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Ride Report: Little Antelope Valley Loop – Mammoth Lakes, CA

This is a strenuous loop that is just across the highway from Mammoth Lakes.  If you are looking for something different, want to give your lungs some work, and enjoy serenity with outstanding views – give this ride a shot.  If this ride is intriguing to you, but you want something a little shorter – try the Casa Diablo Overlook Ride – it’s very similar.  You can also tack on a little more climbing to this ride by including the short (but steep) out and back to the Casa Diablo Overlook.  If you want an epic day in the saddle, Big Smokey Loop and Little Smokey Loop connect with this route as well.  Confused?  Contact us and we’ll dial in a ride to suit you.

The Little Antelope Valley loop has three main climbs, and each is rewarded with spectacular views and smiley descents.  You start with a mild climb to get your blood pumping as you make your way around the backside of the the local geothermal plant.  As described in the Casa Diablo Overlook Ride, this is where Casa Diablo once existed.  From there, you continue climbing towards Little Antelope Valley before a speedy descent towards the valley floor.  You’re greeted with views to the Chalk Bluffs and Long Valley Caldera as you descend.  You then head south and climb some more, before the views open up again and you descend on the west side of the Hot Creek Gorge (should be short for “gorge”ous).  After making your way past an active geothermal pool (“The Jacuzzi) one last climb awaits.  The ride finishes with a short but sweet section of rarely ridden singletrack.  This last piece of ST is mostly rideable, but you’ll probably have to dismount once or twice – during a tight switchback and some techy bits.  Next thing you know, you’re back at the car wishing you took more photos.

Overall, the terrain can tend to be on the sandy side in sections (especially in the summer), so this is a great ride for fat bikes or 29+ bikes.  You can do it on a regular mountain bike, but be prepared for some sandy hike-a-bike sections.

  • Ride Type:  Loop
  • Difficulty: Non-Technical, Moderate to Strenuous Climbing
  • Time of Year: Spring, Summer, Fall (possible in Winter/depending on snow pack)
  • Terrain/Conditions: Mostly smooth double-track and fire road with some soft & sandy sections.
  • Access: From the junction of Highway 203 and Highway 395, go east on the 203 (away from Mammoth) towards the geothermal plant.  Make a right turn on Old Highway 395.  After approximately 0.2 miles look for a dirt parking lot on your left.  Park here, this is where the ride starts.
  • Length: 14.7 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,070′
  • Highest Elevation: 7,727′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,782′
  • Bike Recommendation: Fat Bike or 29+ because of the sandy sections, but any mountain bike will suffice.
  • GPX file: Available by contacting us

Turn by Turn (in miles):

Since this route isn’t signed, and it makes its way through a spaghetti network of OHV trails, we’re not going to post turn by turn directions.  We’d prefer you contact us for the gpx track/ map, which will set you up for success.

Little Antelope Valley  Loop - Map.

Little Antelope Valley Loop – Map.

Little Antelope Valley Loop - Elevation Profile.

Little Antelope Valley Loop – Elevation Profile.

Antelope Valley Road covered in some fresh snow.

Antelope Valley Road covered in some fresh snow.

One of the many fantastic views to Mt. Morrison and the Sierra Crest.

One of the many fantastic views to Mt. Morrison and the Sierra Crest.

A little geothermal well we've named "The Jacuzzi" that you'll pass along this route.

A little geothermal well we’ve named “The Jacuzzi” that you’ll pass along this route.

Hunter enjoying some of glorious views along the Little Antelope Valley Loop.

Hunter enjoying some of glorious views along the Little Antelope Valley Loop.


Ride Report: Wagon Wheel Trail – Near Mammoth Lakes, CA

Wagon Wheel Trail is a fun little piece of trail that descends rapidly from Swall Meadows Rd. until it connects with Lower Rock Creek Rd.  As the name suggests, it used to be an old wagon trail that has deteriorated over the years.  It can get loose and sandy in sections.  There are also extended sections of slickrock and various rock gardens that make this very fun on a full suspension rig.  Not many people climb it, but if you’re a climber who likes some technical challenge with a bunch of fun slickrock step-ups, give it a shot both ways.  Most people connect it with the Sand Canyon Trail to add a little more descending and mileage. Since it’s only 2 miles, and it’s over pretty quickly, it’s not usually ridden on its own.  It’s often gets overlooked by the nearby Lower Rock Creek Trail, but if you’re shuttling LRC, it’s worth it to hit Wagon Wheel either before or after, since you drive right by it.

  • Ride Type: Point to Point – as described here
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/advanced descending skills required. Some technical rock gardens and sandy sections.
  • Time of Year: Late Spring (once snow melts off), Summer and Fall – sometimes rideable during Winter as well, depending on snow pack.
  • Terrain/Conditions: Mostly singletrack, with some deteriorated doubletrack.
  • Access: Heading south on Lower Rock Creek Road (also called Old Sherwin Grade on some maps), turn right on Swall Meadows Rd.  Drive approximately 0.15 miles and there will be a dirt pullout on your left.  The trail starts here.  It is unsigned.
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Approx. Time: 10-20 minutes
  • Lowest Elevation: 5,274′
  • Highest Elevation: 6,192′
  • Total Elevation Loss: 879′
  • Bike Recommendation: Full-Suspension MTB is best, but hardtail will work as well, or a fat bike
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn By Turn (in miles):

0.0 – No directions for this one.  Simply stay on the trail until it ends by merging with Lower Rock Creek Rd. after 2 miles.  If your shuttle ride is waiting for you, jump in.  Otherwise, ride back up the road, or if your lungs and legs are up for it, ride back up the trail.

Wagon Wheel Map.

Wagon Wheel Map.

Wagon Wheel Elevation Profile.

Wagon Wheel Elevation Profile.

A dusk ride down Wagon Wheel Trail.  Gorgeous views to Round Valley and the Tungsten Hills near Bishop.

A dusk ride down Wagon Wheel Trail. Gorgeous views to Round Valley and the Tungsten Hills near Bishop.


Ride Report: Winter Snow Riding in Rock Creek Canyon

Come Winter time, Rock Creek Rd. is plowed so you can drive up 6 miles past Tom’s Place to the East Fork / Sno-Park area.  This plowing is paid for by the fees collected at the Sno-Park.  It costs $5/day to park or you can get a season pass for $25.  It’s well worth it.  Don’t even consider poaching unless you want bad karma and a $94.50 ticket.  Beyond the Sno-Park, Rock Creek Rd. is gated shut and it’s open to nordic skiers, snowshoers, and other non-motorized Winter users looking to access backcountry skiing, etc.  Rock Creek Lodge remains open with limited hours during the Winter, and often shuttles people to/from the lodge via snowmobile.  Note: Snowmobiling is NOT allowed other than in conjunction with the lodge’s operations.  Once there’s enough snow, they also groom the road and a small network of nordic trails with fresh corduroy under permit from the Forest Service.  They offer great dinners and xc skiing – you should check it out.

So how does all this relate to fat bikes??  In two ways:

First, there is a summer trail that travels along the creek, all the way to Rock Creek Lake.  In the Winter, it gets packed by snowshoers and hikers.  When conditions are right, it’s one of the best snow singletrack trails you’ll encounter in the whole region.  Lots of small bridges, some technical sections, but mostly smooth, flowing goodness with a remote feeling you don’t get here in the busy season (the campgrounds that the trail passes through are bustling all Summer long).  Because it’s never groomed, it remains legal to fat bikes all Winter.

Second, there’s a window every Winter (in recent years, a fairly large window) where Rock Creek Rd has enough snow to ski, snowshoe, fat bike, etc – but not enough to groom.   During this time frame, when the road is packed via human and snowmobile power, it is legal to fat bike.  Just like everywhere else in the Inyo NF, once grooming has commenced for the season, fat biking is explicitly prohibited. 

In some parts of the Inyo, there are online grooming reports, like this one – which helps keep track of legal fat biking opportunities.  There is no online grooming report for Rock Creek Rd.  We recommend riding the snow singletrack, but if you intend to ride on the road, please call Rock Creek Lodge to confirm whether or not grooming has begun for the season. .  They are super friendly and well-versed in fat biking.  They’ll let you know the grooming status and if conditions are welcoming to fat bikes.  There might be times when it is “legal” to ride, but they’d prefer we don’t based on conditions – PLEASE RESPECT their requests.  We want to foster a good relationship with the lodge and all user groups – so please ride RESPONSIBLY and LEGALLY.

In addition,  if you do ride the road, make sure to extend courtesy to all other user groups, stay to the right, and in snowmobile tracks when possible.  Stay in control, and use proper etiquette when passing other users on the descent.  Basically, use common sense!!

Ok.  So now that all that jazz has been discussed, get up there.  It is stellar.  Definitely worth the half hour drive from Mammoth and $5.

  • Ride Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Mostly non-technical (some rock gardens and many bridges keep you on your toes), moderate to heavy exertion based on conditions
  • Time of Year: Anytime after it’s snowed and been human-packed for the singletrack portions, and before snow grooming has begun on the Rock Creek Rd. portions
  • Terrain/Conditions: Singletrack / Wide road
  • Access: From Mammoth, take Highway 395 south approximately 19 miles, and exit at Tom’s Place.  Drive up Rock Creek road approximately 6 miles to the Sno-Park at the winter road closure.  Park here, put $5 in the envelope at the kiosk, and put the stub on your dashboard.  
  • Length: 9.8 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 8,865′
  • Highest Elevation: 9,743′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 927’′
  • Bike Recommendation: Fat Bike only with 10psi or less tire pressure
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn By Turn Directions: – We are not listing directions for this one.  We’d prefer you get the GPX file from us so we can discuss the route and current conditions.  We are privileged to ride in this area, and need to make sure it’s ridden responsibly and legally.

Rock Creek Canyon Map.

Rock Creek Canyon Map.

Rock Creek Canyon Elevation Profile.

Rock Creek Canyon Elevation Profile.

Rock Creek Sno-Park

Rock Creek Sno-Park

Don't forget to pay your $5!

Don’t forget to pay your $5!

Taking a break at Rock Creek Lodge

Taking a break at Rock Creek Lodge

Along the singletrack trail to Rock Creek Lake.

Along the singletrack trail to Rock Creek Lake.

Peaceful and beautiful - taking a break near Pie in the Sky

Peaceful and beautiful – taking a break near Pie in the Sky

A snow-covered Rock Creek Lake in the background

A snow-covered Rock Creek Lake in the background

The road from Rock Creek Lake to Mosquito Flats.

The road from Rock Creek Lake to Mosquito Flats.


Ride Report: Laurel Settling Ponds Loop – Mammoth Lakes, CA

Cruising around the Laurel Settling Ponds is a peaceful ride to do pretty much year round.  It’s nice in the Summer on dirt, and it’s usually rideable in the Winter on snow with a fat bike (trucks and snowmobiles tend to pack this area out nicely).  The views are spectacular in every direction – Mammoth, The Sherwins, Crowley Lake, The Glass Mountains, etc. and the settling ponds themselves are very scenic.  It’s pretty mellow cruising, with hardly any elevation gain.  Great to take the dog on a leisurely outing.  If you’re looking for more, you can link this the Sherwin Creek/Mammoth Creek Rd. ride.  There’s also ample opportunity to explore the many forest service roads in this area, and you can head all the way to Convict Lake.  Contact us with any questions about putting a great ride together.

  • Ride Type: Lollipop (as described here – many variations exist)
  • Difficulty: Non-technical, mild exertion
  • Time of Year: All year (as long as trucks and OSV’s have packed the snow in the winter, you can ride with a Fat Bike)
  • Terrain/Conditions: 4×4 roads and doubletrack
  • Access: From the town of Mammoth Lakes, drive down Highway 203 towards Highway 395.  Just before getting on the 395 south, there’s a turnoff on Mammoth Creek Rd.  There’s a small parking area here, and oftentimes a Winter closure gate once the snow flies.  Park here and start riding south.
  • Length: 9.1 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1-2 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,115′
  • Highest Elevation: 7,258′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 305′
  • Bike Recommendation: XC Mountain Bike during Summer/Fall or Fat Bike at low psi during Winter / snow
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn By Turn Directions (coming soon): – For now, just go out and explore.  It’s hard to get lost, as you can always see landmarks and you’re never far from Sherwin Creek Road or Highway 395.

Settling Ponds - Ride Map

Settling Ponds – Ride Map

Settling Ponds - Elevation Profile

Settling Ponds – Elevation Profile

Jen, cruising around the Laurel Settling Ponds on her custom steel 616 fat bike.

Jen, cruising around the Laurel Settling Ponds on her custom steel 616 fat bike.

A quaint little bridge that crosses over Sherwin Creek.

A quaint little bridge that crosses over Sherwin Creek.

Making some fresh tracks around the settling ponds.

Making some fresh tracks around the settling ponds.

A gorgeous view back to Mammoth Mountain

A gorgeous view back to Mammoth Mountain

The road less traveled - by bike.

The road less traveled – by bike.

 


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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Ride Report: The Double High Five Y

Everybody’s first response to this one is, “Huh?”

This is a great ride for climbers and endurance nuts that want to earn some great turns.  You’ve gotta be game for some lung punishment.

Its a fairly easy route to navigate, since it’s a combo platter of three classic out-and-back rides: Mountain View Trail, Starkweather Trail, and Hard Core Trail.  Starkweather and Hard Core are 5 miles each and Mountain View makes the stem of the “Y” (see the map below) – Hence the weird name.   With 3,600′ of climbing over 22 miles, it doesn’t matter what you call it – it’s a mini epic that’s worth every penny of sweat equity.  ** Note: Starkweather Trail is seasonal – so make sure it’s legal before hand.

  • Ride Type:  Three Out and Back’s
  • Difficulty:  Intermediate to advanced climbing and descending skills required.  This is some lung-buster climbing with high speed descents.
  • Time of Year:  Late Spring and Fall (dependent on when Starkweather is open)
  • Terrain/Conditions: Singletrack, Double Track
  • Access: From town, drive up Highway 203 towards Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Make a right turn at the “Earthquake Fault” sign. Park in the lot. There is a trailhead near the bathrooms for Mountain View Trail.  Start heading up and turn right at the T to start the ride.   
  • Length: 22.3 miles
  • Approx. Time: 3-4 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 7,991′
  • Highest Elevation: 10,244′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 3,599′
  • Bike Recommendation: Lightweight XC mountain bike is best. Full suspension or hardtail.
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn by Turn (in miles):

You can view turn by turn directions for each of the three rides by clicking on them above.  Traditionally we ride it this way:

  • Climb Mountain View
  • Descend Starkweather
  • Climb Starkweather
  • Climb Hard Core
  • Descend Hard Core
  • Descend Mountain View
Double High Five Y - Map

Double High Five Y – Map

Double High Five Y - Elevation Profile

Double High Five Y – Elevation Profile

 


Ride Report: Inyo Craters Singletrack – Mammoth Lakes, CA

Inyo Craters Singletrack is a sweet little section of trail that doesn’t get ridden as much as it should.  After a great flowy section, you reach a parking area where it connects with an old jeep road that takes you up to the Inyo Craters Lookout.  Here you must park your bike, as it’s illegal to ride bikes on the trails around the craters.  There are some picnic tables, interpretive signs, and it’s a nice place to hike around and eat a snack before heading back down.   This ride is short on it’s own, but splendid when combined with the Inyo Craters Loop or Inyo Craters Fat Double Lollipoop.

*Note: There are some hiking only trails up to the Inyo Craters – please do not ride your bike on those.  Stay on the route listed here.

  • Ride Type: Out and Back as described here
  • Difficulty: Easy with a couple short, steep climbs
  • Time of Year: Late Spring (once snow melts off), Summer and Fall
  • Terrain/Conditions: Singletrack and primitive jeep road
  • Access: From Mammoth, drive up Highway 203 towards Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Make a right on Mammoth Scenic Loop. At 2.75 miles, turn left on 3S30 at the “Inyo Craters” sign. Go 0.3 miles. The road will split and there’s a dirt parking area on the right. The ride starts here. The singletrack is to the right, and there’s a small sign with no trail name (see photo).
  • Length: 2.64 miles (1.32 miles each way)
  • Approx. Time: 20 – 30 minutes ride time
  • Lowest Elevation: 8,058′
  • Highest Elevation: 8,230′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 224′
  • Bike Recommendation: Run what you brung.  Any off-road bike will do.
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn By Turn (in miles):

0.0 – start at the trailhead sign (see photo), going up the Inyo Craters Singletrack
.72 – cross the road and start grunting up the short, steep, soft climb- don’t worry it levels off quickly.
.88 – arrive in the main Inyo Craters parking area. turn left and go past the bathrooms.
.92 – you’ll pass a hiking trail and kiosk to the right.  continue straight, don’t take the hiking trail.
.95 – reach two green poles blocking an old jeep road on the right (see photo).  enter the trail here and start climbing.
1.32 – arrive at the top.  if you want to explore here, park your bike and hike around.  when you’re done, retrace your steps back to the car.
2.64 – end of ride.

Inyo Craters Singletrack Map

Inyo Craters Singletrack Map

Inyo Craters Singletrack - Elevation Profile

Inyo Craters Singletrack – Elevation Profile

The trailhead at both ends is very incognito, with no labelled sign.  This is the trailhead at the start of the singletrack.

The trailhead at both ends is very incognito, with no labelled sign. This is the trailhead at the start of the singletrack.

A fun slice of singletrack

A fun slice of singletrack

You made it to the top.  No riding bikes past here.  Go walk around and check it out.

You made it to the top. No riding bikes past here. Go walk around and check it out.

Interpretive sign near the craters

Interpretive sign near the craters

A look down into the crater.  Gorgeous color!

A look down into the crater. Gorgeous color!

Another piece of excellent singletrack heading back down towards the car

Another piece of excellent singletrack heading back down towards the car