I’ve written about the slow and steady climb up the newly expanded Stl’lhalem Sintl’ trail up by Quest University – now, let me introduce you to the brand spanking new down trail: Meadow of the Grizzly.
On my first lap up and down this zone, I opted to avoid this trail because I wanted to get down as quickly as possible, so I chose to take the black diamond Upper PowerSmart trail to Skookum. That was kind of silly, because Upper PowerSmart is steep with lots of small rocks on the trail that force you to take it slow when you’re descending it on shoes, not on bike. Time-wise, it’s probably equal to take the blue-rated Meadow of the Grizzly, which is less technical and consistently runnable.
If you’re tackling Meadow of the Grizzly – either on foot or on bike – you’re probably reaching it by way of Stl’lhalem Sintl’. Grizzly is basically the climb trail in reverse.
First, you’ll hit winding dirt switchbacks similar to the ones at the end of the climb, only steeper. A runner can fly down this section. I’m not sure about a biker – I read in TrailForks that it’s not necessarily intuitive to navigate yet on two-wheels, and I did note a small section that was taped off (i.e., “DO NOT TRY TO JUMP OFF HERE”).
(Note: I realized on the way down that the trail intersects with the climb trail part of the way down. I may be tempted to cut off the final upper portion on future runs.)
Once you emerge from the switchback forest, you enter some trails through the block cut- similar to what you encountered halfway up the climb trail. This is the section with the epic views – and, this time of year, the epic wildflowers. You can stick to the wider log road, or take some single-track shortcuts (which is what I opted to do – the signage was still up from the Hot on Your Heels race, so I followed that course). The trail here – at least when I’ve run it during this rainless summer stretch – is dry and dusty.
Finally, you hit the access road that takes you through the Pseudo-Tsuga trail. The incessant switchbacks through the brush are not dissimilar to the early sections of the climb trail.
Is Meadow of the Grizzly fun? I suppose every trail runner and mountain biker has their own interpretation of what makes a fun trail. For instance, my favourite trail to run is Roller Coaster – so smooth, so snakey, soooo fun. Others may not agree with me.
I would say that Meadow of the Grizzly isn’t necessarily THE MOST FUN, but it’s varied enough to keep your interest piqued and enjoyable because you can just point down and give’er. It’s not overly technical and it does a good job of getting you from the top to the bottom. You can kind of just turn off your brain and go. The wow-factor is in its distance – it covers a whole lot of ground very efficiently.
I imagine they’ll be developing plenty of more trails in this zone now that trail access has been established, and some of these future trails will probably be more “fun”. Grizzly is accessible to most – if you’re good enough to ride or run all the way up the 12k climb, you’ve probably got the stuff to make it down in one piece. At the top of the trail, there’s a sign saying it should be treated as a “dark blue”, which is accurate.
If you’re on a bike, you probably want to take it slow the first time down. You can pick up a lot of speed on this trail – but the sharp curves are a-plenty, so control is key.
I’ll be honest – this loop is a bit of a long slog for me. I’ve learned that it’s a lot more enjoyable on rested legs (versus day-after-a-leg/glute-workout legs… I won’t be making that mistake again). It sure as heck beats running on the treadmill at incline.