5 years ago, during a 10 day expedition, we hiked a section of road paralleling the Lost Coast of Northern California. We were 6 miles in and all of the sudden, a mountain bike rushes past us in the woods, not 10 feet off the road. “WTF??,” I thought. A couple minutes later a truck drives past with 2 all-mountain bikes and a moment later we came across a sign saying “Paradise Royale Mountain Bike Trailhead.” Later, after the trip, I researched the trail and what little I could find all said this trail was the epitome of what mountain biking should be. And thus the dream began of returning and riding those 14 miles.
And yes, it’s taken 5 years to get back there, because who the f&#k wants to drive 5 hours
to ride 14 miles? This better be a damned good trail.
Lucky for me, it was. We headed over for a quick weekend, taking with us our bikes and some essential gear to test out. Getting there in the afternoon, we hit the trail, excited to see what all the hype was about. And let me tell you, the hype was valid. IMBA has teamed up with the BLM of the King Range and Lost Coast of Northern California to create and maintain a spectacular, environmentally sustainable, and challenging,
14 mile single-track trail. With plans to build another 15 or so miles onto the existing one, this could be one of the best trails in the North State. Nestled in the King Range, this trail rolls and climbs, and flows through beautiful forest and past breath-taking views (as long there’s no fog). It has an ascent that lasting almost 3 miles, making even the most fit in your group break a sweat. However, your exhausted and cramping legs are rewarded with some of the most fun and flowy downhill I’ve ever ridden. Grinning and hollering would be an appropriate response during these seemingly endless miles of decent. Getting back to the truck, we were thoroughly exhausted yet feeling accomplished, pizza was the only thing left to make this trail complete.
Things I found to be important to remember about the Paradise Royale trail:
This is a trail best for those experienced on a mountain bike
. Though dismounting is rare, there are definitely technical sections of this trail as well as steep uphill and downhill. Be sure to know the riding skill of everyone you take with you. This trail is can be total sufferfest for those brand new to mountain biking.
Give yourself ample time to ride this trail.
The average time is 2-3 hours, however, this could greatly differ on your riding skill and level of fitness. You definitely want it light out to ride this trail (unless you’re specifically doing it as a night ride) and the fog significantly decreases your light as dusk draws near.
Plan to be fully committed to riding this loop.
There’s very few bail spots on this trail once you leave the paralleling of King’s Peak Rd, and cell reception is spotty at best. If you’re unsure about being able to ride PR, it’s best to play around on the King’s Frolic
section of the trail.
Having good gear on a trip like this is also a plus, here’s what Trek Tech took to the trail:
DiamondBack Mission Pro Mountain Bike: $5,500
This is true all mountain machine, and a great choice for this particular trail. With 27.5” wheels, fatter tires, and 160mm of suspension, this thing rolls and flows over everything. We got to the long 2 mile climb full of switchbacks and let me say, while not the most aggressive climber, it is certainly capable. I may have missed my light and nimble cross country bike, but I was seriously impressed with the way this beast climbed. However, once we got to the long decent, I wished for my XC bike no longer. This decent is built to be ridden fast, and this bike responds. Never have I felt so confident and stable on a downhill. This bike compliments the flow trails and commands the more technical trails.
Pearl Izumi Canyon Short: $80
Many of us mountain bikers can’t quite get on board with all that spandex look, but a lot of us don’t like all this extra fabric waving around and getting caught as we ride. The Canyon Short is the in between. This lightweight, stretch pair of shorts were the perfect bottoms for this longer ride. The detachable chamois liner protected the goods while the outer stretch fabric protected the looks.
Pearl Izumi Elite Gel FF Glove: $40
For cooler weather, full finger gloves are a necessity for me. I don’t want to be thinking about cold fingers while trying to enjoy a downhill section. I also love having padding on the longer rides. My ulnar and radial nerves tend to get a little grumpy after a while, so that precise placement of gel padding the Elite Gel gloves protected those nerves. The gloves allowed me to fully focus on the trail and kept me from experiencing any distracting discomfort.
Giro Xara Helmet: $130
It’s ironic how a good helmet can make you forget you’re wearing one. The Xara is so light and so comfortable; I had to remember to take it off. Riding through soaking wet forest, the Xara deflected raindrops and any rogue branches that tried to hit me in the face. With a design for superior airflow, my head stayed cool when the rest of body was sweating on the grueling switchbacks.
Dakine Drafter 12L: $125
Everybody needs a best friend. The Drafter was mine on the trail. Enough space to fit the needs like a pump, chain lube, some food, and water, and a little bit more to fit the rest. It has a helmet carry system on the outside of the pack that can carry both a full face or a trail helmet. And because of the air mesh back panel and shoulder straps, my sweat marks were only a minor distraction when I took the pack off after the ride. The Drafter is the perfect pack on those short-middle distance rides when all you need to carry are the basics plus a little extra.
Oakley RadarLock Glasses with Trail specifc Prizm Lenses: $220+
These glasses are impressive. Not only do they enhance color, sharpness, and clarity, they enhance specific
colors. The Prizm Lenses brought out the reds and browns of my surroundings, making the trail stand out more to me than anything else. These lenses enhance safety. They do, however, tend to fog up after you stop if you’ve been sweating, nothing most mountain bikers aren’t used to. The frame is a whole other thing by itself. Comfortable and totally secure, these bad boys are going anywhere on those fast or bumpy trails.
So, if you do find yourself hankering for a road trip, or just want to ride this trail so badly, you just don’t give a shit about the drive, here’s some things to make your trip worth it.
Tolkan Terrain Park.
Challenge your cycling skills and test your courage on this beautifully built terrain park. The guys who built the Paradise Royale trail designed a labyrinth of wall rides, jumps, ladders, a pump track and other obstacles, all of which range from beginner to advanced.
There are several bed and breakfasts, VRBO’s, AirBnB’s, and Inns you can stay at. You don’t have to camp at a campground, though it is always fun to “rough it.”
Pizza and Fish ‘n Chips. Does a mountain biker need anything else? Okay, beer. But that’s why Delgada Pizza and Shelter Cove RV Camp Store & Deli have it all. Delgada Pizza has some seriously tasty pie and you can pick up a cold one and some ice cream at the same time. The RV Camp Deli, surprisingly has excellent Fish ‘n Chips that go great with several local 6-pack brews the Camp Store offers.
That 14 miles isn’t going to take you all weekend. Head over to King’s Peak (Further down the road from Tolkan Campground) and hit up summit. At 4000ft it’s the highest peak in the King Range. Or, if you prefer the ocean, head down to the Lost Coast for some incredible day hiking on the beach.
See the sights.
Shelter Cove is a truly beautiful place. Take a drive along Lower Pacific Dr. and stop off at all the different vista and beach access points. Finally, head over to Black Sands beach and watch the massive waves and hikers finishing the north half of the Lost Coast.
It takes a long time to get anywhere over here, so slow down, be patient, and enjoy the unique and incredible scenery the Lost Coast area has to offer.