Now that the season is over, I suppose it would be a good time to get some of you stoked on some of the DH trails that exist on Mount Shasta, in NorCal. The trails are legal and user-maintained, on public land.
There are 8 total trails, 4 of which are in succession (one above the other). Read on to learn more,
The following list first follows this succession from top to bottom:
“Panther Meadows”, or “Old Ski Bowl” (several trails have multiple names, some named after the mile marker they are nearest to.):
Location: The trail starts from an old jeep road at the end (don’t be fooled by the first major parking lot you come across on the way up; that is Bunny Flats) of Everitt Memorial Highway. Hike up the jeep road for about 0.4 miles (which starts at the north end of the upper parking lot) until you crest the ridge that it goes over. The trail then begins off on the left side of the road just after the top of the ridge.
Description: Gnarly. The trail is steep in several sections, extremely rocky, and deep alpine sand doesn’t help. Stuff gets washed out easily, too, especially after large storms. For maximum fun, I would recommend only riding this trail in the spring and fall, before stuff dries out too much. Damp ground makes the riding much more fun, and saves the natural landscape from eroding away. There are several small (max. 2 foot tall) jumps near the bottom of this trail that can easily be circumvented or walked over. At the very bottom, the trail turns into another old jeep road and drops right into Bunny Flats. To continue onto the next trail, keep going straight until you top the ridge bordering the west side of the Flats.
P.S. The trailhead for the Panther Meadows biking trail—not to be confused with the real meadows several hundred feet below--is at about 8000 ft ASL, so give yourself some extra time for the hike up, as well as the descent.
Location: You can’t miss the Bunny Flats parking lot. The majority of the parking spaces are on the left side of the road (if you are going up) and there are public facilities, but no running water. Looking uphill, the Flats themselves are bordered on the left and right by steep ridges. To access the trailhead, walk your bike up (or ride if you’re an all-mountain maniac) the hiking trail that starts on the left side of the Flats near the lavatories. Immediately after a stone staircase, there is a T-intersection with the jeep road that the Panther Meadows trail comes in on. Turn left on it and continue the rest of the short distance up to the top of the ridge. The trail comes off of the left side of the jeep road, just after if turns slightly to the right as it crests the ridge.
Description: Flowy and smooth. Although there are two sections on the trail where you may need to push or pedal up a hill, and one technical section right after the second hill called “The Staircase” (a self-explanatory name), the rest of the trail is the best flow on the mountain. There are numerous jumps on the trail, (max. 3 feet in height), but none bigger than about 1 foot that could pose a problem getting around without stopping. There are also a couple optional log-rides on the side of the trail. The end of this section of trail is marked by a forest road, onto which the trail spits out. This road can then be ridden a short distance out to another turn-out on Everitt Meml. (The next trail section is rather technical, and some people may want to ride the road down to the section below it instead of walking their bikes down the entire trail—which is sometimes harder than riding it.)
"Bone-crusher”, “Sand Flats”, or “10-Mile”:
Location: The trail starts off of the forest road mentioned above, about 50 feet before the end of the Bunny Flat trail. For riders who want to start at this section, take Everitt Meml. up until there is a sharp turn to the right, just after a brown sign that says “Recreation Fee Pass Required”. Just past the apex of this turn a forest road goes off to the left from a turn-out. Hike up just a ways (if you go around a right turn, you’ve missed it) until you see a trail dropping in on the left. There are actually two drop-ins—the first (going uphill) is a more direct route to the main section of trail, and the second has one or two more jumps. If you’ve just dropped out of the Bunny Flat trail, take the forest road down just a bit (50 feet, as mentioned above).
Description: Look at its first name. “Bone-crusher” as some colorfully call it, is INSANE technical. Mostly the trail is composed of sandy rocks bigger than your front wheel…and that’s what you ride on. Unless you are a very skilled biker, I would not recommend bombing down this trail first-time. It’s a look before you leap kinda thing. However, the first and last parts of the trail are like Bunny Flats: mellow and flowy. Just after you drop in from the forest road, you hit a flat area, which is the Sand Flats Campground. There generally aren’t many people there (if any), but be aware of people’s privacy. Once we were going through there and almost caught someone answering nature’s call. As soon as you are in the flat, there are two options, depending on which drop-in you took. “Drop-in #1” will be the drop-in closest to the highway, and “Drop-in #2” will be the one closest to the outlet of the Bunny Flats trail.
Drop-in #1: Continue straight. You will re-find the trail in a stand of White Firs. An easy identifier: big rocks. You know you are on the right track if the trail goes to the right.
Drop-in #2: When you enter the campground, turn left and proceed along the far edge of the campground until you see the trail. An alternate route is pushing your bike up the rocky hill in front of you right after the trail comes into the campground. It may take a little searching, but if you find it, a technical drop-in awaits.
When you’ve found the right trail (If you haven’t, then try asking someone so you don’t get lost in the middle of nowhere), it remains flowy for about 200 feet before it drops into “The Slip ‘n’ Slide”. I won’t spoil anymore of the trail for you, but if you are wondering if you can handle it, you probably can’t, and should go with people who have already done it, or at least some riding partners. The best you can say about it for beginning riders is that it’s short.
Spoiler Video, but I left out some of the best sections of the trail.
Location: Probably the most ridden of all of the trails on the mountain, 8-Mile (not named after the movie) is accessible from a turn-out on the left side of the highway at pretty much exactly the 8 mile marker. There’s also a fire-hazard sign just on the other side of the road as the turn-out, in case you can’t see the markers. At the turn-out, a dirt road starts at right angles to the highway. It then makes an immediate right turn, and about 100 feet past the end of the turn, in a slight clearing on the left, the trail begins. This is the EASY trail. To access the trail with a sequence of 5-foot and then 15-foot drops, continue down the road until you see a trail angling back up the side of the road cut. To access from the bottom of “Bone-crusher”--which comes out further down the road than the real-deal trail--just ride back up the road a bit (duh).
Description: This trail is better for freeriders than trail buffs, but don’t let that alarm those with less experience or those not seeking flight. No unavoidable mandatory jumps make this trail a blast for beginners but a multitude of those jumps (max. 4 feet) make it fun for more experienced riders as well. There are only two problems with this trail: terrible braking bumps especially in fall (ruts in the spring), and a fairly short length.
At the bottom of 8-Mile, you now have 3 trail options, one of which leads to another 2 options.
Location: 4-Mile starts about 200 feet above the end of 8-Mile on Everitt Memorial Highway. Ride up the road until you see the drop-in on the right. The first 50 feet or so of the trail has black rocks sticking up, in and around it.
Description: 4-Mile is tight, jumpy singletrack (max. jump height 2 feet). It is short, but sweet and is a favorite among less experienced or cross-country riders. 4-Mile spits you out on a logging road; turn left to proceed to your next two options for your final descent back into town: Cliffhanger or The Tunnel Trails.
Location: Soon after finishing 4-Mile and proceeding up the logging road, just before a clearing, you will see a steep jeep road going off up a hill to the left. Push up this hill until it levels out and it becomes a trail.
Description: Just finished this year, 2008, Cliffhanger is a perfect balance of flow and technicality, with some small jumps peppered in. It ends at the top of The Tunnel Trails, which will then take you the rest of the way to town.
“The Tunnel Trails”:
Location: No, not Santa Barbara. There are multiple entrances to the singletrack, but the main entrance is just below the end of Cliffhanger. From Cliffhanger, you should see a dusty drop-in to a pine-needle-filled forest. This is your entrance to The Tunnels. If you can’t find this drop-in, cut over to the logging road on your right and ride down it until you see a drop-in on the left side of the road. From 4-Mile, proceed down the logging road until you reach a descending hairpin turn to the right with a wallride on it (there is second hairpin turn to the right above the one mentioned here, but it is a climbing turn). Then continue down the road about another 100 feet and drop in to the left (the same drop-in mentioned above for the Cliffhanger trail).
Description: Slow Flow. This seems to be a playground for XC riders as well. There are tons of bits of singletrack through this area, but as long as you follow it down, you should be OK. (Don’t take logging roads unless you are familiar with the area; they appear to go downhill but then head back up the mountain, forcing you to turn around and try another one). When you near the bottom of the trail the singletrack turns onto another logging road (old). The way you know you are in the right place is when you pass a pit dug by someone on the left, and then some rocks to keep out motor vehicles. Once here, continue straight on this road. The Tunnels end up at some motorcycle jumps by the railroad tracks above Shastice Park. To get back to Everitt Memorial Highway, ride downhill next to the tracks. When the track next to the, ummm, tracks thins out and a dirt road starts on the right, turn right on to it and take it (it goes uphill a bit, don’t freak out) until it ends on an old paved road that services some houses. Follow this paved road down, and you’ve hit the highway. (You can also keep to the railroad tracks and then turn left onto a trail that drops into Shastice Park. These trails start at a railway marker sign that says “M14”. Watch out for XC runners).
This next trail is accessible from the bottom of 8-Mile ONLY and is not part of the 4-Mile option sequence:
Location: As you exit 8-Mile (or drive up the highway), you will see an obvious “washout” going under the road. Needless to say, mountain bikers jumped at this trail opportunity, and complete awesomeosity ensued. Just before the bridge, on the right side of the road (going up) there is a turn-out. Washout begins from there. From the bottom of 8-Mile, just go down the road a bit to this spot; it should be obvious.
Description: The awesomest tech you’ll find on the mountain. The gnarl-ness is flowy on this trail, and in some places it looks like the Slickrock trail in Moab, Utah, except the rocks are actually slick here. The top and bottom of this trail are smooth flow on the rim of the washout, while the middle contains that awesome gnar inside the canyon itself. There are no variations or options on this trail; just turn left on the logging road when you hit it (after the top section), and then drop into the actual washout itself. When you reach the gravel road at the end of the trail, turn right and ride it all the way back to Everitt Memorial.