A big loop connecting two separate valleys with interesting rock formations and a hot springs, too!
700c x 40 tires worked well for the whole loop, but will be too skinny for the really technical singletrack areas. Be careful and don't be afraid to walk something. Wayfinding is critical on this loop since the signage is almost nonexistent. Surprisingly there was cell coverage at The Pins.
Park near the intersection of Farm to Market Road and FS 388 Paddy Flat Road. The ride starts with an attention-getting climb up to the saddle. Always watch for vehicles - there are many blind corners on this route!
At the top, stay left on FS 388 and descend into the Paddy Flat area, there's a nice little guard station if you want a detour. Continue until the junction with Sloans Point Road FS 498, turning right at the only signed junction, toward 'Donnelly'. The road climbs up to the Sloan's Point lookout area, but continue along for another mile to a heavily traversed ATV turn-off on the left. IF you start going back downhill with big views of the next valley, then you've gone too far - sorry, but there is almost no FS signage in this area.
Back to the ATV turn-off, within 100 yards, the ATV traffic turns around at a 'NO ATV' sign. This is Foolhen Way #001
. The singletrack is great, but very hilly and you'll likely be under-biked in this area if you're on a gravel or CX bike. Hike-a-bike will be required. You'll arrive within The Pins area of incredibly sculpted granite rock formations and rock climbing routes. At the top of a particularly difficult climb, you'll arrive into a second collection of rock formations - this is a perfect spot to ditch the bikes and do some exploring.
At this same spot, look for the rock cairn and a trail that descends to the right. This is an informal rock climber's route and connects to Lodgepole Creek #402C
. There is a picnic table and camping turnout here. 402C has a nice fast descent to Gold Fork Loop #402 and down again until reconnecting with FS 498.
Turn left - down river - at the junction and follow Gold Fork Road down to Gold Fork Hot Springs. Continue out into the valley. Don't cross the bridge heading to Hwy 55, instead continue north on the county Gold Fork Road riding past Holmes Cemetery to Barker Lane and back to Farm to Market Road. Ride the four miles of asphalt back to the car.
By the way, with a little planning, the route could end at Gold Fork Hot Springs with a relaxing soak!