Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Snowbiking in Hoosier National Forest

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I enjoyed Saturday’s wintry road ride, but the real highlight of the weekend was a mostly-gravel snow ride through Hoosier National Forest. I drove to the start of the ride; it took about 25 minutes to get there. Here’s a map of my ride.


View 2010-02-07 HNF snow biking in a larger map

My ride started on a paved road, and immediately I was loving the scenery, but for a little bit, I was riding on clear roads, and started second-guessing my choice to bring my mountain bike. But I figured that once I hit gravel, there would be some snow. It was hard to gauge what conditions would be like. We had probably four inches of snow on the ground, but in town and on paved roads, it was warm enough that the roads were clear.

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But, the deeper into the woods I went, the snowier it got. The more snow, the more fun I had.

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I passed the first of many trailheads for the Hickory Ridge trail system. Bikes are allowed on these trails, and I’ve ridden quite a few of them, but the snow had mud beneath it. No trails on this ride.

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Not that I minded. The gravel roads were quiet and beautiful, and plenty challenging in their own right.

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I reached a small creek with a waterfall, and then proceeded to climb a large hill. The road went back to being paved, and not as snowy, which made the climb a little easier. I then spent a few minutes on a state highway and some smaller paved roads before turning back into the national forest.

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After some momentary confusion about which way to turn, I turned onto a very snowy road and re-entered the woods. I rode over a small log. There were some truck tire marks, but it was obvious only one or two vehicles had been here. I was sort of impressed that they were able to drive through at all, and grateful for their tire ruts, which were well-packed and made for relatively fast riding.  However, some spots were icy, and I had to watch out for those.

The ride became even more beautiful than before. I was in awe at the snowy landscape and the way the warm, angular light struck everything was quite stunning.

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I rode on a relatively flat ridgetop for a while, and then the road turned steeply downward. I had ridden up this hill once before, and I sure was glad to be riding down it now.

I stopped halfway down the hill to explore a small pond.

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The ruts were slick and icy and I discovered that the best technique for riding down this big hill was to ride in between the ruts, where there was soft virgin snow. This slowed me down, so I didn’t have to ride my brakes, and also offered better traction.

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Looking back up … steeeep!

Once at the bottom of the hill, I turned onto a different road, where I forded a couple of creeks and started climbing. I filled up the memory card in my camera. I deleted a few photos and rode on. I took a few more photos after that, but not a lot.

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I had quite a bit of climbing to do, but it was divided into a couple climbs, with a slight break in between. Overall, not too bad. Once at the top, it was flat for a while, and then I enjoyed a long descent. This was quite tricky as it was slippery, I just took my time and made it to the bottom of the hill just fine.

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Once at the bottom of the hill, I hit paved roads for the last mile or so of my ride. It was still just lovely, and the light became even more dramatic, as the sun was nearly setting.

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I rode back to my car, very satisfied with the ride. This was one of those rides where I didn’t expect much going into it, but in the end, I was blown away by how incredible it was. The gravel roads were the perfect place to ride, given the conditions. Some snow rides end up being so hard they’re frustrating; this was a challenging adventure, but it never felt like anything other than a LOT of fun.

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot since this ride is that even though I’ve spent probably dozens of hours riding in Hoosier National Forest, I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what is there, even close to home (HNF reaches basically all the way south to Kentucky). There are many trails in the Hickory Ridge system I’ve never ridden, and lots of roads that are unexplored as well. I need to ride there more often.

7 Responses to “Snowbiking in Hoosier National Forest”

  1. David Crowell Says:

    Looks like a beautiful ride. We didn’t really have snow… until this morning.

  2. Chris Says:

    Apparently there is amazing beauty well beyond the high priority vacation destinations. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  3. Tim Says:

    I’m gonna have to drag myself up to Bloomington this summer. Just like you said, you seem to find great new road after great new road. I got out in the snow yesterday, but nothing like this ride.

  4. Tim Says:

    And what navigation do/did you use? I’ve had mixed results using googlemaps in the HNF area. I recently bought a trailsillustrated map of the lower HNF area; it’s much better.

  5. Apertome Says:

    For this ride I mostly used Google Maps, but I had already ridden on some of these roads and had a pretty good idea that the others existed. As you say, Google Maps don’t always work well in HNF; I sometimes use Garmin MapSource, but I also have the Trails Illustrated map, and it is the best option. I always make sure to have it with me when I head out there.

    Better still is to go with someone who’s familiar with the area. I’ve been out there with my mountain biking friend Dave quite a few times, and he’s been going out there for years, so he has a good idea what’s out there.

    All that said, right near Bloomington is a huge tract of contiguous HNF. I don’t know about the parts you’ve been to, but in some areas it’s a lot spottier, with small tracts interspersed with private property and small towns. Those areas are probably a bit more confusing.

  6. RANTWICK Says:

    Hey, I knew you a kindred all-weather rider, but I didn’t appreciate how much like me you were until I read this. Thanks for all the nice pics… you’re going on my blogroll for sure.

  7. Doug Says:

    I enjoyed all the great pictures in this post and the last one. Of course, you already know how much I love snow and winter.

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