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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.

What makes this a Wenatchee Classic:

Sweet switchbacks on New Sundance with the Mission Creek drainage in the background. Photo taken by Marlin Peterson.

Number Two Canyon has been the focus for much of the trail building by the Central Washington chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance over the past handful of years and it shows in the quantity and quality of trails currently available and in the planning stages. If you are a cross country rider looking to stretch your legs and enjoy a few hours of pedaling while taking in magnificent views, then the Number Two Canyon Mega Loop is for you.

The trails listed here range from easy green to solid blue and show off the recent trail building efforts by the local community. The climbs are gentle to moderate while the descents are fast and flowy with enough places to stop and soak in the views. The big loop outlined here, ridden counterclockwise, will take a few hours and tire the legs but the rewarding views and quality of trails will make this a frequent loop of choice.

This can be ridden in either direction but riding it counterclockwise avoids descending on dirt roads versus trails. If you decide to ride it clockwise you can substitute Road Rage for the road descent which spits you out near the top of Upper Stairway to Heaven (Dragontail). In addition, you could ride Road Rage up if you’re doing the counterclockwise loop, but it’s generally a downhill oriented trail, sandy and steep in spots.

Points of Interest:

  • Take a break and enjoy the views of the Enchantments on the natural seats on New Sundance and Eye Candy
  • Outstanding 360 degree views from the top of Twin Peaks
  • Snap a great photo of your riding partner at the Dragontail
  • Lots of spots to take in the wildflowers and views of the valley and Columbia River
  • Spend some time amongst the grasses and aspens in the gorgeous meadow at the bottom of Easy Monday
  • Amazing trails designed for mountain bikes

Mission Creek and the Enchantments.

All of the trail maps and routes come from Trailforks. There are other trails that are more challenging, like the black diamond Prepare to Die, that can be substituted to spice things up, but this write-up focuses more on the most user-friendly and accessible trails. There is a lot of mileage that can be done on other trails and this report can’t take those all into account. Using TrailForks to explore this area is your best resource.

Trails: All trails in one location

Trail by trail description (counterclockwise):

  • Stairway to Heaven – this trail is the jewel of the whole system and is one of the best multi-directional trails you will ever ride. This is the type of trail that makes climbing fun and is a great introduction to the loop and the trails in Number Two Canyon. Wind up through wildflowers and tall trees with occasional peek-a-book views of the valley below and of Mission Ridge.
  • Upper Stairway to Heaven (Dragontail) – a recent addition to the trail system that nicely connects the lower trail to the upper road. This trail climbs up a few gentle switchbacks, past the dragontail, to a nice viewpoint at the top of the Number One and Two Canyon divide, then descends rapidly before rolling up and down through the trees. One final climb puts you at the double track where a left turn takes you to Prepare to Die and a right turn continues the big loop. Take a right and within ¼ mile you’ll find a great viewpoint of the Columbia River to take a quick rest and the first of many photos.
  • Twin Peaks Road Upper – You have to pay the piper at some point, and the easiest way from here to the summit of Twin Peaks is via the dirt road. You could ride up Road Rage to avoid half of the road grind and stay on as much single track as possible, but it’s generally a downhill trail. The road climb is a bit rocky but it’s all rideable. After a few miles you’ll get to an obvious Y with a viewpoint to the left. The climb continues to the right. Just a few yards past this junction is the second descent trail, New Sundance, but you’ll be back here soon so stay on the uphill road climb for another half mile. After a bit more climbing you’ll see a trail cross the road. Going right takes you on a short trail to the best views of the whole day at the summit of Twin Peaks. After you’ve taken it all in, you’ll come back down the short ascent trail and cross the road to get to Eye Candy, climb for a bit and then the descending begins in earnest.
  • Eye Candy – this is the newest trail as of spring 2022 so it still may be rough in spots but it’s fast and flowy as it traverses the hillside and reverses directions through well-crafted switchbacks. Look for the natural seating spot and take a well earned rest. Eventually you’ll find yourself back at the road junction and the start of New Sundance.
  • New Sundance – this is an old moto/hiking trail that was good but not great on a mountain bike but is now another great way to get down the hill. Lots of long stretches and nice turns with a few jumps thrown in make this a fun descent. You will come to a junction with Sofa Kingdom that heads off to the left. Stay right to continue the loop. Make sure to stop about halfway down at the stump sofas and take in the views of the Mission Creek drainage and the Enchantments. Toward the bottom of New Sundance is Double D’s, which is a good bailout point if you’ve had enough and want to cruise back to the car. It’s almost entirely downhill if you choose to go left and shorten things up.

    Alan Schmaltz tames the dragon’s tail on Upper Stairway to Heaven.

  • The Tree Trail – another old steep moto trail that was recently revamped. It takes you from one nice viewpoint, wraps around a few hills, and deposits you at another nice viewpoint where there is usually a fire ring and an inordinate amount of broken glass. Our loop continues on The Still which is across the parking area. For variety you could take a hard left at the road junction to ride The Still clockwise or, again, shorten your loop and head back toward the car by taking The Still to Bootleg to Easy Monday.
  • The Still – another recent addition to the trail system that has some rugged stretches that are a bit rocky mixed in with more fast and flowy goodness. This trail is a good extension for those who want a few more miles and lots more views. This trail seems like the most remote stretch of the trail system. Eventually it will intersect a road saddle where the trail continues on the other side. It climbs back up and then back down once again over the next few miles to the junction and right turn on Bootleg. The saddle is also another spot to cut things short and get you quickly back to the car. Descend to the east on the dirt road and the parking lot is a quick ½ mile away.
  • Bootleg – a short, fun and fast descent that takes you to Easy Monday
  • Easy Monday – go right at this junction and the fun continues through the trees with a few small jumps and switchbacks on a nice, smooth trail with not many obstacles. A right at the bottom spits you out into the bottom of the meadow.
  • Road Bypass – this final stretch of trail exists just to keep you off the road and get you back to the parking lot on single track. It’s got a few rocky sections and can get sandy toward the bottom with some brake bumps.

Additional trails to consider to make your ride longer and more challenging include: 

  • Road Rage – a fun, tight and lively descent with narrow switchbacks and not much flow but a certain old school, downhill appeal that’s more of a stiff blue square than a true black diamond. You could

    Make sure to stop at the stump seats on New Sundance with a sweet view of Mission Creek drainage.

    ascend this trail to cut off some of the road climb if you like harder ascents.

  • Prepare to Die – a recently opened black diamond descent trail that doesn’t really fit nicely into the loop but makes a great diversion if you like big jumps, rock rolls and steepness.

Route Statistics:

Distance: 16 Miles

Direction Described: counterclockwise

Elevation Gain: 2,700 feet

Technical Difficulty: Intermediate. This route contains all green and blue trails and can be comfortably ridden in a few hours. None of the climbs are too steep and none of the descents are too tricky but there’s enough up and down to make an enjoyable loop for most riders. Expect some switchbacks and a few rocky stretches that are well within an intermediate rider’s wheelhouse.

Suggested Bike: This route is most easily ridden on a mountain bike.

Endurance: 5 out of 10. This route is not technically challenging and there are a few points to make it shorter or longer depending on time and fitness. This loop is a good challenge for weekend warriors and a good spin for more avid cyclists.

How to Get Here: From the southwest end of Wenatchee, head 4.5 miles up Number Two Canyon Rd to where the pavement ends and the gravel begins. If you choose to park here and ride an extra ¾ mile to the first trail, please park perpendicular on the left side of the paved road and respect landowners No Parking signage. If you want to drive to the main parking lot, continue up the dirt road for ¾ mile, going past an open gate, until you get to a closed gate and a few official parking spots. If those spots are full, please park along the side of the road. Stairway to Heaven starts about 100 yards past the closed gate. Lower clearance vehicles should take it easy on the dirt road.

Parking Access: No parking pass is required at the trailhead. There are a few designated spots for about five or six vehicles with plenty of parking alongside the road for overflow. For an added challenge, park where the pavement meets the gravel and ride an additional ¾ mile to the trailhead. The gravel road is moderately steep but will get the legs warm. In the near future, an additional parking lot with a vault toilet will be built past the closed gate at the bottom of Prepare to Die and road improvements will make the road easier to navigate. Lower clearance vehicles can make it to the trailhead, but you may have to pick your way through some of the spicier sections.

Route Description: The route described is ridden counterclockwise, but it can be ridden in either direction. A few of the newer trails, Eye Candy and New Sundance, are still a bit fresh and currently ride better downhill so that’s the reason for the counterclockwise suggestion.

When to Ride: This loop can usually be ridden mid-April to late November. Be aware that all of the trails in this system are closed from December 1st to April 15th. The best time to ride here is in May/June when the wildflowers are at their peak but expect to encounter more trail users during this time closer to the trailheads. If you’re riding in the summer, this area is often 15 degrees cooler than in the valley and has plenty of shade. Fall is a fantastic time to ride as well as the trails are usually packed down and virtually empty. Do not ride on trails that are wet or mushy, which can happen in late fall or after recent rains.

Warnings:

  • Number Two Canyon has a seasonal closure from December 1st to April 15th to support mule deer migration and protect the trail system
  • Currently, ebikes are not allowed in Number Two Canyon since it is public land
  • There is no reliable water available on the route but there may be some in early spring at the top of Road Rage
  • Beware of snakes in the warmer months and keep an eye out for the occasional black bear
  • These trails are multi-use so expect to share them with hikers and horse riders and yield the right-of-way
  • These trails do not handle moisture well so use common sense and avoid them after recent rains
  • Beware of the freeze/thaw cycle in early spring or late fall and don’t ride on trails that are mushy or if your tires are leaving a visible rut or you’re frequently slipping or losing traction
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