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

Ride Report: Sand Canyon Loop near Mammoth Lakes, CA

This is one tough ride.  It takes the Sand Canyon Mountain Bike Trail, which is usually an epic shuttle ride, and massages it into one badass mamma jamma loop.  Start at Tom’s Place Resort and make the climb up Rock Creek Rd to access Sand Canyon.  After descending Sand Canyon you take Forest Road 4S54 to the left to complete the loop back to your car.  You’ll be ready for some post-ride beer and grub at the restaurant.  They also have great milkshakes.  Another great spot for some mid-ride yummies is Pie In The Sky at the Rock Creek Lake Resort.  Grab a slice before turning left at Rock Creek Lake and starting your final push up to the Sand Canyon MTB Trail.  From the top, it’s pretty much a bomber 4,000′ descent with great views in every direction before some tough and sometimes sandy climbing back to your car.  If you’re in the mood to explore and climb even more, you can take the Wheeler Crest Out and Back about 4 miles after you hit the dirt.  You can also include the Swall Canyon Trail, Wagon Wheel Trail, and Lower Rock Creek Trail for a custom loop of epic proportions.

If you have questions about any of this or tailoring a ride to suit you, send us a note.

Note:  Much of this ride is very remote.  Please be self-sufficient and carry plenty of water and nutrition as well as items to fix your bike in a jam.  Weather frequently changes as well, so be ready for anything!!

  • Ride Type:  Loop (there is also a Point to Point / Shuttle option)
  • Difficulty: Advanced descending skills and extra lungs required.  Some technical/ rock gardens and steep climbing/ hike-a-bike and sandy sections.
  • Time of Year: Late Spring (once snow melts off), Summer and Fall
  • Terrain/Conditions: Pavement climb, but mostly doubletrack/ jeep road with some singletrack
  • Access: From Mammoth, take Highway 395 south approximately 18 miles and exit at Tom’s Place.  Turn right on Crowley Lake Drive and park near Tom’s Place Resort.  Save the spots in front for customers that need it.
  • Length: 24.6 miles
  • Approx. Time: 3-5 hours, maybe more depending on skills and comfort level
  • Lowest Elevation: 6,568′
  • Highest Elevation: 10,224′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 4,339′
  • Bike Recommendation: Hard Tail or Full-Suspension MTB is best
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us
  • More info: Read Alan’s Blog on Sand Canyon

Turn By Turn (in miles):

0.0 – Start heading up Rock Creek Road.  It’s pavement, but don’t let that fool you.  You’ll be gaining around 4,000′ over 9 miles.
8.6 – Pass Rock Creek Lake Resort / Pie in the Sky on the right.
8.7 – Turn left at Rock Creek Lake.  Pass the bathrooms and continue towards the back of the lake.
9.1 – Reach the campground host on the right and some camping spots on the left.  You’ll see a green gate to your left.  This might be a little confusing, but go past the gate and soon you’ll start heading up a dirt road that’s tame at first, then becomes rocky and steep as it passes by some cabins.
9.3 – go left after a group of cabins when the road splits.  Then make another quick left and keep climbing.
9.84 – a trail joins in from the left – stay straight and keep climbing.  Breathe!
10.0 – if you clean this section, you’re a champ.  most likely you’ll be hiking your bike and looking back to the killer view of Rock Creek Lake
10.4 – you’ve reached the official trail sign/ start of Sand Canyon Mountain Bike Trail.  Sip some water and get ready to grin.  lot’s of descending ahead.  stay on the main trail
11.2 – cross the creek
13.2 – you’ll see the turn-off for the Wheeler Crest 4×4 Road to the right.  Keep straight, and get ready to climb a bit.
16.1 – stay on the main trail and rip the descent down the canyon – yahoo!!
17.5 – cross a small creek and then climb for a while10.4 – you’ve reached the official trail sign/ start of Sand Canyon Mountain Bike Trail.  Sip some water and get ready to grin.  lot’s of descending ahead.  stay on the main trail
18.5 – reach an intersection at Witcher Meadow.  continue on the main road, veer right and head down steep road towards a creek
19.8 – turn left on 4S54.  this is a power line road.  don’t miss this turn!
22.1 – continue straight, don’t go left on 4S54D
23.0 – veer right, staying on main road.  it then curves to the left, reaching pavement at 23.9 miles
24.6 – arrive back at Tom’s Place Resort

Sand Canyon Loop - Map

Sand Canyon Loop – Map

Sand Canyon Loop - Elevation Profile

Sand Canyon Loop – Elevation Profile

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  1. Pingback: Ride Report: Sand Canyon Trail near Mammoth Lakes, CA |

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