Amphitheater Loop

By Ray Birks

This report is part of a series, written for Wenatchee Outdoors, to document some of the classic mountain bike rides within an hour’s drive of the Wenatchee Valley. They consist of more than just details on one trail but a series of trails that comprise a well-known route. What makes these routes classics? It’s a combination of local knowledge, trail quality, scenery, points of interest, and destination-worthy intangible awesomeness.

All of the trail maps and routes come from Trailforks.

Route: Here are all of the trails in one route

Trail by trail description:

  1. Potholes Blvd – doubletrack that leaves from the parking lot, wide with lots of users
  2. Gorge Bound – nice, flat singletrack along the bench with river views
  3. Gorge Climb – climb from the bench to the plateau behind the amphitheater
  4. Upper Mesa – best stretch of trail in the route, fast and flowy, not much elevation
  5. Rim Job – a bit rocky with some overgrown stretches near the potholes
  6. Access Road – easy, flat gravel riding next to Quincy Lakes, multiple bathrooms/camping options available
  7. Ancient Lakes Descent – some short stretches are rocky and unrideable for most riders but easily hiked
  8. Unknown – short stretch of trail that skirts the lakes
  9. North Potholes – the final doubletrack that takes you back to the parking lot

Route Statistics:

Distance: 14.2 miles

Direction Described: Counterclockwise

Elevation: 976ft climb, 946ft descent, 1,402ft high point

Technical Difficulty: Beginner/intermediate with some advanced features. This route is mostly green and blue roads and trails but the descent from the upper lakes to the lower lakes is a black diamond. Not terribly steep but rocky with some sharp corners. Beginner riders can handle this route but the technical descent back to the lower lakes is tricky and even intermediate riders will find themselves choosing to walk a few short stretches.

Suggested Bike: Because of the rocky descent a mountain bike is preferable but the route could be done on a gravel bike with wider tires.

Endurance: 4 out of 10, Not overly hard riding but expect some short punchy climbs to get from the bench to the plateau and a technical descent to the lower lakes. Beginner/intermediate riders will enjoy 98% of this route but find a few sections worth a hike-a-bike.

Parking Access: Washington State Discover Pass required, bathroom available.

Directions: Behind the rest area west of Quincy on Highway 28, take Road 10 NW, go left on Road V NW, right on Road 9 NW which turns into Ancient Lakes Road NW (gravel) four miles to the parking lot.

Description: The described route is ridden counterclockwise so you’re descending the rocky black diamond section but it could be ridden clockwise as well if you don’t mind about ¼ mile of uphill hike-a-bike.

The Amphitheatre Loop is best ridden in the spring and fall. But if winter riding is what you are after, this ride is worth the drive. The area does not get a lot of snow and is usually drier than places closer to the Cascades. The riding is about ½ double track and gravel roads and ½ singletrack. The route starts five miles south of the rest area on Highway 28 near Quincy and continues south on the Babcock Bench paralleling the Columbia River on a combination of double track and flowy, fast singletrack until you end up directly behind the Gorge Amphitheater. From here the route turns back north and climbs up onto the plateau which includes some of the best singletrack riding in the area. Eventually the trail turns to double track before passing a few small potholes which may include some overgrown brushy areas. After some easy gravel road riding you’ll take a black diamond descent back down to the valley floor with great vistas of the lakes below, including Ancient Lake.

Points of Interest: There are plentiful views of the Columbia River and Tarpiscan/Colockum areas across the river, as well as a few side trails that lead you closer to the river. In addition, you’ll find yourself directly behind the Gorge Amphitheater and within shouting distance of Cave B winery, which has its own spur trail descending to the main bench you’ll be riding on. You will also have views of the Quincy Lakes on the gravel roads on the plateau and a few more lakes and seasonal waterfalls on the way back to the trailhead. Find yourself riding through areas with towering basalt columns with an abundance of sage and wildflowers in the spring.

Warnings: Beware of snakes in the warmer months. The trails are multi-use so expect to share them with hikers and horse riders. The trail quality on the lower section varies because it gets frequent traffic compared to the trails on the plateau, so there may be lots of footprints from two and four legged friends. Dogs may roam unleashed as well. Some stretches of the trail have lava rock which have been known to trip up riders now and then. This area gets hot in the summer with not a lot of shade so be prepared with adequate water. The lakes are filled from irrigation runoff so filter and swim at your own risk.

Leave It Better Than You found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, disperse old fire rings, and throw branches over unwanted spur trails.

Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are completely responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.

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