Mountain Biker’s Paradise
by Vanessa Laird
Are you looking for an epic adventure for you and your mountain bike this summer? Erupting out of the Lost Coast, the Kings Range mountains provide a slice of single-track paradise. The insurmountable beauty of the area combined with masterfully designed trails specifically for mountain biking create a spectacular chemistry. Paradise Royale is a 14 mile single-track loop situated near the 2,850 feet high Queens Peak. The trail incorporates diverse scenic vistas and terrain features with varying levels of difficulty. From beginners to professionals, this ride offers something for everyone. However, it is not for the faint of heart. With 1285 feet of elevation difference and a nearly 5 mile straight incline, this course takes some guts. The effort is well worth the reward with breathtakingly epic coastal vistas, and awesome downhill sections with table tops, jumps, berms, whoops, and curves. If you’re not interested in the whole loop there is a well designed terrain park with a pump track, wall rides, jumps, and obstacles rated from beginner to advance.
The trail is located about two hours southwest from Arcata. Take highway 101 to Redway then follow Shelter Cove Road for 20 miles, turn right on Kings Peak Road. Follow for 2 miles to the trail head. The trail is designed to be ridden in a clockwise direction Mountain Biker’s and begins with King’s Frolic. This 3.9 mile section parallels King Peak Road and is great for beginners and those who don’t want to ride the entire trail. The trail then proceeds downhill and crosses Bear Creek to begin the most challenging section, the Prince of Pain. Staying true to its name, this grueling 2.4 mile section rises over 800 feet of elevation with tons of switch backs and grades exceeding 15%. Pace yourself and enjoy the spectacular view of old growth Douglas Fir and Madrone. The pains not over yet, the incline continues another 2 miles. Although, the trail mellows out a bit with scenic ocean vistas and meadows. After a little blood, sweat, and tears the Mad Queen’s Tango begins. This segment boasts a fun 4 miles downhill section with optional jumps, rock drops, and log rides. Although an athletic beginner in good shape can handle this trail, it is more geared for moderate riders. As a beginner mountain biker I found the trail challenging, but amazingly fun. A few obstacles required a dismount and bigs jumps are completely optional. The steep inclines require a decent amount of cardio stamina. Save a good 3 hours for the ride, bring plenty of water, exercise caution since parts of the trail are extremely remote and may not have cell phone reception.
If you are just looking for a warm up or don’t have time to do the whole trail, Tolkan Terrain Park is a great place to ride. The park is located a mile or two just past the Paradise Royale trail head on Kings Peak Road at Tolkan Campground. There are several trails rated from easy to extremely difficult. The trails are no more than a third of a mile in length and less than 300 feet incline with an easy 10 minute return ride or walk. With tricky gap jumps, steep wall rides, a pump track and fun table tops this terrain park is a mountain biker’s amusement park. Not to mention, this park is beautifully designed. You’re going to want to run the trails again and again. If you’re looking to camp out while you ride this is the place. For $8.00, there are several nice campsites with picnic tables, fire rings and vault toilets. Water there can be seasonal, so bring your own especially in the summer.
Not only is this area a mountain biker’s wonderland, it is also a great example of how conservation and biking go hand in hand. The Bureau of Land Management worked together closely with the International Mountain Bicycling Association to create an environmentally sustainable and challenging mountain bike trail system. With the loop trail, terrain park, and campground an amazing adventure awaits those who dare. It must be called Paradise Royale trail for a reason because the Kings Range is truly majestic. What are you waiting for Humboldt? Let’s go Ride!