“A short loop on the Sterling Mine Ditch trail system.”
— Peter Carse
An alternative to riding the entire Sterling Mine Ditch Trail
, this short loop showcases some of the best qualities of this trail system. This ride is described clockwise to take advantage of the gentler ascent of Bear Gulch.
Need to Know
Poison oak is common in this part of the state.
From the Bear Gulch trailhead, cruise up the drainage for a little over half a mile before switchbacking left and climbing up to the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail
Turn right and follow the narrow singletrack along the edge of the historic canal for two miles, passing one of the largest madrone trees in the area, to Tunnel Ridge.
Here, rather than following the contour around the point of the ridge, the ditch builders tunneled straight through. Turn right on the Tunnel Ridge Trail
and enjoy the fabulous descent for a mile through oaks and grass to the gravel Little Applegate Road.
To complete the ride to the Bear Gulch trailhead, turn right on Little Applegate Road and ascend a bit before descending to your car.
History & Background
Here is a short history of the Sterling Mine Ditch from the BLM website:
"Gold was discovered on Sterling Creek in 1854. The first gold was easily removed by panning. Eventually, the greatest success was achieved with hydraulic mining, which uses a powerful jet of water from a hydraulic giant to wash out gold lying under layers of soil and rock. Ditch construction began in 1877 to bring water from the Little Applegate to operate hydraulic giants. The Sterling Mining Company was the contractor. A 26.5 mile long ditch, three feet deep, was completed in December, 1877. Up to 400 workers, many of them Chinese laborers were employed to construct the ditch. The ditch was in use through the 1930s."