This is a spectacular ride with all kinds of natural wonders; the many waterfalls and cascades of Paulina Creek, the lakes – Paulina and East, Paulina Peak and Newberry Crater.
This is also a demanding ride; 8 miles of uphill single track on your gravel bike and 3600+ feet of climbing in 12 miles. A strong gravel rider will average just over 11 mph for the route. For most others, the pacing will be closer to 8 mph average. For the entire ride!
In the late spring / early summer after the snow melts out or early fall after some moisture has made its way back into the ground. The single track section of the route can become loose and dusty and difficult to ride without moisture.
Also, it is best to ride this course on a weekday, not a weekend. The gravel road to the summit can become busy with cars.
Paved parking lot at the northeast corner of Highway 97 and Forest Service road 21. No services.
Lat / Long: 43.751986, -121.459838
The ride begins with an 2 mile, slightly uphill, paved section. A nice way to warm up the legs. At ~ 2.5 miles, make a left hand turn onto a gravel road with a sign to Ogden Group camp. Follow the road to the right and look for the Peter Skene Ogden trail sign, about 20 yards off the parking lot.
Follow this single track, mixed use trail (hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers) for the next 9 miles. This is a mountain bike trail, rideable on a gravel bike, but requires some technical skill through soft sand, around rocks, and over tree roots. It also requires some power and fortitude as it climbs 2100 feet and has short pitches in excess of 10%. As a mountain bike trail it is of easier+ / moderate- difficulty. Also, the trail is one-way, uphill for bike riders.
The single track follows Paulina Creek for its entirety. Take a moment to stop and enjoy the many cascades and waterfalls along the way. About half-way (~ mile 7.7), there is a really cool split waterfall – a left and right falls. Just before and just after split falls, the trail is the most technical.
This is a remarkably scenic trail, with little use, that is mostly in the woods and shaded.
The single track ends at Paulina Lake. To the left is Paulina Lake lodge. The route continues to the right on the paved road. Spin tout he legs because the climbing is about to being again very shortly (~0.3 miles).
Make a right turn towards Paulina Peak, begin climbing. Paved for just a short bit, then gravel road to the summit. The gravel climb is an 8% grade with few breaks for recovery. About half-way to the summit, you get a vast view to west. It is worth stopping and taking in a long look.
The climb never gets easier, a steady 8% pitch. The summit views are worth the effort. On the gravel road going uphill, you can find good lines without washboard. Going down, it is more difficult to pick a good line due to speed, thus expect some washboard stutter.
From Paulina Lake to the start / finish it is a paved road descent. Sometimes tuck and go! Other times, you will (or can) peddle to keep up speed. Like the start, the last 2.5 miles if flatish. Sit up, spin the legs and cool down.
The single track is a multi-use trail. Uphill only for bikes. It can be dusty at times and churned up if it has seen horse traffic.
Even though over 50% of course is paved, less than 30% of your ride time will be on pavement.
Paulina Peak, the turn around point, is at 8000 feet. Be prepared for significantly cooler temps than at the start.