This Weekend I started exploring the trails of the Snake River Range. I had never gone into this area w/o a pair of skis before this. Parking at Mike Harris I rode up the power line access road, taking a small detour along the way to lap one of the side trails. From there I headed over to Pole Canyon and then up. For those of you who haven’t ridden this trail before, it feels much longer than 3 miles. This could’ve been due in part to the extremely sandy and loose conditions of the trail, or the ridiculously heavy smoke in the air which was making me feel like I couldn’t catch my breath, or just the fact that you’re gaining 3,000′ at nearly 20% grades. Either way it’s a beast of an uphill that will have you off the bike and pushing more than once, although the views from the top are a more than worthy tradeoff. In one direction you can see straight down the canyon to the valley below, in the opposite direction you have miles and miles of untouched wilderness. I can imagine riding down this trail would be a blast. A few really technical rock and root drops, and some long, straight sections you could scream down. But instead I chose to keep going up Pole Canyon to Mikesell.
At the summit of Pole Canyon you take a left, pedal 20 yards or so, and then dismount the bicycle. You’ll be scrambling for a little while before you’re able to ride again. Once you’re over the first big hump it gets a little easier but not by much. Be prepared to hike the bike up a few more steep pitches before it’s over. Three plus miles later you reach the junction of this trail, Mail Cabin to Mikesell, and Mikesell Canyon. It’s all downhill from here, but by no means does it get easier. It’s narrow, loose, rocky, drops off on one side, and has a several waist high root drops. That said, it’s still incredibly fun. Near the bottom of the canyon you follow the drainage through the trees and can really open it up for a few minutes. This trail spits you out at Mike Harris so I’m right back where I started from.
The next day the the wind had blown the smoke out of the valley and I talked Beth into riding Mail Cabin to Mikesell Canyon w/me. Mail Cabin, up until just past the fork to East Mail Cabin (where the hike-a-bike starts), would be awesome to ride as a short, easy out and back. I’m not sure why more people don’t ride this. The trail is smooth and easy to climb but does gain some elevation so the way back would be fast. Instead of turning around, we kept going. As I mentioned, there is quite a bit of pushing involved once you reach the back of the canyon. After crossing the saddle the trail turns into Mail Cabin to Mikesell. From there it’s up and down for another 4.5 miles before reaching Mikesell Canyon. While most of this stretch is ride-able there are more than a few pitches that will have you on your feet shoving the bike up the hill in front of you. We ended the ride with Mikesell which was even better after having ridden it once since I knew what to expect.
It probably all depends on the person but for most people these trails are not what you’d consider an especially fun ride. Once or twice I was reminded by Beth that she was not having the best of times. But, if it’s a tough workout, an adventure, great views, or solitude in the wilderness that you’re looking for, these trails just might be for you. For those of you looking for a leisurely uphill and smooth sailing back down, believe me: this is not that.
I added photos and updated the trail map pages for Pole Canyon, Mail Cabin, Mail Cabin to Mikesell, and Mikesell Canyon. I kind of screwed up when riding Pole Canyon to Mikesell and forgot to stop/restart the GPS track after merging into Mikesell Canyon. I’ll have to take another lap on that at some point. Maybe I can go up West Pole Canyon to get there next time so I can be finished with that area for a while.