It is compressed chip gravel, about a 2-3% grade down hill. The views are nice but not spectacular ( I think of Glacier, Rogers Pass when I think of "spectacular"); the trestles are really cool as are the tunnels. It would be a great day trip for the kind of thing you describe. Everyone should do it once.
Be sure to have lights, I know more than a few people that have had some serious ( bone-breaking) crashes in them.
I was there with my wife last week. I think the grade is actually less than 2%. Plus they have a shuttle sometimes. You park at the bottom and they shuttle you to the top. We just rode down about 9 miles and back up. There is a trail pass your supposed to buy for $9. They patrol the trail constantly and pick up folks that are ill prepared. When we were back going thru the last tunnel, over a mile long, the rescue truck came up be hind us and before I could see the lights I thought there was an earth quake.
How long is the trail? Is it complete from St. Regis to the top of the pass? Or, could a person ride gravel from St. Regis to the top of the pass? I remember seeing snowmobiles on a frontage road south of I90 but don't know if it goes all the way through.
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