Mountain Bike Bill, Get the Dirt on the Dirt

Hurkey Creek near Idyllwild

In July 2018 the Cranston wildfire came through this area and wrecked the trail system

Hurkey Creek Park and the May Valley area to the northwest is set in the San Jacinto Mountains near the town of Idyllwild.  The riding here used to be simply fantastic with buff singletrack, nice flowing lines and exceptional use of the rock.  For a number of years this area was home to a stop of the 24 hours of Adrenalin series as well as Idyllwild Spring Challenge.   These trails are  part of the overall Idyllwild MTB scene and they were made by extremely knowledgeable and passionate people.   The 2018 wildfire that came through this area followed by post-fire erosion of compromised soils has made this area nearly unrecognizable in some areas.  This area is still not a functional connected network of trails.    It will recover and trails will get rebuilt, but it is not there yet.

Directions: From San Diego, take Interstate 15 North to Interstate 215 to the Hwy 74 off ramp. Take Hwy 74 east through Hemet and come up the mountain to Mountain Center. Continue on Hwy 74 past Mountain Center.  Hurkey Creek Park is about 3 miles past Mountain Center on your left hand side.

Hazards: It can get very cold in the fall and spring (as well as winter) and blistering hot in the summer.   The area is also known for it rapidly changing weather conditions so be prepared.

Ride Report: (Note: Additional comments provided by placing the mouse over the thumbnails)

May 2021 Post-Fire Update

Here is USFS Decision Map for the trails that were being adopted as offical trail as part of May Valley Trails project that was well underway when the fire occurred. This map is a pre-fire map and based on currrent post-fire conditions things will change. You will need to look at this status document to cross reference names to numbers. I have overlaid names on the map for the trails I am actively discussing here. Here is my older school map that is just the classic Herkey Creek Loop.
Herkey Creek and the May Valley trails are for the most part in bad shape that vary in need from just debrushing to significant repairs or total reroutes. Here are my notes that are primarily focused on the Herkey Creek Area
  • Keen Camp Climb: Coming out of the campground on Coyote Run, I would not have been able to pick up this trail if I had not ridden on it dozens of times. Once you travel about 60-100 yards on the now reclaimed ground the trail bed becomes more defined. Numerous spots along the climb the trail has been washed out or erosion deposits onto the trail has made it extremely loose. There are some flags along the route to mark where some work/reroutes are going to occur. I would say about 50% of is rideable at this point. A general note of the "feel" of this trail, with the trees gone, there is very little to dampen the sound of Highway 74 or block the view of it in many spots.  I think it will be decades before this trail has the same level of coolness it used to have. 
  • Recovery Trail: (I have never called this section of trail that but it is what the USFS is calling it so I am going with it) This is the descent that occurs after you peak out on the Keep Camp Climb. The first portion of this is in bad shape and completely disappears in spots as there are now some V-ditches/trenchs created by post-fire erosion. You will most likely not ride all of this. There are some flags to help you connect the dots. The bottom third of this trail is in much better shape and quite rideable
  • Johnson Meadow:: This is quite the bright spot in what is otherwise a downer of an assessment. The meadow and this trail had little impact or has already recovered. This is pretty close to what it was before with only a couple of loose spots created by erosion from the hillside to the south.
  • Bonita Vista Rd/FS5S05: No impact to the dirt road itself to be noted: After climbing up Johnson Meadow I hung a left (north). I bypased Exfoliator. The extrance to it faint without much of a defined trailbed  I continued on Bonita Vista Rd all the way around to Missing Link.   I looked for the junction points of the May Valley Trails that come out on this road. Lazy Bones, Coffee Pot and The Spine were just barely above the threshold of non-existent. Extremely faint. Tres Hombres Dos, Tres Hombres Tres and Grindstone  were just whispers of something that used to be there. I completely did not see the entrance to Secret Trail. Note: Tres Hombres Tres and Secret Trail were not adopted by the USFS.
  • Missing Link: The entrance of the trail is well defined but looked lightly used coming off of FS5S05. Further along the trail it became fainter and was often downright hard to follow. Several times I had to stop and reacquire it. The southern half of this trail is very twisty and it is quite easy to miss a twist. This was particularly so near the connection point with the top of Rage Thru The Sage.
  • Rage Thru the Sage: Okay this trail is vitrually gone. Part of the trail appears to have been turned into a firebreak during the firefighting efforts. The firebreak is easy enough to ride but it is nothing resembling the trail. In the area of K Flat where the trail was not cut into a firebreak the post-fire erosion and regrowth is really significant and I could not find any trace of the old trailbed until I got on the east side of the watershed. Even then I could only find the trailbed in spots. There were some rock features that were right on the trail that clued me to the location of the trail. The reclaimation process that Mother Nature has going on was quite impressive through here. It was only just before the top of the small ridgeline that marks the start of Tunnel of Love did the trail become defined again.
  • Tunnel of Love: Surprisingly Tunnel of Love was not in terrible shape. It is more raw than before but it was well defined and not terribly overgrown. After Tunnel of Love I made my way out to Apple Canyon Road and proceeded back to camp.
  • Coyote Run: Nichol and I took Coyote Run up from camp. Coyote Camp is quite rideable and is well used by the folks staying at the campground. The fire did come through here but all of the traffic has the trail in a very usable state. We took it north past the junction with the bottom of Exfoliator until the trail splits several times near the creek. The post-fire erosion along the creek is significant through here. I was unable to find a trail on the eastside of the creek.
  • Exfoliator: I did not ride this trail as I had been told this is was a wreck and basically a sharp V-ditch/rut. You could ride it but not worth it was the assessment I was given. Based on looking at the exit of the trail, it is not seeing much action.
  • Coyote Run to Rage Thru The Sage Climb: The bottom section of this climb does not exist anymore due to post-fire erosion. I could see the bed of the upper portion of the climb from Coyote Run but I did not do any bushwhacking to get over to it. Later on in the day I was at the top of this climb by way of Missing Link and the trail was pretty faint at best with no signs of use. Between the bottom of Exfoliator and the now nonexistent bottom of this climb is a trail that drops down to the creek. It appears to be mostly used by hikers to get down to the creek.
  • Demoralizer: This is the trail that connects from Apple Canyon Road to Coyote Run just north of the campground. I did not look for it off of the Apple Canyon Road, but I did see a trace of it at the junction of Coyote Run. No signs of use at that junction.

Summary and Random Thoughts

I think the biggest thing that needs to happen out here is the rebuilding/rerouting of the Keen Camp Climb. Without that trail in a rideable condition there is no practical way to loop the rest of the system together.  Sure you could start from over in Idyllwild and get up to Southridge and down into this area, but if folks are going to drive up to Idyllwild they are more than likely going to hit up  The Hub Trails or Pine Cove.  Even if you do Southridge, you would be hardpressed go south onto Missing Link or Exfoliator as there is no rideable return path of interest.      Once bikers can ride from Herkey Creek Park up into May Valley they will the bring the needed wheels on the ground to naturally bring these trails back out of the faint to nearly gone category. There is certainly much needed trail maintenance to be done all over the area but traffic would help these trails not be completely reclaimed by the ever efficient Mother Nature. Missing Link is there, it just needs some tire tracks and nip and tuck debrushing. Rage Thru The Sage could be restablished just from mountainbikers trying to follow the same GPS track. I don't think that Exfoliater and Coyote Run is a good return path for MTBers back Hurkey Creek Campground at this point as Coyote Run sees a lot of use by hikers.  It is basically their only trail option at this point walking out of camp.  Before the fire there was a planned connection between the bottom of Exfoliator to the top of Rage in the Sage.  I think that connection is a key trail to minimize hiker/biker interaction density that would occur on Coyote Run otherwise.   

This area should come back into being a good and fun riding area within a couple years of the Keen Camp Climb being rebuilt.

2007 Update(Historial archive at this point)


There is so much more to the Hurkey Creek area than just the 24 hour race course.    The Idyllwild Spring Challenge race put on my Idyllwild Cycling sends the pro and expert level races on nearly all of the trails in the area.   They have an really good route description and map of the course which I have included a copy of here on the site.

images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreekMap07.JPG Here is the race course map from 2007.  There are a lot more trails than are shown here     
Here are a few comments I will make about the trails.
Satan's Gut is a whole lot of elevation drop and I generally did not consider it worth the payback required.
When deciding between Missing Link and Exfoliater to get back down the from the May Valley area back to Herkey Creek here are you two primary decision drivers.  Exfoliater is a fast ripfest while Missing Link is more of a slow twisting route.
The death march up the South Ridge fireroad is worth it too come down the South Ridge trail. 
If you generally go up the fire roads and go down the single tracks life is good.  The Cahuilla Cutoff trails is a nice climb after Snakeskin to get up to the Hombres trails.
There is nothing out here that sucks in my book

images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-03JUN07-18.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-01APR07-03.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-03JUN07-28.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-01APR07-01.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-01APR07-06.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-03JUN07-12.jpg


video I simply love Idyllwild.   The awesome people who are putting these trails together really know what they are doing.  This video was mostly shot in the Herkey Creek area but include stuff closer to the town itself.   I consider this video to be Idyllwild Volume II as none of the trails in my Idyllwild 2005 video are included in this video.  This 13 minute video is 179MB.


Original Report on Hurkey Creek

Picture provided by the 24 hours of Andrenalin Website

2002 24 hours of Adrenalin at Hurkey Creek

HerkeyCreekMap-lr.jpg (137385 bytes) MAP:  Note this is the original map of the Hurkey 24hour race course and elevation Profile.  

Download the TOPO file here.

HerkeyCreekProfile.JPG (54509 bytes)

A Virgins Tale


    Set in the San Jacinto Mountains near the town of Idyllwild, Hurkey Creek Park is an annual stop on the 24 hours of Adrenaline mountain biking race circuit. This is also the place where I got my first taste as a competitor in a mountain bike race. The experience was quite remarkable. The team was affectionately known as the Five Knobs on Knobbies and was composed of Miles, Michael, Cliff, Stan, and myself. 

Pictures from around Camp
A view from out of the tent
    Another view from the campsite    Cliff has an air mattress slightly bigger that his tent!    Camp Clutter    Casa de la Knobbies

    This endurance race is a team event were one person goes and rides a 10 mile mountain bike trail "lap" that has you climbing hills, speeding through open valleys and navigating technical downhills.  When one person completes a lap they hand off a small baton to the next rider and they go do a lap. This relay continues on throughout the day and night.  The team that can complete the most laps in 24 hours in the least amount of time wins.   There are all sorts of categories from solo to 10 person corporate teams to suit your particular level of addiction.  We were in the largest category, five man with a total team age between 150-199 years.  Most of my non-biking friends as well good chunk of my biking friends thought I was "sick" for wanting to do an event like this.  I would have to see for myself. 

Early moments of the race
Less than a minute to go!
    Zero seconds -- A couple of folks get a jump on the clock    Mooo here comes the stampede!    Bikes in the transition area
Tinker goes to hop on the bike
    And the field is off on the Prolouge    Bikes Bikes Bikes!!    And More Bikes

Tinker towards the front of the run            Pic by Michael Paul More Lemans Start fun                              Pic by Michael Paul     Three of the five members of the team were veterans and Stan and I were the "virgins" of the team.  We had come up the day before the race and setup camp early so we could take a leisurely pre-ride of the course.  I did not feel as strong as I have been in the past while doing the pre-ride,  but I still felt pretty good and I was sure I could pull my load in the race.  We all went into Idyllwild that evening for some carb-intense Italian food.  I was in bed by midnight with a belly full of garlic chicken pasta and I slept really good in the cool mountain air.  The following morning greeted us with some rather odd weather.  It started out warm but we were soon socked in with some fog and the temperature dipped sharply.   As noon (the start of the race) approached my excitement level was getting pretty high.  The race starts off with a LeMans start where all the riders of the first lap must do a 1/8th of a mile run. They complete the run by hoping on their bike and then do a The Stampede keeps on coming.              Pic by Michael Paul prologue lap before they are off to the trail.  In the Hey wait for me!!!!                                      Pic by Michael Paul minutes leading up to the start there was music blasting out over the PA system as the racers got themselves pumped up for the start. The last minute before the counter at the start/finish ticked down to zero, the music faded and the crowd when crazy as they yelled out the countdown. The run was down right crazy and resembled a stampede of wildebeest trying to get across a river while dressed in very loud clothes.  Within a few minutes the leaders were done with the run and on the bikes.   The prologue was soon over and our lead off guy, Miles, was off on the trail. I was the fourth rider in the line up so I had a few hours to wait until my turn came up. 

Off course Tinker is out in front                Pic by Michael Paul Pic by Michael Paul     Over the next three hours while waiting for my turn the anticipation  really built up.  I tried to play it cool but I think the guys in camp knew what was up.  I changed clothes a couple of times while trying to figure out the funky weather that was going on and I checked and rechecked my bike to make sure everything was good to go.  I was down at the transition area at least 15 minutes before Cliff could possible get in.  I had placed my bike at the very end of the bike rack closest to the exit onto the course.  My thinking was that it is easier to get around people to get to my bike than get around people with my bike.  The anticipation was really setting in now and I was positioned so that I could see people coming up to the finish before their number was called. (This proved to be not necessary at all.)  Anyway Cliff came in with a really good time (54 mins) and we had a descent hand off and I blazed off to my bike and was off and rolling in no time flat (The start of my first mistake).  I did the classic first time racer thing and hauled ass straight out of the gate, I must have passed 6 or 7 people before I got through the campground and onto the trail proper.  It was shortly after I hit the trail that I realized what an idiot I was. My heart rate was spiked and I was breathing mighty heavy.  Gee this was great, trying Johnson Meadow - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th. to get this under control while going up a hill.  By the Johnson Meadow - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th. time I was half up the first climb I was passed by at least those 6 or 7 people and maybe a couple others.  I pressed on up the climb in "pride" mode, which meant I was pushing in the middle ring even when it was not doing anything for me like when I was stuck behind slower riders. (This was another mistake). I was very grateful to see the top of the hill and I did something right by getting into a bigger gear right before cresting out and I gathered up enough speed to get around someone on a very short section of fire road before rolling back onto the downhill single track that led into Johnson Meadow. This fast twisty section gave me a chance to recover somewhat.  About halfway down this section I came up someone going significantly slower that me and the first real test of my ability to pass on single track.  I did not let the person in front me know I wanted to pass and I missed a couple places to pass if I had some cooperation from the person in front of me.  I finally found a spot and gave them the "on your right" and got around.  I then proceeded to kick it up a couple of notches to get up the valley.  There were plenty of places to pass through the meadow and I got around three more folks.  The trail turns up hill as you climb out of the meadow and I got stuck Johnson Meadow - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th. behind someone for a while climbing this section.  Top of Johnson Meadow (33.42.000N by 116.41.400W) - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th.The single track dumps out onto a fire road where you must make a left and continue climbing uphill.  I pressed real hard here and got around four or five people before heading into another downhill section.  This section was tight and twisty while also being loose and rutty with plenty of stutter bumps.  There was one particularly nasty rut in a sweeping left hand turn that I narrowly avoided getting stuck in. This section finishes off with a quick rise onto a downhill fire road where you can absolutely let it all hang out in a blaze fest that ends with a 120 degree left hand turn back onto single track.  There are two lines through this turn. One on either side a bush. The name of my game here no matter what line I was taking was waiting to the last possible second to brake and then make the turn. This sounds obvious but when approaching this turn with such speed it is a little hard not to break early. 

The Hike-a-Bike Section that was taken out. -- Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th.Top of the 3rd Climb looking SE - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th.    After getting onto the single you are quickly back into the climbing business again. There are many areas to pass on this climb but they all have additional cost to pay in either distance or technical difficulty. This climb is the steepest yet but it is shorter that the initial climb on the course.  If you have ever ridden Anderson Truck Trail in San Diego this is very much like that climb.  I push up this climb in the middle ring again and get around a couple folks.  I felt like my heart was going to explode at the top.  Thankfully the following downhill was not all that taxing and it offered another chance to recover.  Did I take the chance?  Oh no I had to try and reel in the guy in front of me.  About halfway through this section I realized what an idiot I was being and stopped pressing on this guy through a section where there was no chance to pass.  Eventually the course then makes an abrupt left hand turn onto a short but steep and tight twisty uphill section of that bypasses the previous year's hike-a-bike section.  There is a rock formation about 3/4ths of the way where the trail goes through a tight technical section to the left or you can try going the right and powering over the rocks.  On the pre-ride I had practiced the up and over route and it paid off on the very first lap as one guy biffed it while trying to go the left and the guy behind him had to stop.  I managed to get around them both by going to the right and up and over the rocks. Shortly thereafter the trail crests out into most difficult downhill section of the course.  The trail allows for  fast rolling but has enough loose turns, large rocks, and drops to really keep you on you toes. 

One of the Team Basso guys heading down the trail               Pic by Michael Paul Everyone can look like star in this section.                               Pic by Michael Paul After getting through the downhill section things leveled out and before you know it you have to navigate trough a sand-pit before getting onto some double track. This section allows for another bit of recovery. Soon you transition on to a section on pavement where you can do some big ringing to get around people. Soon you hang a right and roll back on to another section of double track that brings to a very short but steep climb.  There is a downright evil sandy section right at the bottom of the climb that robs you of nearly all your momentum.  After grunting up this climb you speed down the hill and onto a section of single track with numerous ups and downs that will allow even the most fatigued of riders to catch a little air. The bottom of this section brings you to a dry creek crossing which is a really big sand pit that bogged most riders down the first time through (myself included).  Once out on the other side of the pit you roll through a short section of the park to the Start/Finish line and into the transition area.

Teammate Cliff getting some air on the SS.       Pic by Michael Paul The start/finish area    At the completion of my first lap I was really whooped, but I managed to turn in a 57-minute lap.  Back in camp I realized that I had drank very little water on the course so I downed a bottle of Gatorade in addition to some Endurox.  It was a little chilly out now and as I started to wind down my wet clothes were making me down right cold.  I also need to eat something but I was really not in the mood.  After getting on some dry and warm clothes I managed to get down some pasta before I decided to lay down for a rest.  I found that my heart was still running a little quick and I was still too pumped up to really rest.  I did the best I could but before I knew it I was up for my second lap.

    I quickly realized my mistakes of the first lap as I was having a tough time getting up the climbs.  About 2/3rds of the way up the climbs I had to get out of the middle ring to keep moving.  It was night time now and I found the HID helmet light I borrowed from a friend working great.  However, when I was going downhill behind someone I found that the high position of the light washed out my vision a little (Like high beams in the fog). (NOTE TO SELF: Be the first person down the hill. If it was only that easy!  I also had a 10W narrow beam halogen light on the handlebar that cut through the dust quite well.  I have done quite a bit of night riding in the past so I felt I was loosing more time due to fatigue than night time riding conditions.   I did a much better job this lap of passing and I managed to pull off a 62-minute second lap.

Teammate Stan with his "Unique"  hat.     Pic by Michael Paul I did not feel that bad, HONEST!                                             Pic by Michael Paul     I actually managed to fall asleep for a short bit before having to get ready for my third lap.  It was quite a wake up call when I got out of the sleeping bag.  It was downright cold!  However once I got out on the course I felt comfortable.  As a matter of fact I was riding okay considering that it was a little after 1 AM.  I was getting better about managing how hard I was riding and I while I was still having to get out of the middle ring and hurting on the climbs I felt like I was moving quicker. Then on the second downhill  I got caught in the mega-rut that was sucking in a lot of people.  I had a nice soft landing in the sage brush and was quickly back on the bike and rolling.  Not even a scratch on me. The start of third downhill was really torn up and did an unscheduled running dismount twice.  I managed to get through this lap in 63 minutes.  As I was walking back towards camp and past all the other night owls waiting for their riders to come in I could not help but think, "There is nothing quite like mountain biking at 2AM on cold Sunday morning".   I was starting to come "Down with the Sickness".

Sunrise on the San Jacinto Mountains       Pic by Michael Paul More scenery from the view of camp    After another cat nap, I was up for my fourth lap.  Cliff came in with his now usual sub 60-minute lap and I was off right around 6AM.  I was feeling pretty decent.  It was already getting light out and I had taken off the handlebar light but left the helmet light on.  I ended up not having to turn it on at all.  I knew this could potentially be my last lap so I made sure to give a pretty good push.  I managed to pass a lot more people than passed me.  As I rolled into Johnson Meadow I got to watch the sunrise over the mountains and what a beautiful sight it was.  The mountains seemed to come alive with varying hues of orange, pink, and purple as I watched the sun walk its way down the side of the mountains.  Soon enough Scenery from Campthe daylight transition was over and I was climbing out of the meadow.  It was quite remarkable that I was not being held up by anyone on this lap and every place were I came up on someone there was a place to pass.  I was either getting lucky or I was getting better at the passing game.  The third downhill was much easier in full daylight and I cleaned the entire lap without so much as a bobble.  I came across the finish line in 61 minutes.

Miles coming in on his final lapMiles after the race    Over the course of the night our team had pulled into 9th place.  As the morning rolled on we realized that we were close to being able to take 8th place, but our 9th place position was not in the bag.  I was on the rotation to bring in the final lap.  But instead we sent out our fastest rider (Miles) in my place to go for 8th place and assure our 9th place spot.  Miles delivered the goods.  Our team "Five Knobs on Knobbies" came in a very respectable 9th place out of 55 teams completing 24 laps.  It was an absolutely amazing experience.  Working together as a team while at the same time having to fight your own personal battles against fatigue, frustration, and the elements out on the course both day and night leaves you feeling a little stronger as both mountain biker and a person.   Even though we were all beat as we laid on the grass devouring the after race pasta dinner we were already talking about doing this again.  Yep, I am definitely "Down with the Sickness" of the 24 hour racing thing.

*** UPDATE ***


I went back for some more punishment at the 2003 race.   This year we where the SCUMBAGs (San Diego County Unified Mountain Bikers And Gearheads).  We switched to that name for the Tucson and Temecula races and decided to stick with this year.