Trail Review: Monarch Singletrack

by Adam Emanoff
October 7, 2020

Think back to when you were a kid. It’s the night before your birthday or bedtime on Christmas Eve. You’re told to go to bed, but your excitement level just won’t allow it. How can we sleep!? The adrenaline is too much. We’re so excited that we just want to stay up all night to get our presents ASAP. That’s the feeling we mountain bikers get when new trails are opened up to us. We love trying new things; new gear, new gadgets/gizmos. When it comes to new trails, we relish in the opportunity to explore new miles. It’s another way for us to get outside and explore new challenges, trash talk the experiences of our fellow riders. We understand that new trails aren’t always easy to come to fruition, so when brand new trails open, we appreciate the hard work and effort involved by everyone to bring them to life.

Monarch Singletrack is the newest trail system from Three Rivers Park and I was super excited to ride it for the first time. I had been hearing about it for a little while but never really followed the progress. When I got the email stating it was finally open, I was smiling just like the kid on Christmas Eve. I immediately reached out to people to see who could join me on a short-notice ride.

The timing to open the trail couldn't have been better. The drive into the lot this time of year is stunning. The road winds through giant trees, showing off their vibrant colors and lighting up the roadway as if announcing my arrival. Soon enough It was clear I wasn’t the only one who got the email. Looking around I quickly found the main entrance and we were off.

For being a ‘brand new’ trail, it rides really well. Except for the sections of tape and clearly temporary signage, you'd never know that it’s brand new. This trail was riding really nicely.

There’s something about it that screams Three Rivers Park trail. I can’t quite put my tire tracks on it, but it’s there. My riding buddy said the same thing. That’s not bad - just consistent I guess.

The trail system consists of 2 areas separated by a short ride on the paved trail. The entire trail is a great blend of singletrack, almost double-track and uses all sorts of features that the land has to offer. There are some ‘expert’ lines as course options, but those aren’t terribly daunting and there are ways around if needed. Scattered throughout the ride, you’ll find the occasional course option like a table-top; log stairs; shaved log and several wide bridges. But more than anything, the trail is very accessible for all skill levels. There’s some elevation, but the trail is clear of obstacles on the climbs so you can find the easy gear and grind away.

Near what appears to be close to the highest part of the loop, the trail earns big smiles with a section of several large berms that connect together like a bunch of ‘monkeys in a barrel’. Getting those ridden well feels really good.

During the ride, you’ll find sections of prairie that open up to some fantastic views - especially now. The color just pops and you find yourself slowing the pace a tad so you can look around.

What I really enjoy about this trail system is how well it flows as you ride it. There are a few obstacles, but they make sense and don’t throw you off your game if you’re on a flyer and decide to take it. The trail makers also turn what would be a boring straight line across the field to get the woods into something fun by adding a flow section and then some quick berms. You can also see that they pay attention to the natural lay of the land and have allowed for drainage to help the trail shed water easily, ensuring that we have maximum time on the trails.

After my initial ride, my biggest critique was for the couple of two-way traffic sections. I don’t like two-way trails. Especially if there’s a Strava Segment - just too dangerous. However, on my most recent return visit, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they eliminated the longest two-way section and had cut a new route so that both directions were now one way. There were also some other minor trail adjustments along the way that simply added to the overall fun factor for the trail.

I’m very happy with this trail system because of how polished it is already. It rides really well and has a great mix of turns, elevation and obstacles. I’m also really happy with how accessible the entire trail is for everyone. It’s wonderful to see so many new, younger people on the trail and the fact that Three Rivers Park has given us mountain bikers yet another shiny new present for Christmas is truly a gift.

Thank you to everyone who played a part in making this trail happen.