Mountain Biking Phillip’s Ridge, Arrow Trail, and Phillip’s Canyon
Phillip’s Ridge? A “must do,” according to Jeff, a local mountain biker and brother-in-law to a ride buddy of mine. Jeff gave me some ideas regarding which trails to ride (in addition to Phillip’s Ridge). He also told me how I could link them together. Jeff advised me to visit Wilson Back Country Sports and ask their opinion as to how to do the ride.
I had planned on doing Phillip’s Ridge the previous day but had decided to postpone the ride a day due to the excessive smoke caused by a wildfire south of the area. (Instead I did a ride in Idaho … see Horseshoe Loop). Unfortunately, when we arose the next day the smoke was just as thick or thicker. But, since we had planned to leave for central Idaho the following morning I decided to do the ride anyway.
Note** If these photos are distorted or the map below does not show up, please click Phillip’s Ridge to view the actual page rather than this email version.
When I entered Wilson Back Country sports the next morning I met a worker named Loren. I shared Jeff’s ideas on how to link trails to Phillip’s Ridge and he listened intently. Loren then took me over to a map and showed me what Jeff had in mind. Jeff’s plan was to ride up the paved Old Pass Road. Then take the Arrow Trail which would lead to Phillips Ridge. ”I don’t know about you, but I don’t like riding up any paved road on a mountain bike ride,” Loren stated. He then continued, “Even if that road is closed to autos.” Instead Loren suggested I start at the opposite of Phillip’s Ridge … on Fish Creek Road.
- Below you will find a map for Phillip’s Ridge.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
“One of my favorite rides involves taking Phillip’s Ridge all the way to the top, then taking the Arrow Trail to Phillip’s Canyon which returns to the Fish Creek Trailhead,” he offered. He showed me the track on a map and instantly I knew I would follow his advice. “Now, mind you, Phillip’s Canyon is a little technical,” he warned. That warning got me thinking, for Josie had used those same words regarding Phillip’s Canyon on my first ride in the area (see Game Creek Loop). From my past experience I have found some good riders use the expression “a little technical” to mean “a lot of technical.” I could hardly wait to see what the expression meant to these two locals.
After Cindy dropped me at the Fish Creek trailhead and I started up the hill I had to call her to return so I could get my water bottle out of the ice chest. Leaving without my bottle would not only deprive me of twenty four ounces of ice cold Skratch, but would force me to mix the powder I had brought in my Camelback bladder. Not what I like to do!
After getting the bottle and riding back up the trail a bit I stopped to take a photo of a gushing stream. I love taking photos of water … we don’t have any in Southern California!
Just as I was pulling my phone out of the pouch on my belt a rider sped by and stopped a good twenty yards past the bridge. I continued with my photo, adjusting the zoom for a close up. Soon after I realized he was yelling, “Hey,” at me (the sound of the rushing water was pretty loud). When I finally looked at him he said, “I saw a big pile of bear shit on the trail up by the top … so keep your eyes open!” I told him thanks and we both went our own way.
I knew I was in for a lot of climbing to get up Phillip’s Ridge. I was pleased to find how well the builders had designed the trail. The following were most welcome:
- Most of the climbing was in the shade.
- The majority of the trail was well groomed, with smooth berms provided on each corner.
- The trail was not too steep. (Despite having to climb over two thousand feet in elevation not once did I have to get off my bike and push!)
- Provided Views. At times the trail ran close to the edge of the ridge providing incredible views.
Many of the switchback corners were supported by log structures. I am sure these corners were not easy to build but they sure provided a great place to change directions.
About two miles up the trail passed through a thicket of bushes (no trees here). As I was rounding the corner of a switchback I heard some heavy rustling in the brush on my left, the downhill side. I thought I must have come upon a deer as the noises were too large for any other small critter. However, usually deer take off at the first bit of any sound. I got off my bike and went to the edge of the trail to look over the bush. Just as I did this a face popped up, looking back at me … a bear’s face!
I have seen many a bear in the Sierra Nevada but I have never looked directly into their eyes from so short a distance. I fumbled for my phone but, of course it had gotten into “Photo Review” mode. By the time I hit the back button and raised the phone to take the photo the face had disappeared. I raised my hands as high as I could and snapped a photo anyway, hoping to capture some part of him (the blown up photo below shows I just barely caught a piece of his ear).
He then headed down the hill, breaking out of the brush about fifty yards below. I zoomed the phone in as far as it would go but the images don’t do much to show a bear.
At around the four and a half mile mark I began to hear a stick pinging around inside my rear wheel. This happens often in woodsy areas and usually the twig will fly out of the wheel after a few turns. However, after several rotations of my wheel the wood never came out. So I stopped, only to find the “twig” was actually a spoke … a broken spoke. How could I break a spoke riding up a smooth trail uphill?
I twisted the loose pieces around an adjacent spoke and continued on. I began to worry about my wheel holding up on the technical sections later on the Phillip’s Canyon Trail.
The remainder of the trip to the top was pretty uneventful. The setting would have seemed a lot more like the wild if the trail had not zigzagged under a set of huge power lines about 10 times. I took several photos from Phillip’s Ridge thinking I would most likely get better ones at the top. Based on the map Loren gave me I knew the top was at just about 8,400 feet in elevation. Since I did have a working GPS (unlike my Game Creek Ride) I had a pretty good idea how much climbing I had left.
Once I reached a clearing near the top I followed a two track up a slight hill. At the top I found a building sitting adjacent to a fifty foot tower. I was shocked when I noticed the tower had a good metal ladder and no signs or barricades preventing a person from climbing.
When I reached a height of about twenty feet I began to worry about someone showing up and finding me at the top of their tower. Therefore, I climbed back down. I know if my older brother George had been with me we would have both gone to the top. George has always been a bad influence on me!
Leaving the tower I rode back down to the sign for the trail junction and the glider port. As soon as I stopped the flies started landing, huge flies trying to take chunks of my flesh for their lunch. I quickly grabbed my apple and headed out to the hang glider port, leaving my backpack and bike at the junction.
A hang glider port consists of a wide open space for launching the glider and a couple of poles with ribbons to show the direction of the wind. I didn’t need the ribbons to tell me the wind was whistling up the hill, which I think glider pilots desire. I know this mountain biker appreciated the breeze for preventing the killer flies from landing and taking large pieces of his body!
When I returned to the junction they were waiting for me. I hurriedly at my Nature Valley Sweet & Salty nut bar, mixed a jug of Scratch, and got the heck out of there! My figuring was the apple and bar more than made up for the body mass I had lost to the flies.
I decided to stay on the Phillip’s Ridge Trail instead of taking the Sno Tel Trail as I wanted to ride as much of the Arrow Trail as I could. Every person I spoke with had raved about the Arrow Trail. By taking the Sno Tel Trail I would have shortened my ride on the Arrow by a couple of miles.
The remainder of the Phillip’s Ridge Trail was mostly loose rock and dust. I met a guy and his lady friend coming toward me and told the girl she was a stud-ette for riding up that mess!
The Arrow Trail
The Arrow trail was nice except for having to climb 10 switchbacks to get back into Phillip’s Canyon. Once I was headed down into the canyon the Arrow Trail became a lot more fun. The majority of the trail looped through the huge trunks of old growth trees. The trail tread was moist and sticky dirt with an occasional rock obstacle to make things interesting.
Twice the trail passed over creeks spanned by single logs flattened on the top side. The second log crossing brought me to the Phillip’s Canyon Trail. The best was saved for last.
Phillip’s Canyon Trail
Like I said earlier, two experienced riders told me the Phillip’s Canyon Trail was a “little technical.” I had been somewhat anxious about what that meant. Six foot drops off of boulders? Riding skinny bridges across gaping gulches? Fording deep waters without a boat?
Well, turns out these two riders were being quite literal. A “little technical,” meant exactly that. The skinny bridges were a good two feet wide logs spanning creeks immediately below. Drops were typically in the six inch range, with a few maybe twelve. I did have to navigate some steep rock gardens and loose downhill dirt stretches. Just a “little technical,” turned out to be a blast!
I rode Phillip’s Canyon as fast as I could and was on the verge of crashing a few times. Phillip’s Canyon Trail. Seven miles of singletrack snaking down the left side of the canyon. I passed through dense forest, beds of flowers, crossed small meadows, and sped across water on logs. The best riding I have gotten to do in a long time!
I popped out of the jungle and rode across the street to the Fish Creek Trailhead and called Cindy. My text told her I would be riding the three and a half miles into town to get my spoke fixed. I also wanted to thank Loren for suggesting such a great ride. She had just finished hiking up Snow King Mountain so the timing worked out pretty well.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 76 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.