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The Schoolhouse Loop

We set out on a Sunday morning to try out the newest trail at Heil Ranch, a beginner-friendly loop called the Schoolhouse trail. We thought we'd be beating the crowds at 10 am but were mistaken. After we turned off of Lefthand Canyon Road and into the Heil Ranch entrance, the parking lot at the trailhead was full. I think people were excited to try the new trail, and it was also a beautiful day with warm weather and bright sunshine. So, we passed the lower lot and drove a little farther to the main parking lots.
  We unloaded the bikes and rode back down the dirt road with sections of washboard nearly shaking our teeth out. A couple of old boxcars and a fenced corral mark the trail head. Some friends were waiting for us, and we all started climbing into the counter-clockwise loop. The trail is directional for bikers. This really helps to keep the flow going, but it also means that a moderate climb greets riders at the beginning of each lap. When we first tried this trail the climb was a straight up grind. The ten year-olds gave it a good effort, but the younger kids ended up walking their bikes. Since then, the climb has been rerouted into a couple of wide switchbacks that make it much easier. The kids are very happy with this change, and everyone can ride the whole thing.

After the initial climb, the trail levels out and winds through a meadow. Spread out along the ride are constructed obstacles that allow riders to hone different skills. Each one has an easy-out line along side it. So, no one is required to ride over a challenge if they don't feel up to it. The kids had fun popping over rocks and clearing the balance beam planks.


After the meadow,  the trail dips into a forested section that offers welcome shade on a sunny day. The trail winds past the old Altona school that was built in 1870.  The kids enjoyed peeking in the window of the one room building and looking into the classroom. Each desk has a round hole in the top of it for an inkwell and a wood stove sits at the back of the room. It's fun to imagine what a school day was like back then. After checking out the school the kids got back on the trail and pedaled the final leg back to trailhead where we started. The trail is just under a mile around, so part of the fun is making laps and becoming more confident on the rocks each time you come around. We encountered a few hikers while we were riding and plenty of other riders. If you have a chance to go off peak hours I'd recommend that. But, this is definitely a fun new trail for kids and beginner mountain bikers. Get out to Heil Ranch and check it out!



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