Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: One Classic Trail that Still Packs a Punch


Mountain bike trails seem to be immortal entities. Similar to roads, you might think that once a trail is built, it will stay like that forever—never moving, never changing, permanent and immutable.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mountain bike trails are *constantly* changing over time. Even the best, most sustainably-built trails evolve as the years roll on. The trail tread wears down and wears in, with fast lines appearing in the trail corridor. Some trails get rougher, while others get smoother. New features may be built to make the trail more entertaining, and others may be removed to make it easier. Most notably, erosion plays a huge role, sometimes turning buff, easy trails into challenging messes of ruts and rocks.

Mountain bike trails even change their paths over time. Trails are often rerouted onto more sustainable alignments, and sometimes they're closed down to make way for other, newer alternatives. Nothing is permanent, except for change itself.

Sometimes this change is slow, and classic trails serve humanity for decades, over even hundreds of years. A long list of historic trails have helped shape and define the sport of mountain biking, emerging as classic rides that every mountain biker worth their salt has to ride at least once.

The problem is, many of the so-called "classics" have indeed changed over time, and the trail's present reality doesn't always hold up to the fond memories that we have from years past. Yet other trails retain their character over the years, drawing riders back repeatedly while delighting new riders who have never before tasted their sweet fruit.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is one of the latter. Established in 1982, this steep trail drops off of the venerable Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and descends quickly down the mountainside into the valley below. While it can be ridden as a loop, many riders choose to shuttle part way up the highway and then climb the TRT to the top of Mr. Toad's.

I chose the shuttle option and got dropped off at an upper TRT trailhead. Despite the shuttle bump, it's still about 1,400 feet of climbing up the TRT to reach the top of Mr. Toad's. But with sublime singletrack to pedal and occasional views through the trees, the feet ticked by quickly, and before I knew it, it was time to pull the knee pads up and drop in.

Mr. Toad's has long held a reputation as a gnarly, demanding descent, but sometimes it's tough to know how much credence to give these reports. Was Mr. Toad's just challenging on the fully rigid mountain bikes with tiny wheels and steep geometry of yesteryear, or does it still serve up a big dose of challenge today?

Shortly after dropping in, I found the answer to my question: Mr. Toad's *definitely* still packs a punch! The trail drops through a veritable boulder field, and especially for a first-timer exploring solo, spotting the best line through the sea of rock can be a challenge. In a few sections, I stopped to scope the line, determining exactly how I would approach the piles of boulders. In others, I would blast down an obvious line, then look off to the side and spot an alt line that launches off a massive 5-foot boulder, gapping to a smooth landing further down the mountainside. While simply making it down Mr. Toad's without a crash is a worthy accomplishment, this trail provides a smorgasbord of challenge for expert mountain bikers.

Despite stopping for photos, the 2,700-foot descent flew by in a blur, and before I knew it, I had left the rocks behind and was rolling through smooth singletrack on my way to the lower trailhead. Whoever first routed this line down a vast mountainside of cliffs and boulders was a true visionary, and I hope that wherever that person is today, they know what a classic trail they created in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!