Mount Marquette Loop – Blue
The Mount Marquette Loop (also known to locals as the Blue Loop because of the classic blue ‘NTN arrow’ signs which mark the trail) is one of the signature trails in the Marquette single track system. The trail is rated as moderately difficult with numerous short more difficult sections and one longer more/most difficult section (there is a bypass for this).
The loop is just under 4 miles in length and there are a number of adjacent nearby trails available to extend a ride. There are 4 main access points: the M-553 trailhead, the base of the Mt. Marquette access road, Shiras Park and the Granite Pointe neighborhood access. The M553 trailhead is the most used access point as it is the ‘hub’ of the South Trails system.
From the parking area, the trail is generally ridden in the counter-clockwise direction. The large billboard sign marks the beginning of the trail. The loop contains a number of named trail segments.
The start of the loop is a quick, steep uphill onto the section known as the ‘Gurley’ trail. In the usual (counterclockwise) riding direction, this is one of the main climbs of the loop. You’ll find classic Marquette singletrack here, with hard packed dirt and enough roots and rocks to shake things up a little. There are a few sections steep enough that many riders be in their granny gear.
The next section of trail has been given the moniker of ‘Doctors Trail.’ This segment contains some of the fastest and most fun trail in the loop. It begins after the well marked trail crosses the access road leading down from the summitt of Mt. Marquette. The trail is generally level with some small ups and downs and a couple of small bridges.
The trail intersects with the bottom of the ‘Southern Cross Trail’ hits a small jump then comes out to an opening at the ‘Jeep’ trail. Riders should stay to the left as they ride along a short segment of the two track before a flowing bench cut gets them back on the skinny. The real fun starts now with a descent as fast as you and your bike can take it. Extra challenge can be added with roots and rocks to hop on or over along the trail and then there are 2 rolling hills and small bridges at the end of the main descent. A couple of tight turns follow then a more rocky section before a short steep ascent takes you to a bench cut above the Mt. Marquette access road.
You’ve gone around the backside of Mt. Marquette and a short section with 2 very tight, moderately steep switch backs takes you to the Forget- Me- Not trail. At the right time of year the ground around this short section is carpeted with the tiny purple flowers.
Completion of Forget-Me-Not takes you to the base of Mt. Marquette and another trail access point at the base of the access road.
The Up a Creek trail follows. The first 1/4 mile of this trail features 7 bridges across the creek that wanders back and forth along through the valley we are gradually climbing up. The bridges are all around 2 feet wide and low- at ground level, so little danger present– unless you’re riding fast and the trails are slick– more than a few riders have ended in the creek in that scenario.
The climb continues all the way to another trailhead at Shiras Park. This whole trail section is mostly ridden in the uphill direction when doing the entire loop, but it’s popular as well as a downhill section combined with other riding.
From Shiras Park, riders doing the full loop will now ‘pay for their visit to the Doctor’ with a pretty good climb up the Secret Trail. Several short steep sections alternate with flatter areas to begin a good burn in the legs and lungs. The Secret trail transitions to the Goat trail at the last access point on the loop- The Granite Point subdivision trailhead.
The Goat trail is the last main uphill section of the loop. There are 2 main bench cut climbs, both long enough to get the heart into the anaerobic zone for all but the strongest climbers. The climb continues to just below the summit of Mt. Marquette where there is a very washed out trail leading to the summit on your left while the bike trail continues on straight. A couple of rollers course below a large rock outcrop that is the summit viewing area of Mt. Marquette. A small open area is crossed that is actually the last evidence of the fact that this area was once a second downhill ski area in Marquette. The last section of the Goat is a narrow bench cut with a big drop to the right. There is one technical crux where a knife edge rock juts at an angle across the trail. Riders unwilling to chance the 8” tall obstacle and the exposure will need to dismount briefly before getting to another main downhill section.
Split Tree trail starts with a series of berms and bench cuts– including 2 big bermed hairpin downhills that are a blast to let your bike float through. After the last big bench which circles a deep ravine you get to the actual split tree shown above. The following section of trail is a little rockier with a couple of slight off camber sections presenting challenges.
The end of Split Tree gives you a choice. You can opt out of the most difficult section of the loop – the first half of the Gurley trail, or they can take the easier Burley trail (so called because you could [theoretically] pull your kids in their burley down it) which leads to a short cut out on the road and the parking area.
The Gurley trail is a different animal– a couple hundred yards of downhill rock drops which meets IMBA standards for a free ride trail. There are several rock drops like the one shown about of more than 1 foot and the landing area off of them is also rocky and irregular. All this while descending with exposure to your right. This section takes skill and commitment to trusting your bike to roll the drops; the reward of course is once you’re down its just a minute more until you’re back to the trailhead and whatever refreshment you have waiting there for you– or the beginning of the next trail segment of your ride.
Difficulty: Intermediate – Advanced
Distance: 3.8 miles