Curly Lake Highline Trail Tobacco Root Range

Many people / books claim that the Curly Lake Highline Trail could well be one of the best mtb trails you will ever ride.. anywhere!!
I set out early on a beautiful Friday morning and can guarantee you 2 things about this trail.. It is extremely scenic, and it is probably the most strenuous trail I have ever done..

Curly Lake Highline Trail

Trail Stats & Information

Nearby City: Cardwell | Whithall

Length: 23.43 total miles

Trail Type: Loop

Skill Level: [ What the books say ] Aerobically: very strenuous. Technical : very difficult

Skill Level: [ My opinion ] Aerobically: extremely strenuous. Technical : moderate

Duration: 4.5 – 7 hours [ my time ] 5.50 hours

Trailhead Elev: 5,800 feet

Top Elev: 9,723 feet

Book Description

This Trail starts at 5,800 ft. and climbs to just under 10,000 ft the trail starts off steep and technical with plenty of obstacles making this a strenuous ride. Once above treeline the views of the surrounding mountains of the Tobacco Root Range are stunning. Continue over a couple of alpine tundras and prepare yourself for a fast and bumpy downhill ride with numerous very technical switchbacks.

My Experience

Everyone I spoke to mentioned the Curly Lake Highline Trail and everyone recommended it, so I was pretty stoked even the day before.
On another fantastic Friday morning at I set off from Rock Creek Trail , the first 4 miles on a smooth dirt road to Curly Creek Trail…. This is where the fun ( should have ) started. The sweet singletrack started an immediate assault on my lungs, and I knew this was gonna be strenuous. I was right, it was strenuous, I just did not have a clue just how brutal it was gonna be. The first 3 miles of singletrack to Curly lake took me 1,40 hours!! I was knackered, but there where too many bugs to stop and rest at the lake so I pushed on. I have to admit that from Curly Lake to theDevils Slide Saddle I probably walked 50%.. I really tried to keep on the steed, but it was just out of my league.
I stopped for a 20 min. break on the first Saddle and got stuck into the fluids and snacks.
The 1.5 miles from the first saddle to the second saddle was actually a lot easier, and I actually spent more time on the steed than I did walking.
Once at the top, I admired the stunning views, and prepared myself for a fast decent.

I screamed off, but within seconds I knew it was not gonna be a good idea, the trail was far to rocky to open up. Once I had passed the tundra, and hit the sprees, I opened up again… Again this was not a good idea, I managed to just clear the first switchback, and then opened up again, and going way to fast I over did the next tight switchback, and went over the edge, landing about 20 feet down from my bike and trail. I was pretty shook up, but luckily no serious damage was done to me or the bike.

Two minutes later I cleared another switchback, and headed for the following one… First time I crashed cos I was going too fast, and this time I was too cautious, going too slow my front wheel jammed on a rock and I did a classic endo, but my legs got caught on the handle bars and I really landed with a smack on my chest, knocking every bit of air out of me.

With my rib cage hurting, I thought my wrist was broken, I had torn my muscle in my calf and I was covered in bacon.
The last 10 miles of the trail, which was mostly downhill, I took it easy, and luckily for me the trail was a lot smoother, but there were still quite a few really tight and narrow switchbacks.


Even though I bit the dust a couple of times on this trail, I would rate this trail as technically moderate, just be very careful with those switchbacks!!.. however, aerobically this trail is extremely challenging and in all honesty, it was aerobically out of my league. This trail is very scenic, and the remoteness is pretty unique.. but, I was just too knackered to enjoy it.
My time of 5,50 hours is not bad at all, but we all know that walking up a mountain is sometimes faster than riding up a mountain, and I spent too much time walking.

I would highly recommend this trail, it really is unique, for all you ironmen, go for it, but otherwise I would suggest you take this ride like you are going on a picnic.. do it in 10 hours, 8 for the climb and 2 for the downhill.. then this could well be one of the nicest trails you will ever ride.

Other Info:

Traffic on Trail : no one at all

Wild Life : I did not see anything, but don’t forget you are in Grizzly land.

Scenery : The higher you get, the better it gets.. Stunning!!

Other : Bring extra water, bug spray, more water and more bug spray, and lots of nibbles

My Trail Rating : 7.5 / 10


Best viewed in HD


Share Button

Speak Your Mind