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Armstrong Saxon Creek and Mr Toads Wild Ride Lake Tahoe

Giant on the way to Mr Toads Wild Ride

Armstrong, Saxon Creek, and Mr Toads Wild Ride or whatever else this loop is called, all I can say is that this could well be the best trail the USA has to offer. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!. This trail offers everything any mountain biker dreams of.. and more!.. all bundled into a 18.84 mile loop

Map Armstrong Saxon Creek and Mr Toads Wild Ride Lake Tahoe

Trail Stats & Information

Nearby City: South Lake Tahoe

Length: 18.84 total miles

Trail Type: Loop

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

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

Duration: 4 – 4.5 hours [ my time ] 5.58 hours

Trailhead Elev: 6,200 feet

Top Elev: 9,600 feet

Book Description

Saxon Creek Trail is more commonly known as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Noted for its wild downhill, this is one of the legendary trails in Tahoe. There are several ways to access Mr. Toad’s, but this loop eliminates a shuttle and minimizes the road riding. The first 3.0 miles up the paved Fountain Place Road are on a route that was one man’s dream for the main pass over the mountains. Today the ride from the end of the road to the ridge follows some beautiful and well-graded singletrack that connects to the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) at Armstrong Pass. An out-and-back to Armstrong Pass is a great ride in itself. It’s a bit of a huff along the TRT to Saxon Creek Trail, but the views along the rim are gorgeous. The descent on Mr. Toad’s is extreme: steep, technical, nicely banked turns, concrete lattice trail work, and some impossible drops. Mr. Toad’s is for advanced riders with the good sense to walk the crazy stuff.

My Experience

My previous ride Heavenly 2 Armstrong, I completely under-estimated the trail and myself, and I paid the price, I got slaughtered!! Today on the Armstrong Saxon Creek and Mr Toads Wild Ride I yet again misjudged the trail, however, this time it was to my benefit. I had already come down the Armstrong pass trail, but I was so knackered I for some reason convinced myself that it was gonna be a grunt riding up the trail. I started at the bottom at the trailhead parking, and cycled the 4 miles to the start of the “real” trail, the 4 road miles were not too bad, and an excellent warm up. Although I preferred coming down the Armstrong, going up was not bad at all, and although a bit of a slog, it is 100% doable, and it’s actually a really nice climb. At the Armstrong Pass junction the TRT trail continues to climb, however this section is more strenuous than the previous miles, not so much technically, but because of some very loose sand / gravel on the trail. Both Armstrong and the TRT section is very scenic, and excellent trail conditions. After 3 hours of great climbing, the trail tops out… from this point on, it’s 98% downhill, and not just any old downhill, this section puts all and any theme park to shame.. It’s time for a 9 mile downhill roller coaster ride. The first part of the “gauntlet” is short lived, a grade 5 section forces every human with a will to live, get off their steed and walk this section. Once that’s behind you, there is miles of fantastic but technical and narrow singletrack to enjoy. Just when you are on the brink of thinking you are immortal, Mr Toad brings you back to your senses. Let me just be completely honest, NOTHING I say, or the photo’s and videos you see online will give you a real impression of Mr Toad… It is the craziest shit I have ever seen, let’s put it this way, if I had the best DH bike on the market, with the best body armor on the market, and you offered me a million buck to ride down Mr Toad, i know there is no way I could convince my brain and my body to take me down. For any mountain bikers that have ever done the “Holy Cross” trail in Grand Juction Colorado, it’s 5 times more mental than that… So, I can now say I walked my steed down Mr Toads Wild Ride… even that was scary!! And although that is by far the most impossible section of the loop, there are LOT’S of hairy sections on the rest of the trail. Just be sensible on this trail, and it is possibly the best trail you will ever do.

Conclusion

All I can say is, JUST DO IT!!… EVERYTHING a mountain biker dreams and more packed into a 19 mile loop. Armstrong Saxon Creek and Mr Toads Wild Ride should be on everyone’s wish list.

Other Info:

Traffic on Trail : a handful of friendly mountain bikers ( No hikers ) Wild Life : who needs it on a trail like this?… I didn’t see any 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

I would really like to thank everyone who works on these trails, you guys do an excellent job in maintaining the trails, and without you I myself and others would not be able to enjoy this activity.  

 


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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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