From Shady Lake to Athens Big Fork
trail is old road for about 3 miles and then it's doubletrack trail to Athens Big Fork
Trail. The road and the trail are not too difficult and make for a pretty nice ride. No technical spots, no hard climbs and very scenic as it follows the Little Missouri
River. The Viles Branch trail actually goes past Athens Big Fork
Trail all the way over to Hwy 369. If you continue on toward Hwy 369 you'll encounter some big crossings of the Little Missouri
River as well as some really scenic areas around Winding Stairs.
Most of the trail heading toward Hwy 369 is not really all that bad. There are a few technical areas around the Winding Stairs area that you may have to get off and walk but they are only about 10 yards in length. There are no big climbs on this section of the trail. If you decide to do the loop, you'll hang a left at the Viles Branch and Athens Big Fork
junction and head north on Athens Big Fork
. The trail on this section is a lot more demanding then any other parts of this trail. You'll be climbing a very long and very steep hill going up the side of Brush Heap Mountain.
The trail through this section is hard packed and loose rock, not really any technical stuff. Once over the top there is a really fun downhill and then some pretty smooth singletrack. The trail will eventually drop you off on Forest Road 106. On 106 you'll need to hang a left and follow this all the way to the junction of Forest Road 38. Follow 38 all the way back to Shady Lake. The road going back is all dirt road, there will be some fairly mild climbing on the way back with the biggest climb coming just as you approach the junction of 38, after that it is all a fast downhill ride back to the lake.
This trail is part of the Eagle Rock Loop
and Brush Heap Loop
. From the Viles Branch Trail you can access Athens Big Fork
which in turn has access to Little Missouri
Trail. These trails can all be accessed from the Albert Pike Recreation Area. This trail makes up the southern leg of the Brush Heap Loop