"Not all those who wander are lost." – J.R.R. Tolkien

Archive for February, 2013

Ride Report: Snow Biking Mammoth Lakes / Long Valley Caldera

Dirty Teeth – Alan's Mountain Biking Adventures

A fat bike is the perfect way to explore the Long Valley Caldera on the east side of Highway 395.  There are tons of un-groomed Forest Service trails and roads with endless possibilities.  Snowmobiles tend to roost all over the place back there, making most everything rideable at the right time of year.  For me, that happened to be mid-February.  It hadn’t snowed in a couple weeks, so the snow was pretty packed and condensed already, so even where there wasn’t a snowmobile track, I was able to ride most everything.  I used a Forest Service Winter Recreation Map to figure out which trails were un-groomed and thus legal to fat bikes, and then headed out.  I wound up making a loop that consisted of part of “Big Smokey Bear Loop” ( a summer bike trail) and then a bunch of smaller USFS OHV trails that eventually led to Owens…

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Ride Report: Laurel Lakes Ride – Mammoth Lakes, CA

This ride will kick your ass. If it doesn’t, than you’re not human. In the Summer, it’s one of the toughest climbs in the Eastern Sierra. It’s actually easier to ride on snow than it is on dirt. The road is very loose and rocky and hard as heck to keep traction on in the Summer. Definitely more enjoyable in the Winter. Why do it? It’s beautiful! You’re a nut who loves pain. Once you get over the switchbacks and your in the Laurel Lakes Basin, you’re surrounded by amazing views, most prominently Bloody Couloir. Simply gorgeous.

  • Ride Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Brutal climbing for very fit riders
  • Time of Year: All year (as long as OSV’s have packed the snow in the winter, you can ride with a Fat Bike)
  • Terrain/Conditions: Dirt roads and a steep jeep road in Summer/Fall or snow in Winter/Spring
  • Access: From the 395, a couple miles south of Mammoth Lakes, turn off at Sherwin Creek Rd. Park your car here, or drive up Sherwin Creek Rd as far as you can (depending on snow).
  • Length: 9.4 miles from intersection of Sherwin Creek Rd and Laurel Lakes Rd.
  • Approx. Time: 3-4 hours (this ride is short in mileage, but brutal – don’t take it lightly)
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,319′
  • Highest Elevation: 10,083′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 2,764′
  • Bike Recommendation: XC Mountain Bike during Summer/Fall or Fat Bike at low psi is the only option for riding this in the snow
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

First off, make sure you’ve got a lot of water and nutrition. You don’t wanna bonk up at 9-10,000′. From wherever you parked, make your way to the Laurel Lakes Rd. turnoff, pictured below. It’s pretty deceiving when you’re there. The climb doesn’t look too steep or long. But once you get riding, you’re like an ant. You better hope the snowmobiles have packed the trail well if riding on snow, and you’re doing it in good conditions, otherwise, you might just wanna do the Sherwin Creek Rd/ Mammoth Creek Rd Loop instead. The first straightaway isn’t to horrible, but once you get to the switchbacks you’ll be sucking for any oxygen you can find. Keep pushing. Once you’re at the top of the switchbacks, the hardest part is over. There’s some flats and a short descent to recover, as you head into the basin. From here, the snowmobile tracks might divert from the road for a bit, just stay with them, and they should get back to the road. It’s a moderate climb with tough shorter punchy bouts mixed in. It’s a grind. Take it as far as the snowmobile tracks will let you. If on dirt, you can go all the way to the Wilderness Boundary at around 4.5 miles. If you can get there, you are a BEAST! Sit down, enjoy your PB&J. Listen to the sounds of nothing but you and your jaw cracking. Life is good. Turn around, and head down before your legs seize and the whole way down you’ll realize why your friends think you’re insane. Because you are. You just climbed 2,700′ on a bike, in only 4.5 miles. Pat self on back.

Sierra Wave Sunrise.

Sierra Wave Sunrise.

Riding up Sherwin Creek Rd to the Laurel Lakes turnoff

Riding up Sherwin Creek Rd to the Laurel Lakes turnoff

Here we go.  This is the start of the end!

Here we go. This is the start of the end!

Looking ahead as you get close to the switchbacks.  Hard to believe that one snowmobile track is all it takes for a bike to get traction on a climb this steep!

Looking ahead as you get close to the switchbacks. Hard to believe that one snowmobile track is all it takes for a bike to get traction on a climb this steep!

The hardest is behind you, but you've still got A long ways to go.  The views of Bloody Couloir should keep you going.

The hardest is behind you, but you’ve still got A long ways to go. The views of Bloody Couloir should keep you going.

Taking a break on the super fun descent down.  Keep your front wheel light!!

Taking a break on the super fun descent down. Keep your front wheel light!!

View from the top of the first set of switchbacks.

View from the top of the first set of switchbacks.

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Ride Report: Mammoth Creek / Sherwin Creek Loop

This is probably the best snow biking loop in town if you’re going to choose one ride to do on a fat bike in Winter.  It’s also a mellow Fall/Summer ride on a mountain bike.  It starts with a moderate descent and some flats to warm your legs up on Mammoth Creek Rd .  Then you’ve got a nice, gradual climb back up Sherwin Creek Rd.

  • Ride Type:  Loop
  • Difficulty:  Moderate with gradual climbing
  • Time of Year: All year
  • Terrain/Conditions: Summer/Fall – dirt roads, singletrack, bike path.  Winter/Spring – 95% snow, firm OSV & snowshoe packed
  • Access: From town, take Old Mammoth Rd. to Sherwin Creek Rd. (across from Mammoth Creek Park).  Go down Sherwin Creek Rd for 1/2 mile, turn right near the big propane tanks and park here.
  • Length: 10.2 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1.5- 2 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,216′
  • Highest Elevation: 7,872′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 703′
  • Bike Recommendation: XC Mountain Bike in Summer/ Fall or Fat Bike in Winter/Spring
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Once you’ve parked, start pedaling back up Sherwin Creek Rd. to Old Mammoth Rd.  Make a right turn, and in 50′ turn right on the Mammoth Creek trail.  Stay on the trail for about 1/2 mile before reaching an intersection.  At the intersection stay right onto Mammoth Creek Rd.  If you go straight, you’ll stay on the town bike path – so make sure to stay right.  Once on Mammoth Creek Rd, it’s a no-brainer.  Continue down the road, while spying the White Mountains straight ahead, and the Sherwins, Laurel Lakes area and Bloody Mountain to the right.  If riding on snow, try to do this ride in the morning while the snow is firm.  It’s pretty exposed and gets sun affected easily.  Once down at the bottom, you get very close to the 395 highway.  Make sure to turn right and continue to the intersection with Sherwin Creek Rd.  Enjoy a mellow climb with more outstanding views.  You’ll pass by the turn-off to the Laurel Lakes Ride on the left.  If you have a death wish, you might want to add this lung-busting ride to your current loop.  If not, continue up past the YMCA camp, into a shaded, tree-lined section.  Once you pop out from the trees, you’ll get views of Mammoth Mountain, Lincoln Mountain, and Mammoth Rock.  Shortly after passing the trailhead for Mammoth Rock Trail on your left, you’ll approach your car, and think to yourself, “FAT BIKES ROCK”.  If you’ve still got gas in your proverbial tank, try adding on The Meadows Ride.  You might also consider doing the Meadows Ride first as a warmup.

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Taking a break on Sherwin Creek Rd.

Taking a break on Sherwin Creek Rd.


Ride Report: Snow Biking Old Mammoth Rd.

Looking for a quick cardio workout that’s easy to access?  Here ya go.  A one mile sustained climb, takes you up to Lake Mary Rd., where unfortunately you have to turn back.  Lake Mary Rd is groomed, so off limits to fat bikes.  Hopefully in the future, we’ll be able to link this ride with much more terrain.  However, for now, catch your breath, admire the views, and enjoy the fun descent back to your car.

  • Ride Type:  Out and Back
  • Difficulty:  Moderate (one strenuous climb)
  • Terrain/Conditions: 100% snow, firm OSV packed, softening up from the sun
  • Time since last snowfall: More than one week
  • Month & Ride Start Time:  February, 1:15pm
  • Temperature: 50 degrees
  • Access: From town, take Old Mammoth Rd. until the road closure and snow is not cleared anymore (near the intersectoin of La Verne St.)  Park off to the side.
  • Length: 1.9 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1/2 hour – 45 minutes
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,845′
  • Highest Elevation: 8,360′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 385′
  • Bike Recommendation:  Fat Bike

There really is no “warmup” on this ride.  You start pedaling off the get go.  About a 1/4 mile in, you turn left and the pitch increases as you reach the “Mammoth Rock Trail” trailhead (one of the best dirt singletrack mtb trails in the summer).  Depending on how much snowshoe traffic it’s seen, you might be able to ride out on it a little bit, and catch some amazing views of town, Snowcreek, The White Mountains, The Sherwins, and Mammoth Rock.  Once you get back on Old Mammoth Rd, keep climbing!!  There’s a big switchback (you’ll see the sign for the Panorama Dome Trail– another great summer mtb ride- both this and Mammoth Rock Trail are a part of the Mammoth Lakes Big Friggin Loop) before it straightens out again, and the pitch mellows for the final climb to Lake Mary Rd.

*Note:  Sometimes the snowmobiles carve a direct, steeper path cutting off the big switchback as well as another trail staying on the road.  Usually it’s best to stay on the road climbing up, but come down the direct route, cutting off the switchback on the descent.  It’s a little more fun.

This route is frequented by snowmobiles (thanks for packing it down), snowshoers, hikers, and nordic skiers.  So, please be on your best behavior, and yield to everybody.  You can link this ride with The Meadows Ride to get some more mileage.  You’ll just have to ride all the way up Old Mammoth Rd. on pavement, which is kind of a bummer.

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Parked at the big switchback, with Mammoth Rock in the background.

Parked at the big switchback, with Mammoth Rock in the background.


Ride Report: Snow Biking The Meadows Behind Snowcreek

This is a great introductory ride for novice fat bikers.  It’s also very easy to access, since it’s right in town.  It’s short and relatively flat, and is a great chance to get used to the bike, as well as getting other user groups used to our presence.  You get some beautiful views of Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Rock, and The Sherwins.  Lots of people walk their dogs and hike around here, so please be friendly and yield to other user groups at all times.  There are usually a few snowmobile tracks to ride in, so pick one and have fun!

  • Ride Type:  Out and Back
  • Difficulty:  Easy
  • Terrain/Conditions: 100% snow, firm OSV packed, softening up from the sun
  • Time since last snowfall: More than one week
  • Month & Ride Start Time:  February, 2:00pm
  • Temperature: 52 degrees
  • Access: From town, take Old Mammoth Rd. to Sherwin Creek Rd. (across from Mammoth Creek Park).  Go down Sherwin Creek Rd for 1/2 mile, turn right near the big propane tanks and park here.
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1/2 hour
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,514′
  • Highest Elevation: 7,651′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 165
  • Bike Recommendation:  Fat Bike

This is a big multi-use open space.  There is no real “trail head” in the winter – just snowmobile tracks.  Once you leave your car, look towards Mammoth Mountain to get your bearings.  Following with your eyes to the left, you’ll see the prominent Mammoth Rock poking out of the Sherwin Range.  You’re going to ride in the general direction of Mammoth Rock (southwest), using whatever snowmobile track you can get behind.  Close to a mile into your ride, you’ll climb a short hill and wind up at a wooden gate.  You’ll see a bunch of homes ahead and also where the Snowcreek Golf Course is viewable in warmer months.  This is your turn around point (don’t enter Snowcreek Private Property).  Go back the way you came with views of the White Mountains, and a smile on your face.  By this point, you’ll probably be dreaming of some longer fat bike adventures!  If you’re in good shape and yearning for more, think about linking this up with either the Mammoth Creek/Sherwin Creek Loop, or the Old Mammoth Rd. Ride.  Yahoo!

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Views of Mammoth Mountain and Lincoln Mountain from the viewpoint at the top of the short climb.

Views of Mammoth Mountain and Lincoln Mountain from the viewpoint at the turn around point.


Ride Report: McGee Canyon near Mammoth Lakes, CA

If you’re in the mood for a moderate ride with magical alpine scenery, this fits the bill. In the Summer, this is a boring paved & gravel road ride, but with snow on the road, it’s actually fun. Snowmobiles travel the route often, so conditions tend to be pretty favorable to fat bikes.

  • Ride Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate with some gradual climbing
  • Time of Year: All year – it is a great fat biking ride when the snow has been packed by snowmobiles
  • Terrain/Conditions: Paved and gravel roads in Summer/Fall, snow-covered roads in Winter/Spring
  • Access: From Mammoth Lakes Junction of Hwy 203 and 395, head south on 395 for 9 miles to the McGee Creek exit. Go west across Crowley Lake Dr. and park off the road (or where the road stops being plowed in Winter/Spring)
  • Length: 6.6 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1-2 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,000′
  • Highest Elevation: 8,050′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,100′
  • Bike Recommendation: XC Mountain Bike or Fat Bike for snowy conditions
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

The ride starts with a subtle climb to get your blood flowing, and starts to steepen after 1/4 mile. The next mile is the toughest slog of the ride, so power through it. After going around a big “S” curve, the pitch lessens slightly, and you arrive at the McGee Creek Campground around 1.5 miles. Look around at the beautiful peaks and glacial moraines as you continue a steady climb up to the McGee Pack Station. The pavement ends here (not that you’d know because you’re riding on snow!!). Keep heading up the road until you reach a large kiosk. This is the McGee Creek trailhead, and the end of the ride for you. Bicycles and vehicles of any kind are prohibited past the Wilderness Boundary. You’ll notice the snowmobile tracks end here. So take a moment, soak it in, and head back down a beautiful descent. You get great views of the White Mountains and Crowley Lake. Enjoy.

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About 1.5 miles into the ride - McGee Campground. Amazing views abound.

About 1.5 miles into the ride – McGee Campground. Amazing views abound.

Mountainous views through my Holy Rolling Daryl wheels.

Mountainous views through my Holy Rolling Daryl wheels.

Looking back towards the 395 highway. 360 degree views on this ride.

Looking back towards the 395 highway. 360 degree views on this ride.


Winter Snow Biking Not Allowed on Groomed Trails in Mammoth

Dirty Teeth – Alan's Mountain Biking Adventures

As many of my friends know, I bought a Salsa Mukluk in November and have ridden around 300 miles so far… basically all over Mammoth with it.  I guess ignorance is bliss.  I assumed “multi-use” trails had similar rules in the Winter as they do in the Summer.  Especially since I’ve been reading and watching videos of how other states are embracing these bikes and Nordic Ski Resorts have been allowing them to share groomed trails as well (which means their local land managers – i.e. USFS, BLM, etc are allowing biking to be included with their special use permit).  In fact, I watched this video a couple months ago, where a US Forest Service Representative talks about how their trails in the Teton Range are multi-use with bicycles now legal, and everybody is in harmony. 

But not yet here in Mammoth.  Unfortunately, “no wheeled vehicles” are allowed on…

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