Saturday, November 26, 2011

Trip Report: Paradise Royale

Recently, I had the privilege of riding Paradise Royale, a mountain bike-specific trail west of Garberville, CA (Humboldt County).

This trail was designed and built by IMBA Trail Solutions in cooperation with the BLM and volunteers. The trail showcases state-of-the-art building techniques pioneered by Joey Klein and other IMBA builders. These folks set the standard for trail design in California and elsewhere. I've seen their handiwork in several locations and in my opinion, no one approaches their skill and design abilities.

The trail traverses thick forests of Douglas Fir in the beautiful King Range, which towers over the Lost Coast. The trail is not particularly rocky; you could enjoy it on a hardtail or short travel bike. The features I appreciated most include:

SWITCHBACKS - Despite steep terrain, the uphill switchbacks are built with a more even grade than on many other trails. This requires significant hillside excavation and/or cribbing, but the result is switchbacks which are more sustainable and fun to ride.

GRADE - The builders were not afraid to create short steep sections, some of which are at 15%. This made for fun, challenging sections (both up and down) for mountain bikers. I wish local US Forest staff would accept such grades for short portions, as they make trails much more interesting. I've often found 5% grade trails to be monotonous.

MTB SPECIFIC FEATURES - The trail offers unpredictable twists and turns for riders. If you like to catch air, there are many lips and tabletops from which you can launch (these also serve as effective water diversions). There are alternate lines with rock drops, log skinnies and fun obstacles. And of course big burmed turns on the downhills.

TOLKEN TERRAIN PARK - This adjacent area includes a pump track, rollers, big gap jumps and more. This recent addition to the trail system is very cool in that it weaves through forest trees, as opposed to creating ugly dirt areas I see at other bike parks.

I would not say that Paradise Royale is quite worth the 5 hour drive from Nevada County, unless you include some of the excellent nearby attractions (Shelter Cove, redwoods, hiking, surfing, etc.) as part of your plans. The trail is currently only 12 miles long. However, soon IMBA will complete a nine mile extension, so your trip could include a 30 mile epic and a second day of shorter options. Someday, perhaps IMBA Trail Solutions can build a local trail or two in our backyard.

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