14 Mile loop. Beautiful single track built for mountain biking. This was designed for mountain biking, and all other users must yield to bikes! There is something for everyone here. There are optional jumps and drops on the descent. Sweet banked corners, swooping curves, loads of fun! Be warned It takes reasonably fit beginner to complete the loop, the climb is tough. However, you could have fun playing around on the flats. Follow the loop clockwise. Check out the BLM website for a map (see link). Read the info at the trailhead the trail has a large log that prevents motorcycles, go over it. This trail is worth the drive.
Summary: Thank you IMBA, BLM, and the many volunteer trail builders for one of the best mountain-bike specific trails ever built! How often do you ride a trial which was specifically engineered for mountain bikes and is posted that mountain bikers have the right-of-way? Probably never. Yes, the previous reviewer is correct that it is an aerobically challenging ride. Duh. You have to climb up hills. That's why they call it "mountain biking." Not recommended for those who typically shuttle their bike to the top of descents, are not in excellent shape and/or are overweight.
It is very remote (2 hour drive from Eureka in the King Range overlooking the "Lost Coast."). It is like riding in the Amazon jungle at times. You will not likely see another human being. Lush with beautiful creek crossings. Technical but with very few dismounts. Long climb, long descent. It will test your bike-handling skills at times. Trail is mostly on or near ridges and drains very well. No mud issues. (I road it in the pouring rain last night and had not one ounce of mud in my tires.) The "Prince of Pain" climb is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean far below. There is even a camp-chair someone set up at the view point for resting and taking it all in. Plan on about 3 hours for the 14-mile ride. Do a double if you are in excellent shape and have the time. Take plenty of water.
Recommended Route: I go clockwise, like most everyone else.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Grasshopper ridge. Arcata community forest. Weaverville Basin.
Summary: I read all the previous reviews, then went and rode the loop, and then reread all the reviews. Got to say, all previous writers are nuts. Yes, the trail is smooth--very few rocks, roots, or ruts. But the trail has the elevation profile of a saw's teeth (there's a map at the trailhead--believe it), so you'll never ride 100 ft without a descent and a climb. So you can never settle in for any sort of riding. I counted 47 climbs on the "descent" leg of the loop. The trail goes well out of its way to add gratuitous short steep climbs, and when there is nowhere to climb they build whoops into the trail. There are even whoops on the climbs, to make the climbs momentarily steeper. The switchbacks are often very tight, and the trail (everywhere but the "descending" quarter) noodles around and between trees, so it's a nervous, jerky sort of riding I don't much like. All those who said the Prince of Pain wasn't so bad must have ego problems with admitting difficulty. It's 2.4 miles of some of the steepest climbing I've ever seen (and I've ridden all over the West), followed by another 1-2 miles of less steep climbing. Expect to be climbing for over an hour. And I'm known as the climber in my circle, and I'm riding a 24-lb bike. And the "descent" is designed to be ridden very fast, so if you aren't into very fast (as I am not) you'll find it forcing you to ride in a way you don't like. All in all, a) one of the hardest aerobic workouts I've ever had on a mtb, and b) a great trail only if you like what it's dishing out. No rock gardens, but hardly easy. The trail map says "1200 ft elevation DIFFERENCE," which may be true but is meaningless-- we figured total gain had to be 3000+. Tolkan Campground is now without water, btw.
Recommended Route: The trail map suggests clockwise, which we did. Much of the trail looked to be built for a counter-clockwise ride, and going CCW would make the climbing less intense but force you to ride up the slalom section.
Summary: I just wanted to add my review because all the current reviews are old. This trail is the best single track I have ever ridden. It is smooth and fun, just as described. I ride a 29er hardtail and had a blast. The jumps can be as big as you want them to be and nothing is too hard. The trail condition is great, not one single rut on the entire thing. So well thought out and taken care of. Trailheads are well marked with lots of information, no fire roads sections! It is all single track,
After you reach the top of Prince of Pain there is the jump section. This parallels a fire road so you can loop up it and do it all again if you want. The Prince of Pain is long but easy, don't be intimidated by it just take your time and walk if you need to. It is so worth it.
The trick park starts at the campground so if you camp you are right at the top of it. The campground is called Tolken and I plan on staying there next time I go. they have toilets and water, I don't know if you can reserve space but on Sunday when I went there was one car there.
If your within 5 hours of this area you should stop and ride. The loop took me less than 3 hours and I took my time. The drive from Hwy 101 takes about 40 minutes and the Kings Peak road is gravel but well maintained. I drive a Scion xB and it did great.
This trail is a gem and should be on everyone's must ride list.
Recommended Route: Clockwise, no better way to go.
Review Date June 12, 2012
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 4 of 5
Technical Difficulty 2 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: Roth
Summary: I'm surprised this trail isn't more popular. First off, the jumps/ flow section at the beginning is great if you are into that sort of thing. They were definitely constructed by bikers. There are smaller and larger jump lines, it wouldn't be boring to spend a few hours here goofing off.
The paradise royale trail itself is also great. It starts off fast and flowy as it descends to a creek. Once crossing the creek I believe I was on the "Prince of Pain" trail, named such for it's steep descents with switchbacks. The climb itself wasn't all that difficult for me, just rather long. It wasn't a technical climb, or particularly strenuous, but it felt long. Once you reach the apex the downhill trail is phenomenal. Fast, fast, fast, as fast as you want to make it. Flowy, good lines, a drop and two log rides. 14 miles total for the loop.
I have been driving from east coast to west coast for the past two months riding all of the more recognized trails. I had never heard of this one but I was definitely impressed. It's a good workout with a rewarding downhill section. Of all the supposed legendary trails I've ridden while on the trip, this one stand out as being pretty damn fun. If you are passing up the Shoreline Highway on a scenic drive, detour out to this trail, it's worth the drive.
Recommended Route: Clockwise, just like the posted sign says to.
Review Date June 23, 2011
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 4 of 5
Technical Difficulty 3 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: GoDoook
Summary: WOW. This ride is simply one of the best trail layouts/routing/surfaces of any trail I've ever ridden. There are no nightmarish fireroads to climb, although the Prince of Pain was too much for me and I had to walk a few sections. But overall, it really follows the contour lines well. The trail surface is like butter. Some reviews mention it being loose, but I think that was either in the past or in summer after it dried out. When I was there (June 2011), I had great traction. Great terrain to explore, cool forests and the downhill on the Mad Queen's Tango is as much fun as one can have on a bike. Camping at Tolkan worked for us.