We’ve wanted to check out the Paradise Royale Trail System since we heard about it a few years ago. Built by the BLM and IMBA after a number of trails in the King Range area were rendered unrideable, (due to the Wilderness bill) the system includes a 14 mile XC loop (there are plans to expand the mileage) and a bike park with trail features provided by Alpine Bike Parks. The downside? To reach the trail destination, you’ll need to invest in several hours of drive time.
Although we’ve heard a number of mixed reviews, we make it our mission to ride new stuff whenever possible, and made plans to ride it. Due to the time investment in getting there, we elected to make weekend of it.
During our initial riding planning, we had discussed camping as there isn’t much in the way of lodging close by. In the spring and summer mosquitoes are an issue, so the dry winter we were experiencing seemed to be excellent timing. After our last riding trip with Bill and Sue of Ashland Mountain Adventures, we made plans to meet up for an epic weekend getaway with awesome couple riding friends, and we elected to rent a house for the weekend instead of roughing it.
The drive from the main highway is over 20 miles long and littered with twists and turns. Riding in the back of the van made for a slightly unpleasant experience and we did our best to avoid getting queasy on the endless bends of the road. Fortunately we managed to avoid full blown nausea and we arrived in decent spirits.
While planning the trip, we had spend a good amount of time looking for trail photos to see what the terrain was like, and didn’t have a lot of luck finding much. Now we were here, I could see why. Although the terrain is beautiful, the single track is hidden under the tree canopy, and available light is minimal. Based on how remote the site is and reported break-ins, the SLR was left behind in favor of a compact camera to focus more on enjoying the trail than taking photos.
We began the loop headed clockwise, the recommended direction for the best descent.
I came to the conclusion I brought the wrong setup almost right away. The tread is mostly groomed with a layer of leaves and pine needles, and felt slow on my High Rollers. In hindsight, a faster rolling tire would have been a nice. With a lack of technical features and the trail is laid out, hammering is encouraged for the best results. Like much of the riding in the northwest, the trail experience is fun, but the smooth tread requires momentum in order to maximize flow.
The trail features two stream crossings and a lack of bridges to pass them. Although it’s been a dry winter for most of California, the rain we received the day before was enough to partially derail our ride plans.
When we got to the first stream crossing, the decision was made to turn back and attempt the trail in a counter clockwise direction to see how far we could make it. After all, we did drive hours to get here.
The other crossing was passable, but left us with wet feet to continue the ride. Both Andrea and myself were feeling very anti-wet shoes, and elected to do the crossing barefoot in order to continue the ride with dry footwear. Fortunately the rocks were round and a barefoot passing was doable, if a bit slow.
The rest of the trail was a good time, though it lacked in unique views or scenery. There were a lot of trees, insloped turns and some fun sections, but for how remote it was, it could have been any trail in northern California or Oregon.
The ride of the trail itself is inline with many of the XC style flow trails popping up all over. I found it to be very similar to the trails at Sandy Ridge near Portland, Oregon. Even the rolling, insloped switch back turns were similar, with a large radius that were easy to climb or descend. Unfortunately, the riding experience reminded me of recent articles that have surfaced on line recently, regarding the standardization of trails.
And the verdict is…
If the trail was close to home, I’d definitely be hitting it up on the regular. However, after the time investment in getting there, it was a bit of a letdown. In comparison to amazing trail destinations like the McKenzie River Trail, which is a unique and truly epic experience with amazing views, a big variety in tread surfaces and a length long enough to leave you wanting for more. On the drive out, opinions on the trail were mixed. If you’re looking for an XC ride on mostly smooth terrain with good flow and don’t mind a long drive, you’d enjoy it.
Although the trail was fun, I’m not sure we’re planning to head back any time soon. We have dozens of great trails to check off our NorCal bucket list before we circle back to do this one again.
The trail also features a bike park, which does make it stand out. The downhill flow/ jump trail was a bigger than I expected. If you come to camp, bring a rake and some tools to groom the course, as it was under a heavy layer of leaves and debris. Just be careful and ride smart, as you’re miles from an emergency response team.
The next day we elected to ride another trail system making the trip more than worth it: Tish Tang Ridge.