Wagon Wheel Trail is a fun little piece of trail that descends rapidly from Swall Meadows Rd. until it connects with Lower Rock Creek Rd. As the name suggests, it used to be an old wagon trail that has deteriorated over the years. It can get loose and sandy in sections. There are also extended sections of slickrock and various rock gardens that make this very fun on a full suspension rig. Not many people climb it, but if you’re a climber who likes some technical challenge with a bunch of fun slickrock step-ups, give it a shot both ways. Most people connect it with the Sand Canyon Trail to add a little more descending and mileage. Since it’s only 2 miles, and it’s over pretty quickly, it’s not usually ridden on its own. It’s often gets overlooked by the nearby Lower Rock Creek Trail, but if you’re shuttling LRC, it’s worth it to hit Wagon Wheel either before or after, since you drive right by it.
- Ride Type: Point to Point – as described here
- Difficulty: Intermediate/advanced descending skills required. Some technical rock gardens and sandy sections.
- Time of Year: Late Spring (once snow melts off), Summer and Fall – sometimes rideable during Winter as well, depending on snow pack.
- Terrain/Conditions: Mostly singletrack, with some deteriorated doubletrack.
- Access: Heading south on Lower Rock Creek Road (also called Old Sherwin Grade on some maps), turn right on Swall Meadows Rd. Drive approximately 0.15 miles and there will be a dirt pullout on your left. The trail starts here. It is unsigned.
- Length: 2 miles
- Approx. Time: 10-20 minutes
- Lowest Elevation: 5,274′
- Highest Elevation: 6,192′
- Total Elevation Loss: 879′
- Bike Recommendation: Full-Suspension MTB is best, but hardtail will work as well, or a fat bike
- GPX File: Available by contacting us
Turn By Turn (in miles):
0.0 – No directions for this one. Simply stay on the trail until it ends by merging with Lower Rock Creek Rd. after 2 miles. If your shuttle ride is waiting for you, jump in. Otherwise, ride back up the road, or if your lungs and legs are up for it, ride back up the trail.
This oft forgotten singletrack trail is not ridden enough. Most people are unaware that it even exists, much less that it’s open to mountain biking. It is tucked cleverly between Yosemite National Park and the Hoover Wilderness, butting right next to the Wilderness Boundary in a couple of spots. It’s only a 45 minute drive from Mammoth. Although the ride is short (only 4 miles), it’s definitely not short on exquisite views!! There’s minimal climbing, but there are some technical sections that will surprise you, and some punchy efforts that will get your heart rate up. Much of the trail is fairly smooth, but there’s also a fair share of rocks and shale that sneak up on you. Be ready for it. We describe this ride as a loop. Most people do it as a loop. However, the last section of trail (approx. 1.5 miles) is almost all rock and shale, and not much fun for less skilled riders. If you’re doing the full loop, full suspension or a fat bike will help. Most people will have to hike some of the obnoxious sections. In our opinion, the best part of this ride is the first half. The best terrain, trail quality, and views are had while riding the the east and north side of the lake, right up until you reach the Forest Service cabin. Therefore, we’ve written directions for the full loop, but also notated the out and back to the cabin. Your choice, just wanted to give fair warning.
Also in the area are the Bennettville Ride, Log Cabin Mine Loop, and Moraines and Meadows Ride. You might want do one or more of those rides to make a great day of riding. Saddlebag Lake is also a great spot to fish, or just hang out with the family and make a day out of it.
- Ride Type: Loop (counter-clockwise is the way we recommend), or out and back to the cabin
- Difficulty: Moderately technical (some rocks and shale), but pretty easy on the lungs
- Time of Year: Summer and Fall (sometimes late spring – depending on snow pack)
- Terrain/Conditions: Almost all singletrack, some smooth, some shale/rock gardens – with gorgeous high alpine scenery and lake views everywhere
- Access: From the junction of Highway 203 and 395 at Mammoth Lakes, drive north on the 395 for 25 miles. Exit and go left on Highway 120/ Tioga Pass. You’ll pass the Mobil Mart on your left. You might want to stop here later for some great grub and live music depending on time of year you are riding. Anyhoo, continue driving for 10 miles and turn right at the Saddlebag Lake Sign. Then drive for another 2.5 miles on a mostly dirt road. Go to the parking lot at the end of the road and spot the restrooms to the right. The trail sign is just past the restrooms.
- Length: 4.1 miles
- Approx. Time: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours for the loop (shorter for the out and back)
- Lowest Elevation: 10,055′
- Highest Elevation: 10,192′
- Total Elevation Gain: 361′
- Bike Recommendation: This can be ridden with pretty much any off-road bike, but full suspension or fat bike is recommended for the western portion of the loop.
- GPX File: Available by contacting us
- Other Reference: Hunter’s Saddlebag Lake Trail Blog
Turn by Turn (in miles):
0.0 – Start at the trail sign, heading around the lake to the right (counter-clockwise). Right off the bat, there are a few sections of rock and shale that will warm you up quickly.
.50 – The trail opens up to smooth flowing singletrack with some great lake views
.75 – Cross a small creek
.85 – Rocky climb. Once you crest the climb, views of the rest of the lake become apparent. The trail now strays from the shoreline a bit and meanders through pine trees and stays a little cooler.
2.07 – Arrive at the old cabin on the left
** If you choose to do this ride as an out and back, this is the turn around point. Simply retrace your steps and go back the way you came. If you’re continuing to complete the loop, keep following the cues below:
2.1 – You reach a Wilderness trail sign to the right. Do not take this. Continue straight across the creek bed.
2.25 – You reach another Wilderness trail sign letting you know that you’re about to enter Wilderness. Do not take it. Instead a few yards before the sign, there is a singletrack trail to your left. Take this to continue the loop you are on.
2.35 – There is a small bridge with a couple of logs to your left. It’s hard to see as it’s surrounded by brush. Use this bridge to cross the creek. Don’t miss this turn!! Just after the creek crossing, there are a couple of techy rock gardens and one short climb to navigate.
2.52 – Go left at the junction with another trail. You’ll now enter the most hateful portion of the ride. Rocks and shale make for annoying riding all the ay home.
3.69 – Reach the bridge. Cross the bridge and take the singletrack to your left which will bring you back to the parking lot.
4.1 – Arrive at trail sign and finish ride.
Yost Meadows Trail is one of the most under-rated and overlooked trails around. It’s super easy to access, with parking right off the June Lake Loop. The first mile or so is brutal climbing, with no warmup, that usually involves serious granny-gear pounding or hike-a-bike if you’re on a singlespeed (like me). But the views you get of June Lake and Gull Lake make you forget that you’re wheezing and gasping for dear life. Take a moment to soak it in. The climbing mellows a bit after this point as you spin through alpine meadows and aspen groves. By this point, you’re probably imagining how much bliss this singletrack will be on the way back down! Eventually you enter the ski area- and the trail descends a little before crossing under the lift and climbing some more. The trail is usually pretty easy to follow, but it might be good to load the gpx file (contact us to request the file) especially if any snow has fallen. Also, you must be aware that you have to stop at 3.6 miles and turn around. There is a boundary here for the Owens Headwaters Wilderness Area and bikes are strictly prohibited past this point. Last time we rode it, there was no visible “Wilderness Boundary Sign” so it’s on you to be responsible. You MUST NOT RIDE YOUR BIKE IN THE WILDERNESS AREA. We recommend using an app on your phone or carry a GPS device so that you can track your mileage. Feel free to park the bike and continue hiking past this point. By foot, you can get to Yost Lake and Fern Lake – both great spots to eat some grub and relax. Anyhoo, once you turn around, it’s pretty much rip-roaring downhill fun all the way back to the car. There are hikers once in a while, so be wary – and remember to stay in control in the exposed areas and steep switchbacks. Now go ride!
Note: The best part of the trail (arguably) is the 2.2 miles from the parking area to the ski area – so that’s a good turnaround point as well, if you want to cut the ride a little short or don’t want to mess with getting near the Wilderness Boundary
- Ride Type: Out and Back
- Difficulty: Advanced climbing and descending skills required. This is a lung-buster climb with exposed descents.
- Time of Year: Summer and Fall (possibly early Winter/ late Spring depending on snowfall)
- Terrain/Conditions: Singletrack, with some loose/sandy sections
- Access: From Mammoth, take Highway 395 north for 20 miles to the southern turnoff for the June Lake Loop (Hwy 158). Drive for about 2 miles. You’ll reach the Fire Station and the Balancing Boulder on the right side of the road. The dirt parking lot is on the left, directly across from the fire station. You’ll see the trail sign.
- Length: 7.2 miles total (3.6 to the Owens Headwaters Wilderness Boundary)
- Approx. Time: 1.5 – 3 hours, depending on skills and comfort level
- Lowest Elevation: 7,718′
- Highest Elevation: 9,250′
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,678′ (with around 1,500′ coming in the first 3.6 miles – ouch!)
- Bike Recommendation: Lightweight XC mountain bike is best. Full suspension or hardtail. If riding after snow has fallen, a fat bike might be best 🙂
- GPX File: Available by contacting us
- More Info: Check out the Mountain Biking Mammoth Book
Turn by Turn (in miles):
0.0 – Start heading up from the trailhead sign (see photo). You’ll quickly pass by a large kiosk with a map. The trail is wide at first, but narrows soon. The climbing is relentless.
.75 – The climbing starts to ease up, but is still tough. You leave the exposed mountainside and head inward a bit. The riding gets a little easier, but the views are diminished.
2.2 – Reach the Ski Area. Here you merge with a wide ski run and descend for a short bit. Look to your left and find the singletrack. Jump on this and start climbing again. This area of the trail is sometimes faint, but more recently has been defined well by rocks, etc.
2.9 – Cross a small creek
3.6 – Reach the Wilderness Boundary. Turn around here and retrace your ride back to the car. Enjoy the sweet trip back – you earned these turns!!