Kelly Lake Out-and-back
This option is tucked up in State Forest State Park where not many people seem to venture. Whether because it's slightly more challenging to drive around the dirt roads of the park or the topography isn't as severe, this out-and-back was easy to follow with signage and clear cairns through a couple rocky talus fields. As you can see from the elevation profile, there are two prominent climbs. Both get your heart rate up but then are followed by descents to give you a quick break. Though some may prefer to slog all the way up, this felt like a nice change of pace to keep things fresh, not to mention easier on the joints. However you end up in State Forest State Park, head towards Ruby Jewel Road and the Ruby Jewel Yurt/Clark Peak Yurt. The road is dirt and passable, with care, by most 2wd vehicles. After passing the two yurts, there is an obvious "corral" where 2wd vehicles park (junction of Ruby Jewel Road and Ruby Jewel Trail shown here). If you're able, continue driving up the 4wd road, knowing that there are a couple areas to pull off (and turn around) if you come to anything that looks too dicey. There's one section toward the middle that looks like you'd need a rock-crawler for (and an obvious spot where drivers have pulled off to turn around). Whether you start at the corral or further up, continue up Ruby Jewel Trail as it heads northeast. The grade is easy but the footing can be tricky with small cobbles and loose tread. The path is wide, which makes it a nice way to warm up with a group walking side-by-side. After 1.5 miles from the corral, you'll arrive at the official trailhead. Continue now on singletrack heading north through the trees, still heading up. After three-quarters of a mile, you'll come to the intersection with Hidden Valley Trail. There wasn't great signage at this intersection, but it's obvious. Ruby Jewel Trail heads to the right (east) and the Hidden Valley Trail heads left (west). Turn left and finish up this first challenging climb on a couple switchbacks. Notice the trees on this southeast-facing aspect are spaced much further apart and once you top out and begin the descent, the trees are much closer together on the northwest-facing aspect. Once you descend from this ridge, you'll be in the Hidden Valley area to make the final, more gradual ascent to the north along the North Fork Canadian River. As you climb, the trees begin to give way to willows and scree fields until the final ridge and viewpoint above Kelly Lake. Continue to the northeast through a talus field with obvious cairns marking the way and a lightly-trodden, somewhat steep trail section down to the lakeshore. Here, you'll find ample space for lunch or to set up a tent. Rumor has it cutthroat fishing can be good (only artificial fly and lure fishing are permitted). Continue back the way you came, or venture out further for a longer loop toward the Clear Lake Trail and trailhead (end of CR41).