A classic ride to an alpine lake.


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FATMAP difficulty grade



Sheep Lake is a classic out-and-back mountain bike ride to an alpine lake that requires zero navigational know-how.

You simply climb the singletrack to the lake (and note the one sign at the only trail junction to keep climbing the correct direction) and then return the same way that you came.

While the navigation is simple, this stunning mountain bike ride is a worthy adventure that everyone should put on their list. The ride begins by slowly ascending alongside the creek on a narrow, rocky singletrack trail through meadows filled with wildflowers.

Soon, the trail begins heading uphill in earnest via a steep series of switchbacks.

While these switchbacks are mostly rideable, some sections could require hike-a-biking.

If the weather is hot, this section provides a nice relief as it passes through a beautifully shaded forest. Along the climb, listen for the roar of Sheep Creek Falls.

An unmarked trail off one of the switchbacks leads to an arrestingly beautiful view of a cascading waterfall, which offers the perfect excuse to take a break during the climb. After breaking out of the trees, the grade mellows a bit as the climb passes through gorgeous alpine meadows.

Here, the views of the surrounding mountain peaks really open up! Unfortunately, the grade kicks back up again toward the top, and will require many riders to hike-a-bike up some steep rocky sections.

But finally, you'll reach Sheep Lake! This crystal-clear alpine lake lies just below a vaulted range of rocky peaks, offering an idyllic spot to stop and enjoy a lunch or an icy swim in the clear water. Now comes the fun part! You'll get to rip downhill on the fast, chunky, challenging singletrack that you just climbed.

While the trail isn't exceedingly technical, the challenging rock gardens coupled with the narrow trail tread aren't to be trifled with.

Even the wide-open fast sections can be challenging, as you have to keep your tire pointed straight down a narrow trench of a singletrack.

Clipping the sides of the trench can cause you to careen off the trail, so proceed with caution.

Also, be sure to ride heads-up and expect both uphill riders and hikers heading to the lake. **Note:** The Lionhead is renowned as prime grizzly bear country.

Signs at every trailhead warn that bears are highly active in the area.

Mountain biking is considered a high-risk activity in grizzly bear country due to the quiet speed of a bicycle and how quickly you can accidentally sneak up on a bear when rounding a blind turn.

To mitigate this risk, make plenty of noise while riding, try to ride with a group of people, and consider attaching a bear bell to your handlebars.

Also, make certain that you carry bear spray with you every time you ride, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.