This ride is more demanding of skill, strength and focus than the trails that lie south of the peak. The trails are more narrow, with exposure, sometimes on both sides, requiring skillful bike handling with little room for error. HAB (hike-a-bike) is inevitable for all but the super-humans. While there are sections with loose gravel and rutted, eroded areas, this ride, in general, has more solid footing than the rest of the trail complex, making it a delight for those with the skills necessary to enjoy it.
Bring everything you need to survive with you. Traffic here is light, even in "good" weather, so help is unlikely to find you should you need it. Cell service is spotty, but I have found service pretty dependable when I have line-of-sight to Yuma. I use a mapping application and enable "live tracking" as a safety measure. In the event of an emergency, my "friends" can locate me precisely.
This description begins at the northernmost point, riding clockwise because that is how I rode it for this mapping session. This is not to suggest that this is the favored direction. There are parts of the ride that would clearly be more fun in the opposite direction. The ride can also be accessed from the complex of trails to the south via Picnic Table
, or Ryan's Trail
The northeast segment is unremarkable, doubletrack that completes the loop.
Pass the point where Picnic Table
intersects the ride from the east and the trail turns west, off the main doubletrack, toward the peak. The route follows what might be considered a road, but only by the most generous of standards. Full of boulders and no clear tread, this track will take you up to the base of Sugarloaf Peak. Ride if you're able and pat yourself on the back if you make it; then wait for the rest of us as we HAB up. There is a track that parallels the "road" to the south, and it would be great to get this ridden in, but it is very challenging and disappears often.
At the base of Sugarloaf, you can take a hiking break and do some scrambling up to the peak. With awesome views and a spot to get a break from the sun in the shade of a big rock or the cliff face, this is one of the better places to take a break on this ride.
As you ride south down into the valley, watch for the owls that roost on the cliffsides. The descent begins with bare bed-rock. There is a small waterfall here (no water), so be prepared for a couple of small drops. One is tall and steep enough to send you over the bars if you ride it wrong. Following the bare rock, you'll find the balance of the descent is loose and eroded. The descent is followed by some nice swooping, skinny singletrack with more stable tread. You'll pass a number of intersecting trails, some well-ridden, others frequented most often by desert bighorn and mule deer. Ride down into Black Canyon
and get ready for a good workout.
The ride into Black Canyon
offers surprisingly picturesque views but includes the rather daunting view of the trail climbing up out of the valley. With a slope of 20% +, occasionally topping 30%, and a couple of gnarly switchbacks, this climb is certainly a challenge, but the tread is more stable and rideable than most of the trails in this area, making this is a great hill for developing your climbing skills. This hill is an awesome downhill ride the other direction, but the requisite climb coming from the other direction is not rideable for most riders as it is made up of loose gravel on 30 - 40% grade.
There are great views, again, when you crest the saddle, then a loose sluice ride down the back side. At the bottom, the trail changes character dramatically becoming a beautiful, easy to ride, trail that is narrow and rugged, but with great flow. There are no challenging climbs and no gravely descents, making this a great wrap-up to a good workout or a great warm-up if going the opposite direction.