Ride #5: North Fork - Table Springs Loop

click here for map

click here for profile

Starting point: Top of Tiger - See introduction for directions.

Ride Description: Ride up wide, graveled USFS Road 65 for 1.4 miles to where USFS Road 040 intersects on the right. Turn right onto 040 and look for the start of the North Fork Trail on the right within the first 200 ft. Descend the single-track North Fork Trail for 0.6 mile to USFS Road 6512. Cross 6512 and look for the continuation of the North Fork Trail across the road. Descend the graveled entrance to the trail and continue downhill on a smooth trail through an old growth forest. Cross the North Fork (a small stream) 0.9 mile after the road crossing and then continue down this excellent trail for another 1.4 miles where you will break out of the forest into a small meadow. At this point, if you wish to stay on the North Fork Trail, avoid the obvious old jeep trail that heads up and right and instead bear slightly left and continue across the meadow. Continue gently downhill on fantastic single track for 3.4 miles to where a wooden footbridge spans the North Fork Walla Walla River. Over the next 1.7 miles, the trail climbs and descends two short grades before climbing 1200 ft. in 2.4 miles up to Cub (aka Bear Creek) Saddle. At Cub Saddle, take a hard left onto the Table Springs Trail and climb 1120 ft. in 1.8 miles to the crest of the ridge. Follow the occasionally rocky trail along the ridgecrest for 1.6 miles to the end of the Table Springs Trail at USFS Road 6512. Turn left onto 6512 and stay on 6512 by bearing left at the junction with the 090 road and right at the junctions with the 080 and 060 roads (see map). Close your loop 6.2 miles after entering 6512 when you cross the North Fork Trail. Continue on 6512, cross the North Fork Walla Walla River (creek here) and gently ascend for another mile back to your vehicle.

Remarks: The North Fork Trail is the best single-track in the area. If don't have an ear-to-ear grin carved deeply into your face by the time you reach the wooden bridge, sell your bike. The single-track climb from the river to the ridge crest 2320 ft. above is arduous but almost entirely rideable. The concentration necessary to keep the bike on the narrow trail at such slow speeds helps take your mind off your burning quadraceps and starving lungs. This trail is popular with motorcycles; watch out (and listen) for them.

Vital statistics:

Length: 23.4 miles

Total climbing: 3750 ft.

Time: 4-6 hours

Season: mid June to late October

Techno factor = 5; narrow rocky sections, creek crossings, and big roots

Grunt factor = 8; 2320 ft. of single-track climbing over 3.3 miles

Adventure factor = 4; some narrow trail sections with drop-offs, rescue difficult

Some options:

1) Ride the loop in the opposite direction. There is 920 ft. of climbing on Road 6512 and 440 ft. of climbing on the initial 1.6 miles of the Table Springs Trail before the single-track descent to Cub Saddle and the North Fork Walla Walla River. Ridden in this direction, the single-track descent is shorter and steeper and the single-track ascent is longer and gentler. T=5, G=7, A=6.

2) (shuttle required) From Cub Saddle, ride down the valley of Bear Creek on the lower part of the Table Springs Trail. After 2.3 miles and many switchbacks and creek crossings, turn right at the intersection of the South Fork Trail and ride 3.4 miles to the South Fork road. Turn right and ride 1 mile to the BLM parking area (16.4 miles total) where you have either left a car or have arranged for someone to pick you up. Shuttle back up to the Top of Tiger and retrieve your vehicle. This is a fabulous ride with only 1400' of climbing and over 12 miles of downhill single-track. T=6, G=4, A=5.

3) (shuttle required) Ride the loop in the opposite direction to Cub Saddle, then descend to Harris Park as in option #2. Total climbing on this route is 1880 ft., but it seems less than option #2 because individual hill climbs are shorter. This option is somewhat longer (19.3 miles) but contains significantly less trail riding than option #2. T=6, G=4, A=4.

note: On the main route or any of the options you can eliminate 520' of climbing and 2 miles of distance by beginning the ride by descending Road 6512 from the Top of Tiger to the North Fork Trail, thereby cutting out the upper 0.6 mile of the North Fork Trail.