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FATMAP difficulty grade
Ester Dome is the premier mountain bike trail system in Fairbanks, Alaska.
This tightly-wound trail network was machine built from the ground up by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers. The trails are situated on the side of a small mountain, which helps keep them out of the wet, marshy areas found closer to the city.
The flowy trails swoop through a beautiful aspen grove as they roll up, down, and around the hillsides.
While the aspen grove the trails run through is itself beautiful, you'll unfortunately never reach an opening in the trees to enjoy a vista over the city below. There are multiple loops on this little mountainside, but the route shown here tries to maximize the mileage found in the network.
It's quite easy to shorten this ride by either riding just the inner loop, just the outer loop, or some other derivative thereof. While the trails flow and swoop really well, and you'll find berms in multiple corners and some fun rollers in between, there aren't any true jumps to speak of.
In fact, all of the trails here are very nontechnical.
This might be some of the least technical mountain biking you can imagine. Some websites rate the trails here as intermediate, with one optional trail rated as a black diamond.
Let me be frank: the optional descent down Helter Skelter is by no means a black diamond trail, no matter what the trail sign says.
That's not a knock against it, because Helter Skelter is a fun little romp.
Rather, it's just an honest analysis of these trails as compared to the global array of mountain bike trail opportunities.
On a global scale, Ester Dome only warrants an "Easy" FATMAP difficulty.
If you go looking around, you can find one pretty substantial ladder drop at the top of the Henderson Drop-In trail, but that's quite out of character for this trail system. That's not to say these trails aren't fun to ride, though! If you find yourself in Fairbanks, you should definitely give Ester Dome a whirl.
The easy technical difficulty does not mean that you won't get a workout here, either.
While the grades on all of the trails are manageable, you'll still climb about 1,500 vertical feet along this 8-mile loop, which means the trails are rather aerobically intense.
If you are indeed bringing a new mountain biker along for their first ride, consider pedaling just one of the loops instead of combining them.