This an "epic" loop through remote and demanding terrain in the heart of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. A quarter of the ride is above 8,000 feet, so it's seasonal (late spring, summer and fall). Not for the beginner.
That said, the fit and experienced rider will enjoy the great variety of experiences on this ride that starts at the enclave of Camp Nelson at 4,900' and tops out near Slate Mountain at almost 9,000' before descending almost 5,000' down the Bear Creek Trail
The ride has extensive everything: great up and downhill singletrack through several Giant Sequoia groves.
This is a technical and physically demanding ride. The altitude and lack of cellular service will also make this more difficult than the mileage and elevation gain/loss suggest. Be self-sufficient and prepared!
This has the potential to be a classic destination ride. However, due to the lack of trail use and maintenance, portions of the trail will seem "frustratingly fantastic". Expect deadfall, duff and less than ideal conditions unless you get lucky and significant trail maintenance has been done recently. If you are lucky to ride it after it has been cleared it will be a ride you'll relish.
Many will shuttle this ride by starting near the Quaking Aspen Campground. That's fine, but diminishes the character of this great ride, which starts by climbing a portion of the awesome Nelson Trail
to Cedar Slope which itself is great.
A good place to start in Camp Nelson is the general store near the large meadow and ride until Nelson Drive ends, which is about 1/4 mile past Belknap Campground. From where the roads end, the Nelson Trail
starts nondescriptly at first by crossing the creek and then becomes more obvious. Continue up the Nelson Trail
and cross the log bridge so you are now on the south side of the Tule River.
After 10 minutes, you should come to an obvious crossroad in which you go north and ford two creeks with no bridges and start the two-mile fireroad climb up to Cedar Slope and gain about 600'. Once at Cedar Slope, you transition to the paved CA-190 and ride 4.5 miles and 1,000' to Quaking Aspen Campground and the Great Western Divide Highway. The road does not get much traffic and the climb is enjoyable with a moderate gradient and nice scenery.
From Quaking Aspen, you take the Summit Trail
from the south side of the campground loop which soon crosses a road before continuing up towards Slate Mountain. The trail switchbacks and kicks up as you ascend toward the confluence of the Summit Trail
and Bear Creek Trail
, which is five miles and 2,000' of elevation gain from the Campground. On this section, you'll encounter a couple of hiking sections before the saddle that takes you past Slate Mountain.
The junction to Bear Creek Trail
is critical and not well marked so this is a great time to keep your MTB Project mobile app
handy. Once on the penultimate Bear Creek Trail
, enjoy the tremendous variety of terrain, much of it strenuous (despite it being mostly downhill) and technical all the way to Coy Flat. Once at Coy Flat, a short but steep road climb takes you back to the center of Camp Nelson.