If you’re an experienced rider with a seasoned trail horse, you will love the Anvil Loop, a spectacular ride in the Elbe Hills near Sahara Creek Horse Camp.
Difficulty: Challenging — bridges, creek crossings, and some steep sections, but no drop-offs
Distance: 12.5 miles round trip
Elevation: 1,500 to 3,000 feet, with total elevation gain of 2,400 feet
The forested Elbe Hills are beautiful, and the occasional clear-cuts are filled with wildflowers in season. As you ride, you’ll enjoy splendid views of Mt. Rainier from several vantage points. Your horse will need to be in condition, though, because the elevation changes are significant.
The ride starts at the day-use area at Sahara Creek Horse Camp. You’ll depart on the Upper Elk Spur Trail, travel around the Anvil Loop Trail, and follow either the Bull Run Trail or the Buck Crossing Trail to reach the Lower Elk Spur Trail, which will then take you back to the horse camp. The Anvil Loop segment of the ride circles the flat top of a ridge that was recently clear-cut, so the view of Mt. Rainier is panoramic.
The trails are part of the Nicholson Horse Trail System, a huge trail network that is open only to horses and hikers. Mountain bikes, motorcycles, and ATVs are not allowed on the Nicholson Trails.
If you’ve never stayed at Sahara Creek Horse Camp, you’re missing out. This camp is a treat, with spacious campsites, highline poles, potable water, fire pits, picnic tables, and a day-use parking area. The camp was featured in a previous blog post you can read at www.nwhorsetrails.com/sahara-creek-horse-camp/.
From the town of Elbe, drive east on Hwy. 706 for five miles. Just 200 feet past milepost five and the large sign for the Mt. Tahoma Trails, turn left into the campground. The campground sign is small and easy to miss, so keep a sharp eye out.
You’ll find more information about the Anvil Loop and other trails out of Sahara Creek Horse Camp in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2018), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.