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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 'other' SR 410 rides – Suntop & Crystal, September 2012

Rounding out the selection of assorted MTB rides along the SR 410 corridor, Suntop Mountain and Crystal Mountain offer more of the same quality single-track similar to that found on the NE side of the White River Valley. The ~20 mile Suntop loop starts with a 6 mile road climb to reach a bit of a saddle and where the regular trailhead starts. Continue up for an additional mile or two past the gate to reach the Suntop Lookout proper. There’s an excellent view of Mt. Rainier from up here providing the air isn’t as smoky as it was this year!

For the return, there’s a fair amount of undulating terrain to get past before real downhill fun begins. Having rushed through the first half of the ride, I was pretty well spent by the time I dropped into Buck Creek Valley and started down the rippin’ Fawn Ridge descent. With failing brakes, I barely hung on through the tight switchbacks on the final slope flanking White River Valley. Eventually reaching the valley floor at the Ranger Creek landing strip, I passed on the Skookum Flats Trail for a faster option and rode the highway back to where I parked on FS Rd #73.

If riding the ~14 mile Crystal loop counter-clockwise as Eric and I did, a good place to start is the horse camp on the west side of the Crystal Mountain Boulevard. From there we proceeded to grind up trail 1163 – a trail familiar to me thanks to countless ‘Northback’ ski adventures over the years. Eventually reaching the meadowed ridge crest, the trail turns south and traverses more of Crystal’s winter-time ‘slack country’ north of Morning Glory Bowl. It ends finally at the resort’s access road near Northway Peak. After a break at the Summit House, we began the descent picking up the single-track again at the base of Powder Bowl. Traversing the chutes above Bear Pits, we made our way towards A-Basin and then Silver Basin on excellent single-track. The final, long descent now along the east-side of Silver Creek is a white-knuckle adrenaline joy ride and makes for a fitting finish to a thoroughly enjoyable day of mountain biking.

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