Getting advanced at the Lunch Loop
In my previous column I wrote about some of the most popular trails reached from the main Tabeguache/Lunch Loop parking lot. These trails are great for short loops, an hour to 90 minutes, but for those of you looking for longer or more technically advanced rides, here are three you should try.
Like many others, Holy Cross can be accessed from the main parking lot. Climb up the main trail past turnoffs for Pet-Y-Kes and High Noon. Just after High Noon you’ll climb a bit more and make your way through a final rocky section. There will be a giant boulder on your right sitting all by itself. On the left will be the start of Holy Cross.
The trail is well-signed and is designed to be an expert/advanced trail. Please don’t modify it or create “cheats” around the hard parts. Just do what I do and walk your bike over them.
While Holy Cross isn’t much longer than many other routes you can create here, it is much more technical. Be prepared for bigger drops and tricky rock sections.
Toward the end of the ride you’ll reach a fork. Take the left fork to continue on Holy Cross. You’ll encounter a few final technical moves before reaching another set of trail markers. One will point straight, to Clunker, and the other will point left, up a hill. Climb this short hill to start making your way back to the parking lot.
Holy Cross is a great way to test your skills; the climb to get to it will test your stamina.
Gunny Loop is a fun advanced ride. Some people may ride it faster, but on average I’d say give yourself at least two hours to complete this one.
Again, you can start from the main lot. Climb up as if you’re going to ride Holy Cross. When you turn onto Holy Cross, keep an eye out for the Pre-Nup Trail, which will split off on your right. (Instead of turning left onto Holy Cross you can continue straight up “Widowmaker” hill, but I find Pre-Nup to be more fun.) This connector trail is entertaining and suitably technical. There are some tricky maneuvers and one hike-a-bike set of switchbacks.
At the top of Pre-Nup, go basically straight across Little Park Road. At the lower end of the gravel parking area is the “Gunnector” trail. This rolling piece of single track will take you to an intersection at which you can go left or right. Both will get you to the same spot. The left fork drops you down into a drainage and includes several rideable drops. The longer, right fork keeps you on top of a ridge. Eventually you will find yourself on the actual “Gunny Loop” trail.
Just keep a map close by and pay attention to signs. New ones recently have been added, but sometimes it can be tricky to know which way to go.
From this point Gunny Loop rolls along at a fun pace. You’ll have a few drops, some that you might walk, and you’ll continue coasting down for awhile. We riders know, though, after a long downhill you often end up climbing again, and you will for sure on this ride.
A long singletrack climb leads to a portage before one more short piece of trail takes you back to Little Park Road. The trail continues across the road and to the Clunker/Holy Bucket section of Tabeguache. From here your easiest way back is to turn right onto Clunker and follow it all the way around to its intersection with the end of Holy Cross. Climb right, up the hill, and then follow the signs back to the parking lot.
Unlike Holy Cross and Gunny Loop, you’ll need a shuttle to ride The Ribbon. This trail gets its name from the long “ribbon” of rock it follows down Little Park Road.
Leave one car in the main parking lot at Tabeguache. You’ll end here. Drive the other car up Little Park Road; you’ll pass several trail heads and parking areas. Continue past the Bangs Canyon parking area on your left. Soon on the right you’ll see a sign that says “The Ribbon.” Park in this lot.
The Ribbon trail starts by the bathroom. It rolls out and up onto a huge slab of rock. From this point, just aim down the rock and look for trail markers.
Soon you’ll come to a spot where it looks like the trail can’t go any farther. Look for a small marker with an arrow and then look down in front of it. You’ll see tire tracks below in the dirt. This is leading you to the most technical spot on the trail, called “The Toilet Bowl” by some. This particular piece is hard even to walk down. After that, the trail isn’t hard to follow, but you will have a few sharp turns to watch for. My advice is to take this part of the trail slow, so you don’t miss a turn.
After some climbing, coasting and one hike-a-bike, you’ll come to an intersection that points you left to pick up “Andy’s Loop” or right to head up toward Little Park Road. Start climbing to the right. This long climb is not very technical, but parts of it are exposed, and some parts are sandy. Just be cautious.
Make your way up to Little Park Road and then coast down (left) it to the gated Lunch Loop trail head, which will be on your left. There is a map here as well. From this point we like to ride down Pre-Nup, turn left onto Holy Cross and make our way back to the main Tabeguache trail. You can then choose any option you like: main trail, High Noon, Pet-Y-Kes, etc. Just enjoy knowing that whatever route you choose will be almost all downhill.