Basic map

3-D view

Elevation profile

By Liam Wescott

This is a pretty mellow road/trail ride (some of the bike paths on this ride are either gravel or grungy pavement with lots of road gravel) that is not quite 16 miles long, if you take the longer (i.e., not cutting through the University) route.  It should take you around an hour and a half, perhaps as long as two hours if you're going slow.  A determined rider or group of riders could easily complete this ride in well under an hour, if conditions are right.

There are several different points along this ride from which to choose.  You could start at the University, in the Patty Center parking lot perhaps. Or, as is mapped, start at the turnout by Sheep Creek Road, just west of the Experimental Farm on the University campus.  Or, you could start at the turnout just west of Ann's Greenhouses on Sheep Creek road or at the Ivory Jack's parking lot.  You have a range of options in that regard.

Note: although this is technically a "road" ride, be warned that if you do take your road bike on this ride, be prepared to fix a flat or two (or three!) because the road surface is gravelly and/or covered with that chip seal crap the DOT has been putting all over our roads everywhere.  In addition, some of the bike paths are gravel and/or bumpy, gravelly, or otherwise able to eat road bike tires.  It's best to take your mountain bike, commuter bike, beater bike, hybrid, or whatever rather than just your road bike.  You'll not likely get any flats that way and you'll have a lot more fun.

Starting at the turnout west of the Experimental Farm, you ride west out Sheep Creek.  You can either ride on the road (recommended for a road bike!) or take the gravel bike path that parallels it (not recommended for a road bike) all the way out to just past the first railroad crossing, just before you get to Ann's Greenhouses.  The bike path disappears at this point and you have to take the road from here all the way out to Ballaine.  Keep on going past Ann's Greenhouses, down into Goldstream Valley (where you make the first crossing of Goldstream Creek a mile or so past the greenhouses) and just past the bridge and the second railroad crossing, you come to Old Murphy Dome Road.  You should be about five miles or so into the ride at this point.

Sheep Creek now becomes Goldstream Road.  Keep on it, riding on up the first grungy little hill before Ivory Jack's.  Then there is a gnarly little hill past Ivory Jack's that is about a quarter mile or so.  Climb it and after a little bit, you come to Ballaine Road.  Turn right here.  Follow Ballaine Road all the way across the valley, wending and winding your way through the bogs and the swamps on either side of the road.  You can ride on the bike path, but it is a) very, very, bumpy and b) parts of it can be underwater, depending upon what time of year (e.g. late spring) you're riding or if there's been a lot of rainfall in the past few days or so.

After a couple miles or so, you cross over Goldstream Creek again and begin your climb up Ballaine Hill.  Going up Ballaine Hill this direction is a bit easier, even though there's more elevation gain going this way, because there're a break in the slope about halfway up that gives you temporary respite.  Keep on slogging up and eventually you top out on Ballaine Hill, right by a school bus stopping zone.  Congratulations!  You've made it to the top of the ride.  If you want, stop here, take a breather, take in the expansive view of the Tanana Valley and the Alaska Range off in the distance across the floodplain of the Tanana River, then head on down the other side of Balllaine Hill.

It is possible to exceed the speed limit here (50mph) on a road bike, so be careful going down!  Watch for traffic behind you as you coast down Ballaine Road by all the "birdy" subdivision roads (whoever named the roads in that subdivision must have been interested in birds!) and in due time, you cross the intersection with Yankovitch Road and then come to the intersection with Farmer's Loop.  Get on the bike path here and follow it all the way to the University.

At the University, you could take the bike path on up the hill and cut through the University (as is mapped) or stay on it and get over to the intersection of Alumni Drive.  At any rate, you have to turn right and ride on through or past the University down Yukon Drive and on past the Experimental Farm.  Just past the farm is the turnout where your car is, if you drove here to do this ride.  Congratulations, you've just finished the Sheep Creek/Ballaine Road Loop!