiating the steep side cut
It's hard to tell from the picture but the drop to
the left is extremely steep and rocky
Looking back at the steep side cut from below, you can see the
trail more clearly by clicking on the picture
Looking toward the next stretch of trail
The trail dropped into a meadow after navigating the tricky stretch. There was still a fair amount of pitch to the trail and my speed built quickly. The trail would pass through a section with good flow and then suddenly hit a technical stretch. Usually the rocky sections came with little warning and required fast action to keep control. The first couple miles of downhill continued like this alternating between smooth, flowing trail and technical rocky stretches. I'm usually content riding my hardtail but during the first few miles of downhill I would have preferred a full suspension to absorb some of the jarring.
The trail just before it drops somewhat
steeply into the valley
One last look back before entering the trees
It may not look like much, but these
sections of rock usually came by surprise
and were a challenge with a full head of steam
going into them
By the last 5 miles of the ride, the downhill wasn't nearly as steep after crossing Canyon Creek The trail at this point changed to primarily fast and flowing singletrack with an occasional brief section of technical riding. Around mile 18, the trail climbed away from the creek with one last moderately steep climb that lasted a little more than a half mile and gained about 300 vertical feet.
The last 5 miles offered fast and smooth singletrack
This is typical of the last several miles
A brief, but very technical section in the last few miles
From the last climb, the trail dropped steeply over a fast section of trail with switchbacks. The trail was fairly sandy in this stretch. Less than a 1/4 mile from the end of the ride, I had too much speed before the last switchback. My path wandered from the center of the singletrack into the sandy edges. When I hit the sand, my bike got sucked onto the downhill side of the side cut trail. As soon as I tried to straighten myself, my front tire slid out from beneath me and I tumbled off my bike. Luckily I landed in a soft mix of sand and pine needles with no rocks or trees breaking my fall. I rode away with only a few scrapes and a little dirtier and no bike damage from the incident. I reached the end of the loop after 19 miles of riding.
One last view before dropping steeply to the finish
This was a challenging ride. The climb on the road was slow with the rocks. It was difficult to spin up the road. I had to crank through the rocks pretty hard to keep my momentum. At the high elevation, that is challenging. The last hump up to the apex of the loop is pretty much unrideable, even by the most experienced rider. While the downhill was fun, it had several technical sections that often came up unexpectedly.
While the ride is only 19 miles, it took me a little over 3 hours to ride it, averaging less than 6 miles an hour. That's fairly slow considering the nearly 11 miles of downhill. Besides my legs, my hands and arms also got a workout from absorbing the shock on the long and sometimes bumpy downhill that dropped 3600 feet in less than 11 miles.
This ride definitely isn't for the beginner. The quick transitions from smooth to technical sections on the downhill require quick changes in riding position to prevent a trip over the handle bars. A few sections there is no room for error at all. Reaching an elevation of over 12500 feet, this is one of the highest rides around and only adds to the difficulty of the substantial climbing. The downhill section is a workout on a hardtail and full suspension bike might make the ride downhill a little easier on the body.
Despite the challenges, this is a great ride. Climbing, fast descents, technical sections, nearly 11 miles of singletrack, and stunning alpine scenery all make this a worthwhile loop with something to offer any experienced mountain biker. The ride is more challenging than the St. Elmo loop I last wrote about and the views are just as stunning.
A great way to end a great ride
Great fun on the flowing singletrack after
a challenging ride
You can click on the links below to see the maps and elevation profiles of the ride.
Description, map, and elevation profile
Map and profile