Destination: Pioneer Trail
Mileage: 11.68 miles or more
Trailhead: Harmony Ridge Market, Hwy 20
Elevation: 3,645 to 4,245 feet
I’ll take a spare wagon wheel, 10 pounds of food, and as many bullets as the rest of my money can buy. Wait, that’s the Oregon Trail… Really I just use any excuse to share the official Oregon Trail movie trailer. Since I’m mountain biking on the Pioneer Trail I’ll still take food, a spare tire tube, and plenty of water for Aspen and me – no dying of dysentery here.
I heard about Pioneer Trail in Sactown Magazine and Moon’s Northern California Biking. The trail grows progressively harder with clear turn-around points. I’m a newbie so I wasn’t passing White Cloud Campground, which worked well since I didn’t have to worry about crossing Highway 20 with Aspen. Instead, I just had to worry about the trail paralleling Highway 20, sometimes two feet away, the whole ride. TWO FEET! I’m not exaggerating and I feel like after reading two trail descriptions, this should have been mentioned for those of us with adventure pups. They both mentioned that the trail “runs along” or is “often in sight of” the highway, but I thought that just meant it was visible throughout the ride. No sir. Sometimes you’re a nice distance from it, but a good stretch is never farther than 15 feet. If you’re biking with a dog that doesn’t heed your every call, this is not the trail for you.
However, if you don’t have a four-legged friend or your dog has gold-star listening ears this is a fantastic single-track for beginners and probably a great trail for more advance riders beyond White Cloud Campground, but I can’t vouch for that. There are sections of roots and rocks throughout the trail – good for practicing technical skills, but not overwhelming. There were two sections that combined descents/ascents with roots and rocks; I’ll admit I walked down both of them. I tried riding up one of them and made it halfway before having to put my foot down. I would say next time I’ll conquer both hills, but I think Aspen and I will find a trail with fewer cars zooming past.