Note: This description, and the 4-star rating assumes the Forest Service removes the many trees that have fallen on the trail, making for a difficult adventure in June 2014.
Without the downed trees, this would still be a big adventure for most riders, despite the fact that it's only 15 miles of riding. It's remote, not frequently traveled, and subject to weather in the afternoon. However, it's also incredibly unique, with several completely different ecosystems you'll travel through along the way. This is a relatively accessible way to get a remote MTB experience in the wilderness.
To start this ride, we dropped a car at the Coulton Creek trailhead, then drove up to the North Fork trailhead and the start of Diamond Park Trail
. There are many options in this large area, and all of them have a remote, less-traveled feel, and can be quite an adventure.
Be prepared on this ride. You'll need plenty of water, food, and probably rain gear. Afternoon thunderstorms are probable. You're not likely to see many people along the way, and there aren't many bailout points. This isn't for inexperienced riders.
From the North Fork trailhead, you'll start out on Diamond Park Trail
. After a quick initial climb, the trail opens up to a wide open valley with spectacular scenery. There's a rock face in front of you, and you're surrounded by burned trees from a large 2003 fire that you'll see evidence of on all of the trails in this area. There's even a Lupine
forest along the first half of the trail that will be spectacular in early summer.
Pop out to Forest Service Road 409 and head left. In about a mile, you'll wind around to a small trailhead. Don't take the trail that heads uphill to the right. Instead, stay left on a two track and in about a half mile, you'll see a sign for Hinman Park / Hinman Creek Trail on your left.
From here, you'll start to feel like you're starting a remote adventure. The first part of the trail heading this direction starts with a boggy area with muddy stream crossings. The trail is overgrown a bit, but never hard to follow. It's hard not to look around you - the scenery is incredible with Hinman Lake on your left, a maze of burned trees still standing, and whistling when the wind blows, and generally green and lush looking ground cover.
You'll climb up quite a bit over a rocky knoll. This is the most technical section of trail - it's loose with big rocks scattered. Only a few will try it, but there are some rideable lines. Descend back down from the rocky section, and you're back in meadow that was once thicker forest before the burn. At the time of this writing, there were MANY downed trees along the way, making for a very long trip.
Follow a mostly flat section until you start to descend to the most significant creek crossing of the ride. In early summer, it was too deep to ride. Pick a method and get across - you won't want to linger here because the mosquitos are awful in this section! They're not bad along most of the trail, but for about a mile on either side of the creek, they're intense.
Climb up away from the creek, and the climbing turns to a steep grunt, and eventually to a short hike-a-bike. For the rest of the trail, you'll pop in and out of fairly thick, unburned forest. The scenery continues to be fantastic the whole way along this trail with deep greens and white aspens, and plenty of wildflowers.
You'll come to an intersection with Cutover Trail
. Stay straight to bail out to Hinman Trailhead. Or continue the ride and take a right here. This trail isn't much to remember. It's heavily used by equestrians and the trail surface is pretty rough as a result. It climbs just a bit to the intersection with Coulton Creek Trail
Cruise through a lush meadow with big distant scenery, and a sea of wildflowers in the foreground. Then cross a boggy, muddy mess before diving back into the forest for a bit. There's a bit of a climb initially through the forest to the trail's high point - it's a bit of a grunt, but it's over quickly.
The trail then meanders a bit before descending down some fun, fast switchbacks lined with more incredible wildflowers. You'll cross a rideable stream crossing, and eventually pop out to FSR 429. If you're in a hurry, you could ride this road down to the trailhead. But there's plenty more singletrack.
Eventually you'll cross the Forest Road and head back into the trees briefly. From here, the trail emerges into another wide open meadow with aspens in the background and wildflowers in the foreground. It's really hard to beat the scenery here. The only thing tempering the experience is a bit of a deep rutted trail surface that makes it challenging to pedal without nicking your foot on the side of the ruts. But that section is finished quickly, and the scenery will get you through it.
From there, you'll meander a bit more on faster, mostly flat trail until you pop out at a rocky overlook down over the valley and Seedhouse Rd. Descend some steeper singletrack crossing the road twice more, down to the trailhead.