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Giant HDR

Giant at Star Lake getting ready for Freel Pass

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A few days a did the Heavenly Valley from Stagecoach to Armstrong Pass, it was a slaughter, but the downhill section from Freel Pass all the way down Armstrong was probably the best ride / section I have ever done.
I did not want to leave Lake Tahoe without enjoying this section one more time. However, there was no way I wanted to get slaughtered again on the Stagecoach to Freel Pass section, so I decided on a different route that was hopefully gonna be slightly, or even better a hell of a lot easier, but with the same fun factor…
Cold Creek to Star Lake to Armstrong Pass down Corral Trail.

Did I succeed?

cold creek, star lake, armstrong and corral Trail

Cold creek, Star Lake, Armstrong Pass and Corral Trail

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Trail Stats & Information

Nearby City: South Lake Tahoe

Length: 21.01 total miles

Trail Type: Point to Point ( for loop add about 3 miles )

Skill Level: [ What the books say ] Aerobically: strenuous. Technical : difficult

Skill Level: [ My opinion ] Aerobically: strenuous. Technical : moderate

Duration: 4 – 6 hours [ my time ] 7.05 hours

Trailhead Elev: 6,500 feet

Top Elev: 9,500 feet

Book Description

This is a self put together ride connecting various trails, below a short description of each individual trail :

  • Cold Creek : The lower Cold Creek Trail is a popular and easily accessible ride out of South Lake Tahoe. It begins with a ride up the graded High Meadow Road. After less than 2 miles, the loop segment crosses Cold Creek and heads downstream on smooth,wellpacked singletrack. Real hammerheads can continue up the painfully steep climb to Star Lake. This ride makes a nice side trip off the Power Line Trail.
  • Star Lake : Very steep and strenuous climb from High Meadow Road or Cold Creek Trail to Star Lake. Be prepared to walk a lot on this trail. Star lake is a beautiful place to rest and eat before heading up to Freel Pass
  • Star Lake to Freel Pass : The climb continues, however it’s not as bad as the previous grunt and it’s more scenic, it should take between 40 – 60 min. to reach Freel Pass
  • Freel Pass to Armstrong Pass and down the Armstrong Connector Trail : Spend 15 min. at Freel Pass, enjoy the superb scenery, test your brakes, and make sure you don’t have any loose parts on your steed. The coming 1.5 hours is gonna be one of the best rides imaginable. Do not admire the scenery, just keep your eyes on the trail. The “Connector” is 100% fun with very little margin for error, short section but unique… very unique.
  • Corral Trail : This trail is a FFF Trail “Fun” Fast” and “Furious”… this is a trail gives you the feeling that you are the main character in an out of control video game… Not to be missed


My Experience

Well to honest, from Cold Creek to Freel Pass was just as brutal as the Heavenly Valley Stagecoach to Freel Pass section was. The ride to Star Lake is very steep and physically extremely demanding, and I kept telling myself that it would be worth it. I spent 45 min. at Star Lake relaxing and stuffing myself with fluids and energy nibbles. From the Lake to Freel Pass it’s about another hour slog, the first section is pretty easy going, but the second section is strenuous.

Once at Freel Pass, you can rest assure that the real fun is about to start. 100% fun filled adrenalin rush that will last between 1.5 – 2 hours… that’s if you manage to stay on your steed. From Freel Pass all the way to the finishing point could well be the best ride in the USA.

For the real “Gear Grinders” among us, at the Armstrong Pass, you can continue on the TRT and head down Saxon Creek and Mr Toads Wild Ride.. Let’s put it this way, once you are at Freel Pass, no matter which way you choose, it’s gonna be a 10/10 ride.

Conclusion

Mountain Biking just doesn’t get better than this, the nice thing about this is that no matter how you approach it, you will have to work HARD for the reward, but the reward will make you forget everything… If there is any such thing as a “Natural High” then this is the place to be.

Other Info:

Traffic on Trail : 2 mountain bikers 1 hiker

Wild Life : Coyote and a (dead?) snake

Scenery : excellent scenery

Other : Take extra water, and energy nibbles. Be sensible, a trail is only fun if you make it to the end in one piece. This is definitely not a trail for novices

My Trail Rating : 10 / 10 with a Gold Star




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Star Lake

Giant at Star Lake on the Heavenly Valley to Armstrong Pass Trail

After my 2 crashes on the Curly Lake trail in Montana in August I was really looking forward to getting back on the trails. This trail came highly recommended to me, as offering some of the best scenery in the Tahoe Basin. I was told that it was a very strenuous ride, but I was convinced I was up for it… Boy was I wrong, I got slaughtered on this trail!!

Trail map heavenly valley to armstrong

Trail Stats & Information

Nearby City: Minden

Length: 23.43 total miles

Trail Type: Point to Point

Skill Level: [ What the books say ] Aerobically: strenuous. Technical : easy to difficult (mostly moderate)

Skill Level: [ My opinion ] Aerobically: extremely strenuous. Technical : moderate / difficult

Duration: 5 – 7 hours [ my time ] 6.20 hours

Trailhead Elev: 7,500 feet

Top Elev: 9,000 feet

Book Description

This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail passes through some of the most scenic and wild country available to mountain bikers in California—and it’s also one of the least traveled. If you feel left out because you’re not allowed to ride your bike in wilderness areas or national parks, then this is the trail for you. Highlights: Views of Carson Valley, a pristine subalpine lake, a well-built trail, a wonderful wilderness feeling. No motorized vehicles are allowed on this trail.

My Experience

Although I had not been on the bike for a month due to some injuries I acquired on the Curly Lake Trail in Montana, I was pretty stoked and confident that I was up to doing this trail. I was warned that this trail was pretty strenuous, but that doesn’t mean much in most cases.

I was dropped off at 11.00 am the Stagecoach ski lift at Heavenly Valley, I planned to do the ride in about 5 hours, but luckily for me I made a calculation mistake, and told my girlfriend to pick me up at the Armstrong Trailhead at 5.00 pm, which gave me an extra hour… and boy did I need that extra hour!!

The trail starts at the ski lift with a moderate climb, nothing too serious, the first 2 miles were pretty well used by hikers. After the first mile the trail becomes very strenuous and rocky, and it continued to be very rough for the coming 6 miles, and I walked about 80% of this section, and even the walking was strenuous. It took this trail 20 min. to slap me in the face, and made it clear that I was bang out of shape, and this trail was just too strenuous.

Luckily for me, although the first 12 miles is uphill, it is not at all steep, it’s a gradual climb, and the scenery is just stunning.

Completely slaughtered I finally made it to Freel Pass… this is where the fun starts.. downhill all the way to the end!!

The downhill was absolutely superb, narrow rocky singletrack, with superb views. You will really want to open up on this section, but you will soon realize that, that is not a good idea, there is a lot of loose sand / gravel on the trail.
If you do not like narrow rocky singletracks with long drop-offs, then you should avoid this trail. There are also 2 extremely tight switchbacks on this section, hit these too fast, and you will have about 6 seconds to learn to fly, ‘cos it’s a hell of a long drop before hitting the ground.

From Freel Pass to Armstrong Pass is fantastic, but heading down the Armstrong Pass Trail is like a dream come true.. sweeeeet singletrack , smooth and rocky, fast and slow and everything else a mtb’er longs for.

Conclusion

The first 15 miles of this trail is just brutal, I don’t care how fit you are, or how technically gifted you think you are, you will spend a lot of time walking this section. Luckily it is not too steep, and it is very scenic.
The real fun starts at Freel Pass, from here it is 99% downhill or 1.5 hours of some fantastic downhill.

Other Info:

Traffic on Trail : Groups of hikers at Heavenly and at Armstrong Pass

Wild Life : I did not see anything.

Scenery : excellent scenery

Other : Take extra water and energy nibbles.

My Trail Rating : 8.5 / 10

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