One of the best backcountry shuttle rides around, Butcherknife to Ax Park combines tough cross-country riding, huge ridgetop vistas and fast, challenging descending.
This is a tough backcountry ride. If you are looking for purpose-built flow trails...look somewhere else. Be prepared.
Hughes Creek Trail comes out about 5.5 miles up Hughes Creek at the end of Road #233 beyond its junction with Hughes Creek Road #091. Leave a rig here OR near the bridge and junction of Hughes Creek Road #091 and #088 adding an extra couple miles of gravel riding.
The ride starts from the top of Road #257: cross Hughes Creek and drive up Road #088 for 5 miles then bear right on Road #257.
From the shuttle drop-off on the top of Road #257, follow the doubletrack along the crest of the ridge 1/2 mile up to Butcherknife Ridge
is easy to follow singletrack through woods and a few meadows. The trail has a few steep sections and climbs ~800' in the next 5 miles to the state line: expect to hike-a-bike as you near the border.
Once at the top of Butcherknife, you'll turn onto Divide #106 Trail, aka Stateline Trail. Hang a right, and the trail gets fainter and rougher and basically stays near the top of the ridge for the next 3 miles. A large stone cairn marks the high-point; the ride descends steeply after this, leaves the ridge and drops 600' before leveling out and returning to the border.
The trail comes to a hunting camp with a picnic table and some other relics. Soon after leaving the camp, the trail comes to an open hillside. Go right here and contour on the Hughes Creek #113
Trail; this junction is faint so keep your eyes sharp or use the MTB Project mobile app
Do not expect a ripping descent back to the bottom. The trail dives steeply into a sharp gully only to climb back out, cross a ridge and drop to a second gully. The trail climbs and contours for a mile and comes to Ax Park, followed by a third steep drop to a gully and a tough 1/2 mile climb.
Now the bottom drops out, with the trail descending close to 2000' in the last 2.5 miles.
As a loop this is 24 miles. The initial gravel road climb adds ~6.5 miles and ~2800' of climbing to the ride above. Park at the junction of Hughes Creek Road #091 and West Fork Hughes Creek #088. Climb Road #088 for 5 miles then bear right on Road #257.
Large forest fires in 2000 and 2012/13 burned through much of this area. The charred trees will be present during most of the ride. The Butcherknife Ridge
Trail was rebuilt recently after a large dozerline was put in to deter the fires.