Autumn in Mammoth. Gotta love it. Colors are turning, and lots of primo mountain biking to be had. A hidden gem of a trail, that not many people even know exists is the Starkweather Lake Trail. It’s closed to bikes almost all year long. Obviously, it’s covered in snow from approximately November through May. Then there’s a small window to ride it before the shuttle bus to Red’s Meadow starts running. But once that happens, it’s only open to hikers until the shuttle stops running in September. So it’s only open to bikes 2-3 months a year, if that. I think September/October is the best time of year to ride it, mainly because of the beautiful colors turning, and the solitude of shoulder season in a winter resort town. So peaceful. So why don’t more people ride it?
Maybe it’s because what goes down must come up. The trailhead is just to the left of the Ranger kiosk at Minaret Summit on the 203 Highway past Main Lodge of Mammoth Mountain. The trail descends like a roller coaster for 1,100′ in a mere 2.2 miles. Fun switchbacks, great views, tacky singletrack, yum yum yum. Some exposed switchbacks, fast and furious straightaways, gliding through some aspens… Then it’s over. You’re dropped abruptly at Starkweather Lake. Deep in the bowels of Red’s Meadow. Unless you got shuttled, you now have two choices. Ride the road back up to Minaret Summit (most people do this), or ride back up the trail (a 2.2 mile ass-kicking climb). I take dirt over pavement whenever possible, so I grunted back the way I came- geared 33:17 on my single speed. Note to self, gear it to 20 or 21 if I do it again.
Anyhoo, if you’re looking to ride some primo singletrack, and willing to get a great cardio workout, the Starkweather Trail is a must do for all Mammoth visitors and locals that call themselves serious mountain bikers. I linked it up with Uptown and Beach Cruiser to get up to Minaret Summit from my house. Check out the Garmin info here.
Other trails to check out around town, in addition to the Mammoth Bike Park:
I recommend picking up the book: Mountain Biking Mammoth (my old landlord Dave Diller wrote it) at The Booky Joint, Footloose Sports, or Mammoth Mountaineering. Full trail descriptions and maps that I’m too lazy to offer up. Enjoy the ride! – P.S. feel free to hit me up anytime about Mammoth riding, or if you want someone to show you around… I love sharing our local trails!!