FOCF is committed to maintaining and expanding our trail network. The Little Larch Mountain Trail (LLMT) is an example of a new facility we’ve built utilizing modern design methods resulting better drainage, less erosion and reduced future maintenance. The trail is comprised of three parts: a Skills Loop, a mostly downhill Super-D-type trail, and then a flatter, more XC-like trail with lots of pumps to roll or jump. This last section is good for beginners, but the second section will be pretty hairy for them, with the first section being somewhere in the middle in terms of difficulty.
View Capitol State Forest – Y to Fall Creek in a larger map
Atop Little Larch Mountain, right where C-6100 curves left and provides a great view to the southeast, you can find room to park. Just downhill and on the right is the entrance to the skills loop. The very start is a challenging rocky ramp which you might have to bail on several times until you conquer it. Try different lines, but one thing is for sure, carrying some speed really helps. Fight for it, and when you finally clear it, you’ll be celebrating. If you are having trouble with this section, don’t despair, it is significantly harder than what follows. Walk it for now, but try it every time you visit and you will prevail!
Following that rocky “gate” is a switchback climb that warms you up for what follows. Towards the end of this climb, you’ll start to see some optional skill tests, like stumps or tiny logrides. When you see the vista open up to your right, you’re atop Little Larch Mountain (LLM). It’s a nice view to take in and catch you breath at. More good news — you’re done climbing!
Various skill tests await you, and it is a good idea to look at them or walk them before you do them for the first time. There are alternate parallel routes for almost all of them if you want to bypass a particular test. Log rides are best done with some speed, and looking ahead where you WANT your bike to go. Going too slow and/or looking right in front of your bike makes it much harder to balance. Most of the small jumps can actually be rolled over, though a couple have a more sheer far side, and are like tiny drops. Again look at them and then try ‘em.
Lots of folks work on each test a few times until mastered before moving on to the next one. Others ride through the whole loop several times to improve. Of course you can combine the two approaches, with several laps, working an area a few times before doing the rest of the loop. Never feel bad about walking a section or rolling a jump instead of catching air — always be in control of your bike.
After the short-but-steep downhill-to-uphill part, the skills loop starts a gradual descent back to the road you started at. You’ll enjoy berms, jumps and drops a plenty along the way. NOTE: the trail forks in just a bit. Unless you are comfortable with a serious descending logride, stay to the right. Wow, looks like a “chamois-filler”, but some folks have mad skills!
Right before the skills loop ends, there is another swooping down-and-up. This one entails a change of direction, however, so take care not to ride your brakes too much, lest you loose traction and go off-trail or have an untimely meeting with that tree. Missed it? Good! Now celebrate with a little downhill finish and perhaps some air at the bottom.
So, do you hit the rewind button and climb C-6100 back to the skills loop start for another go at it, or do you cross the road and continue down to the second section of the trail? Well, we’ve already covered the upper loop, so let’s continue heading on down, shall we?
Heading downhill, so you get a break, right? Not so fast — you’ll have to negotiate a slippery route between two stumps before you can roll on down to the berm-a-delic log ride-a-palooza… Too much? Sorry, but it’s just so much FUN! Way to go FOCF trail builders! Novices and experienced riders alike will find stuff to work on and enjoy.
The trail gets steeper, and has tight switchbacks to milk the most linear footage out of the descent into the Valley that Sherman and Fall Creeks flow into. Try to avoid skidding a rear tire on the switchbacks (or anywhere else for that matter) as it tears up the trail, and this section is steeper, and already has to contend with rainfall runoff. Besides, you’ll actually have more control if your wheels keep rolling than if either or both lock/skid. Try to get your braking done before the turns, weight your outside pedal (so it is at the bottom of your pedal stroke) and coast through the turn. Once you clear it and right yourself, then you can safely apply your brakes again.
Rather than give you an inch-by-inch report of the middle section, we’ll just say that it’s a kick. There’s one alternate route near the bottom worth mentioning, though. Near the apex of a left-hand curve, you’ll notice a turnoff. If you take that, you’ll be lined up with a serious down-and-up whoop, and, shortly after, another one. You’re going to want to have your act together before you tackle them. The transition between the down and up sections is pretty sudden, making it very challenging. Apparently, a fairly aggressive attack with elbows out can help you prevent the bike either shooting out from underneath you or shooting you out over your bars. It is difficult to even walk these sections to suss them out, so be careful. The easy and hard routes join again in just a short bit (often a muddy left for the easy route), and then again swoop down a gentle grade to a road crossing.
The LLMT now continues on, through the clearcut, paralleling C-6000 towards Sherman Creek. If you want to get back to the middle parking area, bear right at the fork. If you want to hit the flowy third section with “pumps” in it, bear left. This last section is relatively flat, and a much better bet for young or novice riders. There are some jumps, but most everything is rollable if air isn’t your cup of tea. As you head back into the trees, there is a short uphill section that can be tire you out if you’ve been pushing yourself all the way to this point. Things get wetter and more slippery where there is more shade, so keep your eyes open and your wits about you. You’ll know you are approaching the very end of the trail when it turns into steep descent again. You’ll be left in a clearing near Sherman Creek, near some large “ecology blocks” to keep cars out. Make sure you don’t obstruct others who are zooming out of the trail’s end, or you might have a very unpleasant experience!
What to do now? Head to the right, back up the road to do it all again? Head left to Fall Creek Trailhead for Featured Ride #1: Fall Creek 8-50-6?
The Little Larch Mountain Trail was built by FOCF volunteers. Why not lend them a hand? Every time you ride there you’ll feel a sense of pride knowing you helped make something tons of folks enjoy.