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

Posts tagged “sand canyon

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.

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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: Sand Canyon Trail near Mammoth Lakes, CA

Sand Canyon Mountain Bike Trail is a gem that often gets overlooked by the nearby Lower Rock Creek Trail.  The trail is accessed from Rock Creek Lake.  After a tough 500′ climb over 1.3 miles, you reach the official trailhead.  This is some of the highest mountain bike riding in the Eastern Sierras.  From here, it’s pretty much a bomber 4,000′ descent with great views in every direction.  It’s mostly jeep road, and very sandy at times, some creek crossings thrown in.  There’s one or two tough climbs, but mostly it’s, down, down, down.  It will definitely put a grin on your face.  If you’re in the mood to explore and climb more, you can take the Wheeler Crest Out and Back about 4 miles into the ride.  You can also include the Swall Canyon Trail, Wagon Wheel Trail, and the above mentioned Lower Rock Creek Trail for an epic day in the saddle. The most popular way to do Sand Canyon is by shuttling it (as described here).  However, hard core riders can choose to do the Sand Canyon Loop, including the 4,000′ pavement climb up to Rock Creek Lake.  There is also a way to get to the top of Lower Rock Creek Trail via dirt.

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:  Point to Point / Shuttle
  • Difficulty: Advanced descending skills 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: Mostly doubletrack/ jeep road with some singletrack
  • Access: Since this is described as a shuttle, you’ll need to leave one car at the intersection of Swall Meadows Road and Lower Rock Creek Road.  From Mammoth, take Highway 395 south approximately 20 miles.  Lower Rock Creek Rd. is your exit (just after Toms Place – which is great for post ride grub and libations).  Once you exit, drive 4 miles to the intersection of Swall Meadows Road and Lower Rock Creek Road.  Park one car here.  Then drive back up Lower Rock Creek Road to Highway 395.  Go north for one exit to Tom’s Place.  Drive up Rock Creek road for 8.5 miles and make a left at Rock Creek Lake Campground.  Drive about 1/2 mile and park.  Ride about .2 miles farther to the campground host.  Across from the host, there’s a green gate.  The ride commences here.
  • Length: 12.8 miles to your car (12.6 to Wagon Wheel Trailhead)
  • Approx. Time: 1-2 hours, maybe more depending on skills and comfort level
  • Lowest Elevation: 6,394′
  • Highest Elevation: 10,224′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 530′ (497′ over first 1.3 miles)
  • Total Elevation Loss: 3,841′
  • Bike Recommendation: Full-Suspension MTB is best, but hardtail will work as well, or a Fat Bike too
  • 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 a road that’s tame at first, then becomes rocky and steep as it passes by some cabins.

.20 – go left after a group of cabins when the road splits.  Then make another quick left and keep climbing

.54 – a trail joins in from the left (see photo below of the sign with Wheeler Crest, Kenneth Lake) – stay straight and keep climbing.  Breathe!

.72 – 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

1.3 – you’ve reached the official trail sign/ start of Sand Canyon Mountain Bike Trail.  Sip some water and get ready to grin.  stay on the main trail

2.1– cross the creek

4.1 – 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.

7.0 – stay on the main trail and rip the descent down the canyon – yahoo!!

8.4 – cross a small creek and then climb for a while

9.4 – reach an intersection at Witcher Meadow.  continue on the main road, veer right and head down steep road towards a creek.

10.8– go right at the split on 5S08 towards Swall Meadows 11.6 – go left on Sky Meadow Ranch dirt road 12.1 – go left on Swall Meadows Rd

12.8 – arrive at your car at the intersection with Lower Rock Creek Rd

Sand Canyon Map

Sand Canyon Map

Sand Canyon Elevation Profile

Sand Canyon Elevation Profile

Fall colors on the climb up to Sand Canyon Trail

Fall colors on the climb up to Sand Canyon Trail

Trail sign during the tough climb at the beginning of the ride

Trail sign during the tough climb at the beginning of the ride

View back to Rock Creek Lake as you near the top of the initial tough climb

View back to Rock Creek Lake as you near the top of the initial tough climb

Sand Canyon Trail Sign - here is where the fun begins!

Sand Canyon Trail Sign – here is where the fun begins!