Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mountain biking in the Rubies

I get asked all the time about where the great mountain bike riding is in the Ruby Mountains. Unfortunately, the answer is... there isn't any.

Not a single foot of it.

Oh, there are places we all try to go... most of us have ridden the Ruby Crest Trail from the Lamoille Canyon trailhead up to Liberty Pass (ugh)... and have ridden the Island Lake Trail (double ugh)... we've ridden up Soldier Canyon, ridden the laughable joke called the Toyn Creek Trail... even ridden the Ruby Crest Trail from Harrison Pass to the wilderness boundary.

And it all sucks. All of it.

Some of it sucks mildly less than other parts of it. Soldier Canyon is really nice in the spring when the flowers are out, even though it's a ride on a dirt road passible by passenger car. I used to ride the Lamoille Lake segment of the Ruby Crest Trail fairly regularly - it's anti-flow, 15% climbing, technical nonsense, not built for bikes and NOT FUN. But when you're desperate to ride you do what you gotta do.

The Harrison Pass portion of the Crest Trail doesn't suck too badly in July, when (again) the flowers are out. Still, you're riding up a road for the most part, and parts of it are the kinds of sharp, loose rocks combined with bug dust left by ass-wipes on ATVs who are too lazy to get off their portable couches and walk. That was a trail when I was a kid, but I digress. The truly annoying part is that the Harrison Pass end of the Crest Trail is eminently suitable for mountain bikes, at least to the McCutcheon Creek drainage. It would be absolutely fantastic riding. Unfortunately, the selfish wilderness jihadist mountain-bike haters of the world are determined to keep us quiet users out of their sacred space. We're rampaging wildland rapists, after all.

So, if you want to ride mountain bikes in the Rubies, you're out of luck. Hopefully, they'll get the Lamoille to Talbot section of the Secret-Lamoille Trail done sometime before I'm too old to ride it, but based on what I saw hiking up there today that is becoming increasingly less likely.

Here's the good part of this post - there's EXCELLENT riding outside of Ely, about 2.5 hours south. I rode down there over Labor Day Weekend, and I was (once again) blown away by just how beautifully those trails are designed and built. What's more, the absolutely stellar folks at the agencies are working hard with folks from the community to get more trails built all the time. I hate that it's not in my back yard, but the riding in Ely is WELL worth the drive.

My personal favorites: If you're looking for a short ride (about an hour), do the G Loop up at Ward Mountain Recreation Area. That's what MTB trails should be - flowy, aerobic, aesthetic, uber-fun. Even better, it can be combined with the Ice Plant trail system to create longer riding options. You can get about 27 miles worth by leaving from town, riding up Ice Plant, taking the connector to the G Loop, then taking the connector again on the way out to ride down Ice Plant again. The trail fairies have done a lot of work on Ice Plant and have put in some fun MTB features - teeter-totters, gap jumps and the like. Personally, I like keeping my rubber on the ground, so avail myself of the great singletrack they've been creating. So, so fun.

Also amazingly fun - the Twisted Pine to Overlook trail up at Cave Lake. I've ridden this both ways... riding up Overlook and down Twisted Pine means you'll have a steeper climb, but the downhill will be one of the funnest XC downhill runs you can imagine. Up Twisted Pine and down Overlook means that you'll have a hard time staying on the trail because the views of Cave Lake are so stunning.

Do it, if you've not made that trip. Go to the Great Basin Trails Alliance website for info, and huge kudos to the people making this stuff happen.


  1. The trails in Ely are great. The BLM person who was in charge of those trails was an avid Mt. biker. She had to help the trail designer in a few areas to make sure certain areas were avoided, but it was a 2-way communication. She was a great BLM manager who got things done and often under budget.
    It is obvious that no one in the Forest Circus - the agancy for the Rubies - has any desire to work with the folks who like to mountain bike ride. It's "their way" only. So they will waste lots of money on a trail because they will not listen to anyone.
    I've given up on riding in Rubies and travel to either Austin or Ely to ride. There is a trail in Battle Mountain too but it can get pretty hot in the summer. It is a fun ride in the spring.

  2. That trail in Battle Mountain is a nice one - they did a really good job using the topography of the area to make it fun and interesting to ride. You're right, though - it's hotter than Hades and dusty dusty dusty in August!

    It's frustrating beyond belief to me to have spent so much time trying to get ONE (count 'em) mountain bike trail built here in the Rubies. The USFS rec person for this district even rides a mountain bike! And, yet, under her watch, a truly marvelous trail project went straight to hell, sabotaged by people who neither know about nor care about mountain bikes.

    Stay tuned... we're cooking up some really, really exciting MTB opportunities down in Ely. And, if you've not ridden the Fears, Tears and Beers MTB Enduro down there, you really need to check it out. Look on this blog for a post last May for information.

  3. Oops... Fears Tears and Beers info in an April blog post, not in May.

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