Posts Tagged ‘classic’

Pinnell In a day

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

I have had plans to hike the Pinnell Mountain Trail as a day hike for most of the summer. This weekend things lined up and I headed off to hike it, joined by Tom. Alas, Remus had to stay home, as the trail heads are separated by about 20 miles required either two cars or a bike shuttle, and we opted for more fun but not dog friendly option of a bike shuttle.

Tom and I left town shortly after 7am in order to get a early start on what I expected to be a long day – 10 hours of hiking, 6 hours of driving round trip, and 2 hours of bike shuttle action. Fortunately the drive though coffee huts were open this early, which was a pleasant surprise and there was much rejoicing, hurrah!

The drive to the trail head was pretty uneventful, though we got a flat near 12 mile summit. When we stopped to unload our bikes for the shuttle I though I could hear a whistling sound, which sounded like air escaping from one of the tires. I drove the car back and forth while Tom watched the tire in question but nothing out of the ordinary could be seen, so we pressed onwards, only to have the tire go flat in a couple of miles.

Amazingly, the folks I bought the tire from replaced the flat free of charge – which was quite nice of them, as the cut in the tire was pretty large. I was quite pleasantly surprised when they told me that as the cut was unrepairable, they would just give me a new tire.


Shortly after the tire change we reached Eagle Summit and began our hike. We ran into some other hikers right out of the parking lot. They appeared non-plussed by our fanny packs and lack of packs and my attempts to engage them in conversation were foiled by one word responses..

The weather from this point on was fantastic – the day started overcast and a bit gray, but the forecast was for it to clear and become quite warm. By the time we started hiking the clouds were pretty much gone, the was a slight breeze, and the sun was out – fine weather for a long day hike.

The Pinnell Mountain trail sticks mainly to a series of ridges and it winds around or and goes over a number of small mountains and domes. It has a number of climbs, and one moderately hard climb but nothing very difficult and the effort is rewarded by superb views.

The hike is entirely above tree line with no brush at all and is normally quite dry.

There are two small shelters on the trail. These shelters are pretty small but can be very welcome in harsh weather as the trail is pretty exposed.

They also feature water catchment systems that made our hike much, much, easier, as we knew we could rely on water at the shelters.

On this hike I experimented with using a very small fanny back and it worked great – there was just enough room to get the basics in (rain jacket, first aid kit,etc ), a handful of snacks., and two bike bottles. The small size definitely helps you cut down on what your are taking, as you really can not fit much in it.

At the first shelter it soon became clear that we were hiking a bit faster than expected and would finish well under my estimated 10 hours – this was good of course but a bit surprising.

This trail features lots of interesting rock formations, including a rock shaped like a face.

A little past the face rock we encountered the 4th and final hiker we would see on the trail. This guy was hiking the trail as a four day trip with his black lab and was busy scanning the valleys with binoculars when we encountered him. He had yet to see any wildlife but brightened up substantially when I mentioned that we had just seen a caribou around the corner. Near the middle of the the trail there is a long section of board walk along the low point of the trail. This section is called “Swamp Saddle” and even with the boardwalk can be a bit wet. The boardwalk is a mixed bag – when its nice weather the boardwalk makes for nice and dry travel, however near freezing it becomes very, very slippery and hard to walk on.

It appears that BLM is in the process of upgrading this section of trail, as there was a number of caches of building materials along this section of trail.

The boardwalk only lasts a mile or so, then its back to ridge hiking and nice views.

The second shelter at mile 18 is pretty much identical to the one at mile 10 – though it is a bit less exposed.

We filled up on water again and I chugged a extra bottle fun as a I was getting a bit deydrated at this point. The remaining 10 miles of trail went by pretty fast.

There is one moderately steep climb with a huge number of switchbacks after the second shelter, but otherwise the trail is fairly mellow, and after the steep climb the trail starts heading downhill, making for fast walking. We reached the bikes after 8 and a half hours of hiking, quite a bit less time than I expected. We only ran a very short section – Tom is training for the equinox marathon but I am alas not in that good of running shape currently so we only ran a short section. The trail is almost entirely runnable and would make a great, though long, trail run.
After reaching the 12 mile summit trail head, we gorged on snacks and then jumped on our bikes and headed off to Eagle Summit. As this point I was getting a little dehydrated and as it was now very hot and calm I was soon quite dehydrated. Tom zoomed ahead invigorated by the thought of biking uphill in the hot sun… Eventually I reached Eagle Summit and dove into the cooler in the back of the truck and enjoyed the cool sodas stashed away there. By the end of the day I had had 2 quarts of power aid, 8 20oz bike bottles of water, and 40 oz of pop – thats two and a quarter gallons of liquid! I was still not hydrated when I got home and had to drink several additional quarts of water before I started feeling reasonably hydrated.

The trip ended up taking a little under 6 hours of driving round trip, 8.5 hours of hiking, and 1.5 hours of biking – quite reasonable for a long day trip. My fanny pack setup worked great and forced me to pack a bit lighter than I normally do, which was good. The fanny pack setup also worked pretty well for the brief bit of running I did, so it might be a good option for trail runs in the future.

Pinnell Mountain trail is a classic interior hike and well worth doing. It has super fine views, the trail is in pretty good shape, the climbs are not very challenging, and the trail is amazingly brush free – all in all a fantastic hike. It can be done as a reasonable 2 day hike or mellow 3 day hike if long day hikes are not your thing. Its a spectacular hike!

More photos for this picture inclined: Dayhiking Pinnell Mountain Trail.