FALL COLORS RIDES
It’s a scientifically proven fact that fall is the best riding season. Cooler weather and perfect dirt are the payoff to a season’s worth of conditioning. But it’s the fall colors that seal the deal: the golden slopes of western larch and the yellow and orange corridors of aspen trees. Here are five fall classics that will have you skidding through leaf piles like a kid again.
Brush Lake Loop
This nearly six-mile loop north of Bonners Ferry is quite possibly the region’s best fall color ride, with larch and hardwoods providing nearly nonstop color on a trail purpose-built for bikes. The newly constructed Tungsten Mountain trail adds another 2000 feet of climbing through no-less-impressive fall foliage, with the added bonus of a spectacular view of the upper Pend Oreille River valley from near the top of the trail.
Coeur d’Alene River Trail
Although the lower six miles of the Coeur d’Alene River Trail can be used as a jumping-off point for long backcountry loops in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, its stunning scenery warrants seeing the same view twice on an easily rewarding out-and-back. After the first 1.5 miles, the trail spends its time well above the Upper North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River—all the better for vantage points of the larch and cottonwood in the canyon below. And the drive to the trailhead along the Coeur d’Alene River is worth the trip alone.
North Fork Silver Creek Trail
Descending almost 2900 feet in five miles off Abercrombie Mountain, northeast of Colville, the North Fork Silver Creek Trail boasts some of the best aspen groves around—if you can slow down enough to notice them. With narrow, rough tread and tight switchbacks, this is a true backcountry experience. A trailhead campground gives riders the option to ride this trail’s rougher sibling to the south.
Although better known for its cedars, Bead Lake, just northwest of Newport, glows in autumn, when colorful shoreline shrubs and birch leaves contrast against the dark background of evergreens. The East Shoreline Trail traces the lake on good tread, with nearly constant views of the water. It’s nine miles out and back, with the option to make a long loop using 11 miles of forest road high above the lake.
The drive over Sherman Pass, between Republic and Colville in northeast Washington, is one of the best western larch shows in the region. But cars can only get you so close to the color. Fortunately, the pass bisects the 45-mile Kettle Crest trail, eastern Washington’s premier subalpine bike trail. South of the pass, a 1988 wildfire opened up vast swathes of the forest to western larch, which crave sunlight and space. The 5.5-mile loop around Sherman Peak samples the scenery, but it’s easy to extend the ride south for as long as your legs allow. Forget seeing larch from your car: you’ll be seeing larch in your car after you track in the needles on the bottom of your bike shoes.