Greenhorn was the first ride Brian proposed. Brian, a local at Backwoods Mountain Sports said the loop would involve quite a bit of climbing at the start. But he promised me I would love the downhill at the end.
I did not call this ride Greenhorn because I traveled on the Greenhorn Trail, but because that was the name of the road and trailhead. I actually motated on five different trails. Here I will list them in the order I visited them.
• Cow Creek Connector Trail (#153)
• Lodgepole Trail (#310)
• Mahoney – Lodgepole Connector Trail (#819)
• Mahoney Trail (#821)
• Greenhorn Trail (#156)
• Imperial Trail (#315)
The Greenhorn Trailhead was teeming with autos, trucks, and horse trailers when we arrived around 11:30 am. I know that sounds like a terrible start. But as I stated on one of my previous blogs, the sun stays up until 9:30 pm and complete darkness arrives about 10:00. We have not eaten a dinner before 9:00 this entire trip! Going to bed when we have enough daylight to read a book seems just wrong!
Note** If you find these photos distorted or the map below does not show up, please click Greenhorn to view the actual page rather than the email version.
- Below you will find a map for Greenhorn.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
I finally found the trailhead for the Cow Creek Connector Trail at the west end of the parking lot, heading north. (All kinds of trails leave from the Greenhorn Trailhead, and most of them head southwest from the kiosk.) By looking at the map ahead of time I knew I would a lot of climbing would be necessary right at the start. All of these trails in Sun Valley seem to start with a stiff climb. I guess the reason is because the mountains here just seem to jut straight up out of the valley floor.
After I had gained over 1,000 feet in the first 4.1 miles (on the Cow Creek Connector) I wondered if I was ever going to stop the grind. The ascent did provide me with awesome views of the trailhead and the valley below it. I waved to Cindy far below at the trailhead but I don’t think she was looking.
The climbing also kept giving me an ever improving look at a huge mass of rock to the south, called Mahoney Butte. Actually, this entire ride appeared to circle around that mountain.
Next came the Lodgepole Trail. While on the Lodgepole Trail I gradually gained elevation while I rode next to the creek. Lodgepole Gulch (and the trail) were almost perfectly straight and filled with burned trees and beautiful wildflowers.
At one point I saw a deer but was not able to get a great shot of her since she managed to stay behind just enough brush to prevent a good photo.
After riding about two miles next to the creek I finally climbed out of the end of the canyon and was all ready to celebrate when I noticed the trail continued up a mountain!
I was saving my ‘lunch” for when I reached the top but decided to stop and eat my apple and nut bar anyway. I had done exactly the same thing the day before on my climb to Pioneer Cabin. Sometimes my body needs the boost before I reach my predetermined goal (or I might be just “wussing” out!)
As I enjoyed my nutrition I was mesmerized by the view of the Pioneer Mountains to the east. I thought it incredible I was riding just below those peaks just one day earlier!
After “gorging” myself I set out to reach the top.
I rode up strong up the steep trail for a while but ended up hike-a-biking. As I was pushing I noticed some bright colors filtering through the trunks of the trees. I finally determined I was seeing a person in riding clothes. Suddenly embarrassed by the fact I was walking I hopped back onto my bike and powered around the turn. What I saw was a guy and a motorcycle standing on the other side of a trail sign.
As I rode up to the sign I noticed the fellow, a young middle aged man dressed in a full, off-road motorcycle suit. He seemed to be studying me carefully. Once I stopped he kind of grinned and said, “Hey man, are you okay?”
I was not sure why he acted so concerned. Had he seen me pushing my bike before I noticed him or was his concern just based upon my appearance as I rode up … sweat pouring off my face and jersey soaked? Maybe he just noticed the pained expression on my face.
After thinking all this through I decided to just say, “Yup, I am okay.”
Then the man asked me which way I was headed. I figured I had to go left as the trail I was on ended at the sign. But I took a moment to look at the sign before answering, and the fellow said, “If you are planning on doing the Imperial downhill I was just over there and it is in great shape.”
“Yup, Imperial is where I am headed,” I confirmed. “Then you will want to go left,” he offered in a fatherly tone.
I asked him where he was headed and he said he wanted to check out a trail called, “Red Warrior.”
“I am surprised they can still call a trail Red Warrior,” I responded. He nodded his head, then said, “Hey, I’ve got to get going.” Next he kick started his loud machine, and raced out of there.
I looked at the sign again. A left arrow appeared in front of the words, “Mahoney- Lodgepole Connector (#819),” and decided he was correct.
I found the first part of Trail #819 all chewed up and switchbacking down a steep hill. The soil was a mix of powdery dirt and rocks the size of a shoe. I could see how my new buddy had spun his wheels to negotiate the steep incline and sharp turns.
When people lump motorcycle trail users with mountain bikers I don’t think they realize we don’t tear things up by spinning our wheels climbing. Sure, skidding on downhills sometimes causes damage but even then, our bikes only weigh between 20 to 30 pounds … much less than a skidding motorcycle weighing 200-250 pounds.
At the bottom of the hill Trail #819 firmed up and turned out to be a lot of fun.
Based on the map the Greenhorn Trail looks to be one of the longer ones in the area. The short portion I used was an easy ride along a couple of mountain crests with small ups and downs. From these ridge tops I could see both the continuation of the Greenhorn and the Imperial Trail far below. Soon the Greenhorn finally took a huge drop to meet up with the Imperial Trail.
The Greenhorn-Imperial Junction looked exactly as Brian had described … a couple of patio chairs and a table. The table was missing the legs and I am not sure the chairs were strong enough to hold up my two year old grandson (Acoya)!
The Imperial Trail turned out to be my favorite, by far. But an immediate climb through a saddle had me worried at first!
While shooting down a smooth singletrack I came to a section of loose shale and noticed a young-middle aged woman walking her bike.
Bill and Julee
I slowed and told her I didn’t blame her for walking the section. Then I demonstrated how to ride that type of trail. Using my superior bike handling skills (haha), I rode right down the middle of the rock, my front tire bouncing this way and that. I made no turns, just stood on my pedals, put my buns a couple of inches off my rear tire, and held on. After I passed she yelled, “Can you tell my husband I am okay?” I hollered back, “Sure,” soon passing out of the shale and onto some nice tread.
Bill and I were waiting when Julee rode up at the bottom of the hill. I blurted out, “Wow, look at you. You are doing great!”
I told them Cindy was taking up mountain biking at an advanced age and Bill said Julie had only been riding for three years. He told me to take Cindy out on dirt roads … that Julee had started out in that fashion.
I got a photo of Bill and Julee and we spoke about mountain biking in the Lake Tahoe area. They live in the Tahoe area so they had some trails to suggest.
Finally I said goodbye and took off down some challenging singletrack, twisted through some tight turns, bounced over some loose rock and drove straight off the trail! I had been traveling way to fast to make the turn at the bottom of the hill, and followed the tracks of many others who had overshot. After I stopped I pushed my bike back onto the trail, planning on getting some action shots of Bill and Julee.
Bill came along a couple of minutes later and I snapped my phone shutter several times. Julee came maybe five minutes after Bill. I took no photos of her … I got to talking to Bill and just plain forgot! (Unfortunately the shots of Bill were into the sun and did not turn out real well anyway!)
As the three of us were speaking a fellow from Great Britain cruised up and began to speak with Bill and Julee about trails in Tahoe. He began to look back up the hill saying he was waiting for other riders. At this point I decided I needed to get going down the hill as Cindy would be waiting.
Finishing the Imperial Trail
I said goodbye again and raced hard down the Imperial Trail. What a blast! More than three more miles of delicious, downhill spaghetti (with just a little uphill).
Cindy was waiting under the shade covers adjacent to the Greenhorn Trailhead. She said she thought I would take longer than I did. I told her about meeting Bill and Julee and how we must have spoken for a good 20 to 30 minutes. She suggested we wait so she could meet Bill and Julee. However, I told her the last few miles of the Imperial Trail required quite a few advanced mountain biking skills. “I don’t think they are going to be down for quite a while,” I informed her. “I think Julee is going to have to take it pretty slow down some of those difficult stretches.”
Driving to Camp
As we drove back to our camp site Cindy told me she had hiked up the same trail upon which I had started (Cow Creek Connector) and was also amazed at how quickly the trail gained altitude. Once she had reached the top of the hill she took a connector over to the Greenhorn Trail and ended up doing a 2+ mile hike.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 75 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for this ride … just click on the box below.
Would you like to try this ride? You can copy my GPX file from the Strava Link below.