The Cannell Trail… Don’t Call it a Shuttle Run! – Kyle Kelley

The Cannell Trail… Don’t Call it a Shuttle Run!
Words and photos by Kyle Kelley

Years ago Ryan Wilson told me of this mythical mountain bike ride in the Sequoia National Forest that dropped from the sky to the desert floor. He said it was thirty-something miles long and had around 8,000 feet of ripping descent. To be honest, I didn’t really believe him, so I retained little to no information that night.

Fast forward a few years, Mike Kalenda had just come onboard at Golden Saddle Cyclery, and one morning he was telling me about this crazy ride out of Kernville where you get shuttled up to 9,200 feet and you spend all day riding your bike down the mountain to a brewery! It all sounded familiar, but nothing was sticking, and then I heard about a Plunge and that got me thinking. Hell…I’m not even sure if Ryan even said the word plunge that night, long ago, but something about that word reminded me. I immediately started researching all I could on the internet about this trail, and came to the conclusion that this must’ve been what Ryan was talking about! Maybe the word plunge just sounded cool and I gravitated towards it, but either way, the word plunge got me there and after riding the last part of this trail called “The Plunge”, I’ll definitely be going back.

No matter how much research you do on this trail, you can never be prepared for what’s in store for you, until you have actually done the ride. Most people probably look at the data and think this rides going to be a walk in the park and they’ll be down in town in no time, I know I did. Well…that’s not the case. There’s climbing, about 2,000 feet, there’s navigating, we got lost, and did we mention that there’s climbing, and it’s steep! Oh yeah, one other thing, a lot of this ride is above 8,000 feet!

The Trail is called the Cannell Trail, it’s an IMBA Epic, and it’s epic!

Bring lots of food and water, the only water up there is pretty far out of the way. Bring someone who’s done the trail before if you can, it’ll make for a stress-free ride, even the GPS doesn’t cut it up there. I’d also try and get someone to shuttle you to the top because after the ride, it takes a total of 2 hours to get a car from the top of the mountain. And trust me, the last thing you wanna do after this ride is drive a car 30 miles up a mountain road, and then 30 miles back down the same mountain road. We also drove back to Los Angeles that night, I’d highly suggest not doing that!!!

This trail is absolutely breathtaking! It truly has everything you’d ever imagine from a mountain bike fairytale, meandering single-track through high alpine meadows, miles of rocky technical descending, soft flowing pump-track, a 5,000-foot plunge back into society, and tons of wildlife. Our two standout animals were an owl flying off trail 20 feet in front of us and a bear running down the trail with us!

It probably thought I was its cub or something.

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  • That gate in #33 tho

  • Evan Robinson

    #ionlyshuttle

  • Pete Knight

    mmmm vegan chorizo.

  • Riley Stumm

    When I rode this trail it took me 8 hours to get down. Definitely an epic ride. You can add the Sherman Peak trail at the top to make it even more of an awesome day if you’re up for the challenge. A pint of Just Outstanding at the brewery is a must afterwards.

  • Ray Juncal

    Sounds amazing. A brewery at the bottom of the trail sounds like stories I’ve heard about a lemonade stand on the top of a mountain.

  • Hell, yes. The true spirit of an IMBA EPICS ride.

  • jimmys sweater is lookin good!

  • Never doubt me again, Kyle.

    Also, this looks like a damn good time!

  • Jonathan McCurdy

    If you want more of this, check out the Lemmon Drop down in Tucson…. 9300 ft of descent from pine forests to the sonoran desert floor.

    • Ty was just telling me about this before Grinduro! So down!

  • Marc R

    http://www.mtnriver.com/activities/mountain-biking/

    The shuttle is worth it. That is a long drive to retrieve a vehicle.

    • Are they currently running? We couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone.

      • Harrison Shotzbarger

        You gotta call Shuttle Bob @ (760) 223-2815. He’ll drive your vehicle down for a flat rate. Got a hold of him via the brewery, but there are also business cards floating around. He also shuttles JO and Dutch Flat. Shred on!

      • Marc R

        Bummer. I didn’t realize they wrapped it up so early.

    • Yeah, but they close early for the end of the season.

  • Justin Scoltock

    What a rad group of folks! Looks like a killer day for sure!

  • S Michael Tessandori

    Took me 5 bours (3.5 ride time). First time I was ill prepared physically. There is a couple of near mile long rock gardens that were absolutely kick ass to shred. And shred I did while keeping pace ahead of a motorcycle. And then there are the climbs. The first one after you initially drop in will have your heart pounding like a construction crew framing a new house. It is about a mile long but the climb takes you up to like 9700/9800 feet. The second big climb is after Big Meadow (btw you ride around Big Meadow the trail maps correctly show the trail going through Big Meadow but if you want to mud bog your bike through meadow marsh go around). As you make your way around Big Meadow to the climb you’ll come across a pipe flowing with high alpine spring water. You can fill up here. I did. No illnesses to report from hundred of others. No life straw used. Then you climb. Fire road for a short bit and some moderately technical single track. You’ll then ride through Cannell Meadow cross a creek (many have fallen in here, myself included) and after a short descent the trail will fork to the left Pine Flat…don’t take that…continue on….to the Plunge. The Plunge is where you need to be on it. Fast granite, kitty litter off camber descents that blindly immediately turn into a dusty, rocky, blown out right or left hander into a steep run into another blind turn…Awesome. Then there is one more absolut kick in the balls climb…short but steep as all hell…I walked this as I smashed my derailleur and only had the 2 fast DH gears to work with. The plunge finishes through a series of awesome views, switchbacks….and fast rocky, dusty singletrack.

    Needles to say it is every sense of the word EPIC. Bring lots of water (I drank all of my 3.0L and I rarely drink on my home 20 miler course). Back up tube even if you are tubeless. Patch kit, sidewall kit and tools, extra brake pads…lots of food….AND A Derailluer Hanger!

    Top shelf ride. Not for beginners.