Twice the run, twice the fun
a good, hard ride. These rides will involve a
combination of length and climbing that
casual cyclists would not find enjoyable.
Twice the run, twice the fun
There’s an old saying in baseball, made famous by Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs: “Let’s play two.” He loved the game so much, he wanted to play a doubleheader every day.
You ready to play two?
And not just any two – it’ll be two of the most epic, knee-knocking, can’t-believe-I-just-rode-that, total-blast trails in the West. Other, more trail-specific adjectives include “steep,” “rugged” and “exposed,” if that gives you more to go on. These two rides will have your undivided attention.
Logistics: If you make the arrangements ahead of time, it’s a natural double-shuttle run to get in these two rides on the same day.
The ride begins where the trail intersects Forest Road NF-555. After you’re dropped off and get geared up, start with a little warm up: a singletrack climb that will get you in the mood for some forested fun. After roughly half a mile, on the left you’ll see the Patterson Mountain Lookout Trail. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, tack on this four-mile side-trip that delivers stellar backcountry singletrack as well as awe-inspiring views.
If you choose to stay on Lawler, after another half-mile you’ll hit your first real descent of the day. And what a descent it is; we’re talking more than 7 miles of gravity-induced thrill ride through a variety of terrain: deep forests with ferns exploding from the ground like tiny green fireworks; jagged ridgelines knifing through the open air. The steep, demanding descending is punctuated by occasional short climbs that remind your legs that they’re here for more than balance. You’ll end up 3,000 feet lower than you started – and your actual total elevation drop will be enhanced by the climbing along the way. This is why some crazy Californians decided a few decades ago to build bikes that could go anywhere – but even they may not have imagined a ride like this.
The trail can get a little more crowded near the bottom, so mind your speed and play nice with others. The last bit you ride will consist of some nice rollers; you’ll catch your shuttle where you cross Forest Road NF-5840.
Time for Game 2. Hardesty used to be an access route to a fire lookout tower, but the tower is no longer in use – and you don’t have to go up it to go down it; lucky you. Because the access road is in pretty rough shape, you’re definitely best to take a shuttle up.
The ride starts – like so many other trails in the area; hmm – with a short climb. It’s not even a mile, but it’ll certainly wake your body parts back up. Then, once you hit the top, get ready to gorge yourself on another 3,000 feet of descent.
The ride features sidehill runs that cut across steep slopes and the pitches of ridgelines, never deviating from the general direction: down. Your surroundings – which you may want to stop occasionally to fully enjoy – range from stately green firs blocking the sky, to expansive meadows that give you that wide-open (throttle) feeling. Don’t get complacent or in a daze, though – there are enough switchbacks that you need to have all your systems engaged. It’s not what you’d call a technical trail overall, but the exposures and the steep run-ins to the corners will test you a bit.
After a gnarly but really fun set of switchbacks, the steepness backs off; loosen that stranglehold on the bars and remember to stay fluid. You’re gliding through a primeval landscape of lush, mossy forest – but there are also moss-camouflaged rocks alongside the trail, so stay alert. End on a mellow note as you connect to Lower Goodman Trail, which brings you to the trailhead right on Highway 58.
Spring through fall.