Roll through grassy meadows, open forests, rocky hillsides, thick woods, mountain valleys, alpine tundra, and aspen groves. This is an amazing adventure with the potential to turn into an all-day or multi-day excursion by incorporating other activities such as fishing, geocaching, camping, and/or staying in a yurt!
Need to Know
This ride is within State Forest State Park. There is a $7 fee for a daily pass. If you come on a weekday, the entrance stations are unlikely to be manned, and so payment is via cash in an envelope (bring exact change).
Park at the small area just northeast of North Michigan Reservoir. Follow the Pennock Connector
trail through the fence down into the valley. A nice wooden bridge spans the creek, but it wasn't made for bikes—you may need to walk it. Connect over to the campground and then make your way down to Grass Creek Road. Head east for a short distance and you'll find the Pennock Trail
leading into the woods on your left.
This trail spans the Grass Creek and Bockman Roads by cutting through the woods and up and over a small hill. The trail corridor runs largely underneath the canopy of the woods. There are short climbs and short descents as you travel over mostly smooth trail. When you get to Bockman Road, look for the Lumberjack Trail
across the road and to the left.
Lumberjack is mostly tight and narrow singletrack that apparently gets shared by the cows. At the north end, the trail enters the forest and makes a steep uphill climb to gain the Francisco Loop Road. Watch for a ditch spanned by a couple of wooden planks so your tires don't miss them. That's especially important as you enjoy the fast descent down the steep north end on your return trip. Come out on the road and follow it north.
This road runs directly into Ruby Jewel Road
. This is a rough dirt road covered with lots of loose rocks. This road meanders through the thick lodgepole forest as it slowly makes its way up the slopes of the mountains to the east. You'll eventually come to the trailhead for Ruby Jewel Trail
This trail has nice tread through beautiful forest and heads into the high alpine. Be ready for the steep incline as this trail gains elevation in a hurry. About a third of the way up the trail, there is a junction with the Hidden Valley Trail
. It is a sharp left turn with a sign that says Kelly Lake Trail
. It comes in the middle of a steep climb so if your head is down you could miss it. Take that left turn.
Hidden Valley switchbacks its way up to a saddle. Here, you'll begin a raucous and tricky descent down into Hidden Valley. Once down in the valley floor, the trail alternates between really hard to ride and not. There are moments of singletrack bliss followed by a required negotiation of an impossible boulder field. There are more steep inclines ahead as you work your way toward the saddle between the valley and Kelly Lake.
Just before the final push to the summit, the trail actually turns slightly downhill even as it becomes narrow, clinging to the steep mountainside. The final ascent to the saddle is steep and rocky, but more rideable than a lot of what you've already come through to this point. Get to the saddle and enjoy that view!
The trail now traverses another very large boulder/scree field which you may need to hike-a-bike. Once past that, it's a steep ride down to the lake that should all be rideable!
Connect to Kelly Lake Trail
, which is an amazing and often white-knuckled descent back down the mountain. It follows Kelly Creek for a while, crossing it a few times. The ride up here is steep and contains loose rocks. The trail eventually spits you out at the bottom of a small boulder field. Across it is a magical aspen grove. Suddenly, the trail tread is transformed into smooth and flowy along more mellow grades. Before long, you'll bust out of the woods and into the clear-cut area.
Here there are now larger planted rocks incorporated into the trail. This will lead you out to the dirt road. Turn south for about half a mile and watch for an old road bed to your right. Just off of it is more singletrack leading down into the woods. Hop on this and enjoy the smooth trail. You'll eventually bottom out in a gulch and continue south up a hill to the road. Follow it briefly and watch for the singletrack veering off to the right.
Turn left back up the road and turn right onto the Yurt Trail
. After a quarter mile, the singletrack veers to the right. Follow the faint trail through the forest, connecting to North Canadian Trail
and eventually Ruby Jewel Road
. Retrace your steps back down to the car. Here's to you!