Full-Value Bluff Tour

The Full-Value Bluff Tour is my favorite long run at the Lake. I start it by parking at the first parking lot inside of the north entrance to the park. At the base of the steps going up the north side of the Wet Bluff Trail is a large trail map sign, my run starts and ends here.

The route is in your face immediately as you ascend the rock stairs up the West Bluff Trail, and hardly lets up at all until you crest the top at the rescue station atop the West Bluff. From there, the burden on your cardiovascular system eases a bit, but your focus needs to turn up a notch, as careful footing is needed to fly down the south end of the West Bluff.

After negotiating the West Bluff, a long, largely-flat, section follows the South Shore Road around the base of the lake, over the train tracks and up the terminal moraine to the CCC lot. From here a hard left takes you up the CCC trail to the top of the East Bluff. Then across the top to the Potholes Trail, which you use to drop back down to the valley floor. Here again the lungs get a break, but the mind needs to be sharp as the footwork is tough to negotiate at high speed.

Once on the valley floor, take a right on the Grottos Trail and head back towards the lake. Use this gentle downhill to pad your time and enjoy the cool air flowing from the talus. Then take another hard right and head up the Balanced Rock Trail. Things should be starting to feel hard by now, and this trail is long, but keep after it. At the top veer left and follow the East Bluff trail as it snakes across the top and eventually down to the North Shore.

From the big sign at the East Bluff Trailhead the route is somewhat indistinct. Cut as straight a path as you can across the parking areas and railroad tracks. Beyond the gatehouse, where the entrance road curves you will find a faint path that cuts through the woods. You will have to hop a few logs, and dodge a commemorative fireplace in the middle of nowhere - eventually tying back in with the lower portion of the West Bluff Trail. From here it is one more short uphill back to the starting sign. Tag the sign and stop the stopwatch!

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