Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paradise Royale

There are few things I enjoy more than a road trip involving camping and mountain biking, and a trip to Paradise Royale is one such place. The appropriately named trail system is located in the heart of the King Range, which is a stretch of coastal mountains along what is known as the "Lost Coast". It is an area so rugged and steep that the engineers building Highway 1 decided to move the coastal highway 20 or so miles inland to avoid it. As a result, this is one of the most pristine and undeveloped areas along the entire California coast. 

The area is served by a few rugged mountain roads, most of which are dirt, and some of which are not passable any time of year by anything other than a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. (HINT: Driving on Usal Road with a Subaru north of Usal campground is not recommended, unless you enjoy filling in giant ruts with whatever logs and rocks you can find in the forest, destroying your car's undercarriage, and knocking your bikes off your roof rack with low-hanging branches - just sayin'...). Fortunately, the Paradise Royale trailhead is located only about a few miles down a well-graded and smooth dirt road suitable for any 2WD.

Paradise Royale was built by a partnership of the BLM and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). So basically, this is one of the very few trail systems that was built by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers. All non-motorized users are welcome to use the trails, but the trail-head sign says that hikers and equestrians must yield to mountain bikes. I think it's worthwhile to drive all the way up there just to take a photo of that sign. The trails contain perfect switchbacks, smooth rollers, berms, and jumps, which are all sustainably built. It's a beauty to ride on. 

For accommodation, the nearest town -  Shelter Cove - is accessible by paved road, and has very nice places to stay right next to the ocean. However, I personally prefer camping! The Tolkan campground has a trailhead RIGHT THERE! So you can unzip out of your tent, make your cup o' joe, hop on your bike and head straight out onto the trail. 

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