Mt. Elwell Loop

Ride your bike over a gnarly mountain peak!

Mountain Biking Severe

Distance
18 km
Ascent
783 m
Descent
783 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
1.8 km
High Point
2.4 km
Gradient
11˚
Mt. Elwell Loop Map

If you’re tired of the easy life spent riding to the top in shuttle vans and are looking for a challenging day in the Lost Sierra, head to Mt. Elwell.

Description

The ride begins in the Lakes Basin area, passing many of the iconic lakes such as Big Bear Lake and Round Lake. The Lakes Basin trails are technical and decidedly not bike-optimized, with challenging boulder moves and rock gardens both up and down the mountain. The technicality is best viewed as a feature and not a bug—the challenging rocks attract riders from across the country looking to test their bike handling mettle.

Getting up Elwell is mostly rideable if you are feeling pretty peppy… otherwise, there’s a significant amount of hike-a-bike required to get up the mountain. If you’ve spent any time pushing your bike up mountains in places like Colorado or British Columbia, you won’t find Elwell to be brutally gnarly or overly challenging… it’s just kinda steep. The trail to the top is actually quite well maintained, which could lead to some form of rideability when coupled with good fitness. But if you’ve never pushed your bike to the top of a mountain before… you’re in for a learning experience.

Once on top of the peak, your effort will be rewarded with stupendous views of the Lake Basin and the surrounding Sierras! Be sure to scramble up one of the small rock outcroppings for an even better perspective, and enjoy a snack while you soak in the view.

Off the backside of Mount Elwell, the descent is steep, fast, and technical with quite a bit of variety. The trail begins with some tight, challenging rock features and rock gardens up top, but after a couple hundred yards, it opens up and is noticeably less challenging. As you descend, you’ll encounter entertaining slickrock slabs to roll and wallride.

As you continue descending, the trail opens up into some wide-open high-speed straightaways that allow you to absolutely blaze down the mountainside!

Before you know it, you’ll be back down at the bottom, asking yourself, “how is it over so quickly?"

Difficulty

Severe

Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

July, August, September, October

Features

  • Technical
  • Picturesque
  • Singletrack
  • Drops
  • Roots
  • Rock Rolls
  • Rock Slabs
  • Rock Gardens

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area