Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Biking - Challenging Trails
Gorp.com

Although some are excellent riding trails, there are many that mountain bike riders would not choose to use. Some are just too steep to ascend or descend without walking. Some are in restricted-use zones—such as trails in Wilderness areas and in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area, and others are part of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

Most Popular Trails...

Siouxon Trail #130: (12 miles) The trail, not far from the Vancouver metro area, is exceptional for its striking views and scenic forest beauty. It parallels Siouxon Creek for about 7 miles, and for most of this section is canopied in deep shade. The closest parking to this section is at the end of the 5701 Road. The trail extends in either direction for a total of 12 miles but is much more difficult. The trail is very popular, heavily traversed by hikers and horseback riders, so you've got to watch out for others.

Lewis River Trail #3: 1 (10 miles) There are two scenic waterfalls just past the lower trailhead, making the short trip well worth your time. Just up the 9039 Road is a trailhead parking lot that contains a vault toilet. A short walk along the trail leads to two exceptional viewpoints of Miller and Curly Creek Falls. The damage caused during the 1997 flood has been repaired.

The first 4 miles from the lower end provide magnificent, scenic views amidst old-growth forest. Since it's generally flat, this section is an easy ride.

The next 6 miles has many ups and downs with steep side slopes. The 90 Road can be used as a return route, but you should know it has blind corners and on weekends heavy car traffic. Exercising extreme caution is advised, especially since the road does not have a shoulder.

The trail crosses the 90 Road and continues an additional 5 miles upstream, passing by dramatic waterfalls and cliffs. (These cliffs pose great danger. In these sections bicycles should be walked.)

Again, watch out for other trail users. These trails are very popular, drawing hikers, bicycle riders and horseback riders. Use caution and give right-of-way to others. If you are bike-riding, please be considerate of horses and their riders. Many horses are easily frightened by bicycles and can panic with disastrous results for both horse and rider. Park off the trail and motion to horseback riders to pass.

Best Scenery...

Craggy Peak Trail #3 In the Lewis River area: Begin at Wright Meadows on the 93 Road. This trail offers high alpine views, wild flowers and steep side slopes. You may meet hikers, horseback riders and motorcycle riders.

Ape Canyon Trail #234: You can reach the trailhead on the south side of Mount St. Helens at the end of the 83 Road. The trail climbs a ridge along the east side of the Lahar mud flow. If you use your lowest gears, it is rideable all the way up. There are magnificent views of Mount St. Helens and the surrounding area. In some places the trail is carved into steep side slopes. At the top is a dramatic view of a waterfall cascading out from a sheer rock crevasse at the top of Ape Canyon. The ride can be extended on the Lowitt Trail, across the side of Mount St. Helens on the Plains of Abraham.

Challenging Trails

Trail #236, Sasquatch Ski Loop Trails: The trailhead is on the 83 Road, approximately 1-1/2 miles east of the Marble Mountain Sno-Park. You may want to ride three progressively longer loops, from about 2 to 4 miles in length. Use your lowest gear riding up. The trails are old skid roads winding through young trees and offer views of the surrounding area. There is an easy access road and fairly easy-to-ride trails.

Really Testing Your Mettle...

Trail #270, Valley Trail: Start at one of several trailheads along Road 23. The trail runs above the road with many ups and downs across ridges and down across creeks. While there's many opportunities to head back down the road, those who stay with it are rewarded with breathtaking valley views and idyllic stream crossings. A total distance of over 10 miles, this trail is also used by motorcycles and ATVs.

Chain of Lakes Trail #116: Begins on the other side of the road from Trail 265. This trail ascends and descends through the Forest. Between Chain of Lakes and Horseshoe Lake, the trail travels through two creeks which must be waded across. At times knee deep, the current can be swift. The trail passes by an ancient lava flow. A long loop of 16 or more miles could be made by returning on Road 2329.

Trail 1 and 1C Loop: Begin at Council Lake and ride up the old 4-wheel-drive route at the far end of the campground. The complete loop is approximately 8 miles, with the last section being a gravel road. Take a side trip up Council Bluff for a visually striking, magnificent 360-degree view of the Forest. Continuing on east, Trail 1 crosses a gravel road; Trail 1C is approx. 2 miles past this point. The gravel road may be chosen for a shorter loop. The trail has many up-and-down sections and steep side slopes. The route is demanding and technical, with beautiful views along a high-elevation trail.

Other Trails...

High Lakes Area, Randle Ranger District

Trail #s 39-40, Gotchen-Morrison Loop: This ride is a combination of relatively smooth cinder-covered road and trail. It is a moderately difficult loop, through Ponderosa pine and fir forest. There are several small creeks with log or rock crossings. A few of the short hills are steep, and most people would find walking up or down them fairly difficult. The road sections have very low use and are almost like being on a trail.

To get to the trail, take Road 80 from Trout Lake; go about four miles north, turn right on Road 8020 and go about 3 miles to the trailhead. Ride back down Road 8020 about 1/2 mile to Road 8040-020. Follow this road to the 8040 Road, north about 0.9 miles to the Wicky Shelter. Across the road is the start of the trail. It goes up through an open meadow. Look for a big tree with an orange band painted around it. This marks where the trail goes into the trees. From here the trail goes up and down through the Forest and meets Trail 40. From here, it is a short 0.7 miles down to the trailhead. Parking is available at the Wicky Shelter, and the ride could start there.

Trail 40 continues up over two miles and comes out on Road 8040. The vertical gain is approx. 1,000 feet on this section, meaning a long uphill ride. Trail 40 is a very old trail—one of the first ways people got up to Mt. Adams before roads were put in.

For additional riding, there are many old "skid roads" in the area just waiting to be explored. The terrain is generally not too steep and riding on the old roads can be very pleasant. If you do explore the old skid roads, remember to pay attention to where you are going; it is easy to become disoriented.


Published: 7 Oct 2009 | Last Updated: 9 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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