So I had some time after work today, and I decided it was time to hit up little old Alexander Mountain Bike Park, along the French Broad River in northern Buncombe County. Boy, was I not disappointed! The newer Left Loop had not even been completed last time I was there, and so the trail system was fairly short at the time. Now, that loop, combined with the older right loop, make for just over 7 miles of great loop trail. We’ll be updating the Alexander Mountain Bike Park page on MTBikeWNC.com soon, but for how, here are some of the highlights.
The trail starts in a plenty-big-enough parking area beside NC Hwy. 151. The big signs announcing the park seem to be gone, but there is this smaller one right by the trailhead.
The trails are fairly well signed, but there were a couple of spots where I think that could be improved. Though this is called “Alexander Mountain Bike Park”, signs indicate that the trails are open to hikers and horses as well. Here’s a directional sign at the start of the trails.
Next you’ll reach the information board with a crummy map, but just good enough to show that the park has been consolidated down into two main loops: a red one and a yellow one. Riders are asked to go counter-clockwise on the red loop, and clockwise on the yellow loop. You can see the red and yellow signs in the next shot.
The left loop – blazed in yellow – is also known as the Michael McGauhey’s Meandering Loop, or M3 Loop, which I think is a cooler name than the “left loop” or “yellow loop”. The signs and maps kind of refer to all three. Plus, it’s good to remember who was arguably responsible for making this park available to us – and who tragically succumbed to cancer after fighting it hard. So I’ll refer to it as the M3 loop from now on. I liked the way this shot of the dedication turned out with kind of a liquid effect from the reflections of the sky and trees (click to link to an image where you can read the text better):
The trail starts out in some dips onto the right loop, blazed in red. The right loop overall feels a bit tighter and twistier than the M3 loop, but both have their straight and fast sections too. The trail hops on and off of old roadbeds and newly-constructed tread, with plenty of variety and technical areas to spice it up. The technical stuff starts right away, with some rocky sections beside steep drop-offs toward the river.
It’s not long before you get to this creek crossing – the only one in the park, although there is some mud – and start heading uphill on an old road bed on the other side.
The trail climbs upwards toward the old dual-slalom course, which it winds up at the top of before long. Then it winds around through some tight, twisty sections and some fun downhills before climbing again. The trails are up and down the whole way for the most part. There used to be more trail options over here, but this is basically one twisty loop now with lots of good signage, which is all a good thing despite the loss of that small upper loop. Here’s a couple of shots from the rest of the right loop.
Before long you’ll pass by the active landfill area after a stiff climb. Unfortunately, yeah, you might smell it a bit right along this section of the trail. But for the most part you can’t hear or see the landfill from the trails, which is fine by me.
Shortly afterwards you’ll drop down some to the crossing of the landfill road. It’s signed – just ride straight across.
This is where the yellow-blazed M3 loop begins, with a short out-and-back section at the beginning. Bear left at the trail split and bench to begin the loop portion. The M3 loop feels a bit faster and straighter overall, although it has its tight, technical sections too. There are some fantastic dips, berms, and rolling banked turns. There are also a few mud pits, too.
You get some periodic views of the river and surrounding mountains as a bonus, such as the one in the photo above. As the trail climbs up, it passes through some more cool grassy woods – looks like these are old pasture areas that are starting to grow up with trees, which is actually a pretty neat effect. Just watch out for ticks – this area can get pretty overgrown later in the spring.
This neat bridge drops you out onto a technical descent, with a rock wall constraining you on the left and a drop-off constraining you on the right.
Finally you pass through some pine woods – with one area covered in creeping ivy – before coming back to the trail junction.
Ride back to the road and turn right at the next junction just across. Theres one more section of fun trail, with a few technical, rocky spots, before you reach the little spur back to your car.
Again, I was thoroughly impressed with the trails that have been built out here and I wish I’d come back to ride it again sooner. One thing’s for sure – it’s going to go on my list of places to visit more often, as it’s just about perfect for after-dinner rides or squeezing in a loop when you don’t have much time. And it’s not as far of a drive from Asheville as I remember it being, either. Go check it out!