To begin with, I did not even know that there was a Mantua Loop. I was supposed to lead a ride from Mantua to Eden, but some riders didn’t have street-legal machines. One of the riders suggested a loop that would take us back to Mantua. I am all for learning about new trails, so I agreed to lead the first half of the ride and Don Moore would lead the last half.
Being a foodie, a good ride begins with a good breakfast. One of the best is found in the middle of Mantua (population 878) at the Country Store.
With satisfied stomachs, we headed up the Willard Peak Road. The usual staging area was closed, so we moved further south and found a place to unload.
The leader is supposed to know what he is doing and so far so good. The plan was to go to Dock Flat where there is a challenging 50-inch trail (read fun) that rejoins the main trail higher up. The narrower machines would take that trail and meet the wider ones at the top.
Almost immediately I became disoriented. Thinking we were at Dock Flats, I led the group through a narrow maze of trails trying to find the entrance gate to the 50-inch trail. Finally, one of the riders said, “If you are looking for Dock Flat, it is one more switchback up the trail.”
“Yes, yes, I knew that,” I said as I tried to regain my composure. I heard Paul Keopple say as I rode past, “Now that we have that out of the way, we can enjoy the rest of the ride.” You would think that I have some kind of reputation for getting lost — don’t ask.
Riding up to Dock Flat, we found the gate and sent those that wanted to go up the trail. The rest of us rode up the trail to meet them. Apparently, the trail was a little too challenging, as they turned around and rode up the main trail to meet us.
Back together, we took a turn down a fork to the left, leaving the Willard Peak Road. This road is fairly well maintained as it provides access to two youth camps.
It took us through the workings of one the most active beaver colonies I have ever seen. The trail took us around a pond that featured a large beaver dwelling on the west bank. As we passed by, we could see some waterways the busy beavers used in their daily doings. The dams they built were truly works of art. Further down the trail, we saw the familiar signs of gnawed tree stumps surrounded by wood chips.
Leaving this hard hat construction area, we saw that the road narrowed to a trail — the one that would take us over the mountain. The marker indicates that it has seasonal restrictions, meaning that it is closed during the winter months. This trail also has a 60-inch width restriction.
With canyons on both ends of the trail and a flat across the top, we got to ride through stands of aspen with the sun flashing through fall colors that was interspersed with sections of dark pine woods making for a delightful variety of riding. Two gates are set in this trail to maintain the 60-inch restriction — one toward the middle and another where it comes out onto a dirt road marked 162.
As we came out onto Paradise Road (162), I am sure there was a sigh of relief as Don Moore took over the lead. I had no idea where to go from here.
He did, and we traveled north following the South Fork of the Little Bear River as we passed Dips Hollow and Shingle Mill Hollow. Coming to Three-Mile Creek, we turned west up a canyon by the same name. The fall colors were bright as we climbed through large stands of aspen.
Finding a suitable place among the quakies, we stopped for lunch. It was a time to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and quiet in the backcountry.
After our break, we continued west up the canyon. Coming over the top, we enjoyed a view of the Mantua reservoir as the trail brought us into town and back to our trucks.
Our ride was about 27 miles, but we weren’t in a hurry. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and enjoy this close opportunity to enjoy the backcountry.