15 Miles of Multi-Use Trails Open Saturday at Lake James State Park

Western North Carolina is about to have yet another trail system for mountain biking at one of its beautiful mountain destinations!

Lake James State Park will soon be open to bikes with 15 miles of new multi-use trail on the north side of the lake, which are in the park’s Paddy’s Creek area. The park has been steadily expanding its recreational trail opportunities over the years, but these represent the first purpose-built singletrack trails open to bikes – not only at Lake James, but in any state park in the mountain region.

Other state parks in the area abound with hiking opportunities, but aside from a couple of old service roads open to bikes in Gorges State Park, North Carolina’s flagship lands have been decidedly off-limits to wheeled recreation until now. The new trails, in combination with a master plan in Chimney Rock which calls for mountain bike access, shows that the State’s commitment to listening to what park users are asking for has started to pay off. We can only hope that the trend continues, with new riding opportunities opening up across an ever-increasing inventory of lands owned by the State and designated in part for public recreation.

The full press release is below. Or for more information, visit the North Carolina State Parks’ web site.

North Shore of Lake James from Linville Gorge.
North Shore of Lake James from Linville Gorge. Image by flickr user msprague

Grand Opening of Mountain Bike Trail System – June 7, 2014

Nebo, NC – The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation has slated Saturday, June 7, 2014 for the official opening of a new, 15-mile mountain bike trail system at Lake James State Park’s Paddy’s Creek Area in Burke County. The trail dedication will take place at 9 a.m.
Included in the new layout are a 4-mile beginner loop and an 11-and-1/4-mile intermediate loop. A 30-vehicle parking area has been constructed to provide direct access to the loops via short connector trails.
According to Tim Johnson, regional trails specialist for NCDPR West District, the mountain bike trails at Lake James State Park have been constructed to provide a “back-country” experience to riders and an eye toward sustainability. “The trails are purpose built to use the natural rolling contours of the terrain to shed water and dry quickly,” said Johnson. “This protects the state’s investment by greatly reducing the effects of erosion and minimizing closures necessitated by heavy rains.”
The trail system was constructed by Benchmark Trails Inc. and Long Cane Trails L.L.C., with significant support from park staff and volunteers.
Members of the Northwest North Carolina Mountain Bike Alliance will assist park staff in maintaining the new trails. “The Alliance is excited to partner with Lake James State Park on these trails,” said Northwest NC MTBA president Paul Stahlschmidt. “We are looking forward to working with the park staff on keeping the trails in good shape and also planning for the future of mountain biking at Lake James.”
Lake James State Park Superintendent Nora Coffey said the opening of the mountain bike trails will fill a void for local enthusiasts. “The nearest mountain bike trails in Boone, Lake Lure and Lake Norman are at least an hour away,” she said. “The trail system at Lake James State Park is a first-class project that we hope everyone will come and enjoy. Mountain biking is a tremendously popular sport with passionate participants. We look forward to welcoming those people to the park and introducing them to all of the other recreational opportunities that are available here.”
The project, funded through the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, is a high priority within the master plan for Lake James State Park and represents a significant addition to the recreational activities already available there; including hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, swimming, boating, fishing and environmental education.The swim beach, concession stand, and canoe/kayak rentals are now open for the season.
Updated: 2014-06-05 08:15:43

Black Mountain Trail Needs Your Help!

The lower section of the Black Mountain trail – below its northern intersection with the Thrift Cove trail – will be closed for at least two weeks while the “Big Dig 2014″ trail work project gets underway. The project, which is being headed up by the Forest Service in conjunction with Pisgah Area SORBA, aims to revamp this popular, multi-use trail to make it more fun, more sustainable, and less susceptible to erosion than it currently is.

The trail – which, like many others in Pisgah, follows an old logging road bed – currently suffers from severe erosion in places. Previous efforts to stop the erosion using grade dips have largely failed due the trail’s heavy usage and steep gradient. This project will be an official road-to-trail conversion, which was never done on this corridor when the old road became a designated trail.

The conversion process takes the alignment of the actively-used tread out of the ruts near the center of the road, and pushes it out toward the edges where water can more effectively be diverted off the trail. Segments of the trail will be rock-armored (especially near streams), and some new bridges will be built. The trail will wind across the road in places, making it twistier and reducing user speed, while also improving sight lines, which will serve to reduce the possibility of user conflict along this popular stretch of trail. Vegetation cut and soil moved during the project will be used to rehabilitate the eroded areas and keep sediment out of the streams which run nearby.

The trail needs your help! The Forest Service is allowing anyone to volunteer on any of 10 public trail workdays to be held from May 29 – June 8. Volunteers are needed to help haul materials for rock armoring and bridge building, help do finish work after machines roll through, and help with final touches to ensure a timely re-opening of the trail. And if the conversion is successful over time, it will also serve as a model that can be used on other, less-than-sustainable trails in Pisgah – of which there are plenty, helping to ensure we keep these trails open to multiple uses as they are now.

Please check out the schedule on Pisgah Area SORBA’s web site (listed below) and see if there’s a day you can come out. We hope to see you there!

Project Notice on the National Forest in NC’s Web Site

Lower Black Mountain “Big Dig” 2014 on Pisgah Area SORBA’s Web Site (with workday schedule)

Eroded section of the upper Black Mountain trail
Eroded section of the upper Black Mountain trail. Not the section being worked on for this project, but illustrative of the problem along the entire trail nonetheless!

Edit June 10, 2014: And it’s back! I had fun digging Sunday, even though there wasn’t much left to do, but I did get to see the finished product and even see some of the volunteers make first tracks. The trail has been officially reopened as of today and is ready for use!

Here’s a short clip of the first “compaction” rides on Sunday:

And here’s a great video showing the new dirt from a rider’s perspective – Pisgah Area SORBA president Chris Strout’s perspective, to be exact!

Courthouse Creek Road closed through the summer

The US Forest Service has announced that Courthouse Creek Road, FS 140, will be closed until late October to replace a low-water crossing. This road has been the subject of extensive damage and repairs in the past thanks to flood events, and the Forest Service aims to build a bridge that can survive such occurrences unscathed. This road provides access to the popular Courthouse Creek Falls (seen below) and points nearby. The road will still be open to non-vehicular traffic, so visiting the falls will be possible – as long as you’re willing to trek a ways further on foot or bike.

For more information, see the official Forest Service press release: Courthouse Creek Road to Close for Construction.

2003-08-12_pisgah-upper-french-broad_courthouse-falls
Courthouse Falls will be a little harder to get to this summer with FS 140 closed for construction
April 24, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

Santeetlah Lake Trail Now Open

Tucked away near Robbinsville, NC in Graham County is Santeetlah Lake, a gem of a reservoir with a name I’ve yet figured out how to pronounce correctly. The lake is fed by clear, cold-water streams such as Snowbird Creek and one with the same name as the lake, flowing out of the Cheoah Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest near popular recreation sites such as the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and the Cherohala Skyway.

A new trail has been built – which shares its name with the lake – and it was opened to the public on Saturday, April 12 2014. This multi-use trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horses and extends about 9 miles, with parts of it on the lakeshore. Portions of the trail are on old forest service roads (some open to vehicles), while a short section is purpose-built singletrack.

Check out the press release and maps (attached) and be sure to enjoy this new recreation opportunity in a beautiful part of Western North Carolina this year!

Santeetlah Lake at sunset.
Santeetlah Lake at sunset. Image by flickr user anoldent.

Maps And Information

Santeetlah Lake Trail – Vicinity Map

Santeetlah Lake Trail – Topo Map

Santeetlah Lake Trail – Simpler Map

Santeetlah Lake Trail Opening Press Release
(with more statistics and information)

April 17, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

Wash Creek Road added to the list of closures for the Brushy Ridge Project

Some bad news about the road and trail closures in the North Mills River area this morning: Wash Creek Road, which is the main road leading from the Campground up to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Bent Creek Gap, has been added to the “Closed” list. It is, however, still open to non-motorized traffic. We were encouraged by earlier reports that this road was going to be left open, but apparently cars and logging trucks still don’t blend.

You can read the full details on the Forest Service’s web site.

Road Closed
Road Closed

New multi-use trails open near Lake Lure, NC

We’ve been hearing tidbits about the development of the new trails near the Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock State Park for the last few years. Now it looks like the first trail openings are happening, starting at Lake Lure’s Buffalo Creek Park. According to the Town of Lake Lure, there are a few miles of trail completed now, with some finishing touches to bring the first-phase total to 5 miles by this summer. Beautifully constructed by the folks at Trail Dynamics in Pisgah Forest, NC, the trails will be open to mountain biking and foot travel.

Beyond this first phase, an additional 5-7 miles of trail could connect the park to NC State Park property. Chimney Rock State Park’s master plan calls for even more multi-use trail mileage to be built in the years to come, and farther into the future these trails will form part of a much longer, hiking-only trail circumnavigating the Hickory Nut Gorge.

We get lots of questions regarding outdoor activities in this part of the region and, until now, there were limited options we could recommend. This is great news, as there aren’t really any other mountain biking opportunities in the vicinity of Chimney Rock. Even places to hike are kind of sparse.

We can’t wait to visit the new trails and see what they’re like, and when we do we’ll add all the info about them onto our own sites! Until then, here’s some links to help you plan your own exploration of the latest addition to WNC’s great trail networks.

Full article about the opening

A “behind the scenes” look at the creation of the park

Photo gallery of trail construction

More photos of trail construction, including some beautiful fall color shots and some shots that really show the interesting rock features and views from along the trail.

February 27, 2014Permalink 2 Comments

Forest Service to close N. Mills River Area for 6 Months

It looks like the Brushy Ridge logging project will be getting underway soon, and during that time, the entire North Mills River area will be closed to public access. A post on the NC Wildlife Resource Commission’s web site alludes to the closure and that they won’t be stocking fish.

Edit Feb. 4: the Asheville Citizen-Times has articles this week about the closure, and the official Forest Service press release was also sent out. It’s below.

Edit Feb. 22: the Forest Service has released a handy map of the closure areas. It’s at the bottom of this post.

National Forests in North Carolina
160A Zillicoa St.

Asheville, N.C. 28801

News Release

Media Contact: Stevin Westcott, 828-257-4215

  

Ecosystem Improvement Project to Begin in Pisgah Ranger District

Some Trails and Roads to Close from February – May

PISGAH FOREST, N.C., Feb. 3, 2014 - The U.S. Forest Service will soon begin the first phase of an ecosystem improvement project in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, that includes 64 acres of timber harvesting. The effort, called the Brushy Ridge project, will provide a number of environmental benefits such as controlling non-native species, improving fish habitat and promoting wildlife habitat.

To help ensure public safety during timber harvesting activities the Forest Service will close trails and roads in the Trace Ridge Area of Henderson County in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, beginning in early February 2014 and continuing through May 2014. The following trails and roads will be closed during this time:

  • Hendersonville Reservoir Road (FS 142);
  • Fletcher Creek Road (FS 5097), to intersection with Spencer Gap Trail (Trail 600);
  • Wash Creek (Trail 606);
  • Trace Ridge (Trail 354);
  • North Mills River (Trail 353); and
  • Yellow Gap Trail (Trail 611).

Trace Ridge Trailhead will not be accessible and the use of the trails and roads is prohibited. Please use caution while traveling in the area, particularly Wash Creek Road as logging truck will be on the area roads.

The Forest Service designed the Brushy Ridge project to fulfill management objectives in the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan. This project allows the agency to implement a variety of management activities to improve ecological diversity, as well as promote forest health and sustainability.

The Forest Service’s management practices will:

  • Regenerate favorable tree species such as oaks and hickories and maintain a variety of hardwood tree species;
  • Improve the growth and health of remaining trees through thinning treatments;
  • Improve habitat for aquatic species, including trout, by replacing culverts and bridges that are restricting flow and causing erosion issues;
  • Improve habitat for wildlife, including game species such as turkeys and non-game species;
  • Control non-native invasive species;
  • Plant hybrid American Chestnut trees as a first step toward restoring them to Southern Appalachian forests and plant blight resistant butternut seedlings; and
  • Designate an additional 231 acres of old growth forest areas.

The Forest Service will implement the second phase of this project, which involves an additional 63 acres, this spring or summer. Seniard Mountain Road (FS 5001) and Bear Branch Trail (Trail 328) will be closed during this phase. The agency will issue a news alert to announce the closures.

#

 USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users). 

Brushy-ridge-timber-map

Tsali’s Left Loop Closed Temporarily

The US Forest Service announced a closure of Tsali’s Left Loop trail due to a landslide today. Full press release is below.

Edit 3/1/2014: The Forest Service has reopened the trail now. Enjoy it!

National Forests in North Carolina
U.S. Forest Service
160A Zillicoa St.
Asheville, N.C. 28801
Online: www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc

FOREST SERVICE ALERT

Jan. 2, 2014

Left Loop of Tsali Trail System Closed

ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. - The Left Loop of the Tsali Trail system is currently closed due to a slide along the trail. The other 3 loops in the trail system remain open. The Forest Service will work to evaluate and repair damage to the trail and issue an alert when the trail is reopened.

Located near Fontana Lake, Tsali Recreation Area is nationally known for its 42-mile trail system. The four-loop network is open to hikers and horses, but the system is best known as a challenging mountain bike course.

#

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

New DuPont State Forest Map by Pisgah Map Company

Earlier this year, Pisgah Map Company released another map in the Western North Carolina Trail Guide series, this one of DuPont State (Recreational) Forest. Like the Pisgah Ranger District map published in 2011 (which we also reviewed), this is another fantastic publication made by locals who are not only trail experts, but whose award-winning company is leading the entire industry in the outdoor recreation map space.

Although there isn’t a National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of DuPont like there is of Pisgah, there has been another map of DuPont State Forest available. It’s produced by the Forest Service in conjunction with the Friends of DuPont Forest group, last revised in 2012. While I like both, I think the newer one edges it out when taken head to head. Read on to find out why!

Size & Form Factor

The Trail Guide map is larger, making more room for detail necessary in a dense trail network like this one. Without measuring, I’d say it has more than twice as much area as the smaller one.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Both maps unfolded. The Friends map is on top.

However, it folds up into a narrower size than the older map – which fits better in my packs which tend to have narrower compartments, or even a large pants pocket. The Friends map is more square, while the Trail Guide is shaped more like a tri-fold brochure.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
The two maps folded

More than just a map, both publications feature the main map on one side, with a variety of other information and map insets on the reverse.

Detail & Style

Both maps provide adequate detail for navigating Dupont State Forest’s trails, especially since the trails are well-signed on the ground and easy to follow, so it’s hard to miss a turn.

Style wise, I prefer the Trail Guide when considering text, graphics, and symbology. It feels more like a modern digital version of many government maps – like, for instance, the National Park maps – which in turn are inspired by our old go-to recreational maps: the USGS quads. In keeping with the Pisgah Trail Guide, this one also labels each trail with its name directly on the map.

map_trailguide
Pisgah Map Company’s Trail Guide map sample

Contours are subtle yet crisp; hill shading is provided to give a slightly 3D appearance. Property boundaries are clearly visible without having a thick, distracting border. This is ultimately easier on the eyes and provides more information in the same space.

Meanwhile, some of the symbols and labels on the Friends map are so large that they sometimes cover up nearby details. The trails – which are now more standard dashed lines on the 2012 edition as opposed to the thick solid lines on the 2008 edition – are color-coded and only numbered on the Friends map. This means you have to cross-reference the index each time to find out a trail’s name.

map_fodf
Friends of DuPont’s map sample. You’ll have to reference the index to know what those trails are called.

The contours stand out a bit more on the Friends map, and the elevation labels are unusually large.

On the other hand, those with difficulty reading fine print or seeing fine detail might choose to opt for the Friends map for the reasons above, since the labels are much larger. The descriptive text is in a somewhat larger font, too – handy for casual reading.

Both maps provide insets showing a close-up of the very popular waterfall areas. But the Friends map’s inset is devoid of topographic info, making it a little harder to judge difficulty of the trails.

fodf_inset
Inset in the Friends of DuPont map. It’s a bit devoid of details, but then again, it shows only what you need to get around.

The Trail Guide uses the same styles in its insets as it uses on the main map.

Neither yet shows the new trail completed this year to High Falls, but it’s easy to follow and I suspect future revisions of both maps will include it.

Extras

Both maps feature an attractive cover, full-color photographs, and details about area attractions on the reverse. Either map will guide you to all the major attractions – lakes, waterfalls, summits – within DuPont.

But with more space, the Trail Guide is also able to provide several smaller guides highlighting some great popular mountain bike routes within the larger trail network. These include basic stats, GPS coordinates, a turn-by-turn/cue sheet as well as an elevation profile. If you’re from out-of-town and just want to pick up one map before you go out to ride, this makes it pretty compelling and worth the extra price (see below).

Price and Availability

The Friends map is becoming difficult to find in many stores (especially in the Asheville area), while the Trail Guide is now available nearly everywhere. However, the Friends map does run a good bit less than the Trail Guide if you can find it.

At Mast Store – one of the last places that stocks them in Asheville – the Friends map was $8, while the Trail Guide was $14. A portion of the proceeds from both goes toward trail maintenance and other projects in Dupont.

Digital Version

The Trail Guide map is also available in the Avenza PDF Maps Store as a digital download for your iPhone (and soon, Android phones & tablets as well). It’s the same map as the printed version, without the ride guides on the map (and with some collar information rearranged). We’ve been testing the Avenza app beta on Android and it’s very nice, and allows you to track your position on the map in real-time using GPS. It also allows you to add your own annotations and export them as a KML file for sharing. This is a compelling new development, and I think having access to a digital map consistent with the printed version makes the Trail Guide even more attractive.

Keep checking back for more specific reviews of the digital map offerings including this one!

Bottom Line

Both maps are worth the money, and both will get you around just fine within DuPont State Forest. But the WNC Trail Guide has a more comfortable size, nicer style, and a few extras that make it my recommendation if you’re looking to make a choice between the two to buy.

For more information, visit the publisher’s web sites:
Pisgah Map Company
Friends of DuPont Forest

A quick note in the interest of full disclosure: Pisgah Map Company used some of our own photos on the Trail Guide. They were provided free of charge – and anyone else is also welcome to use them as such :)

New Trail Opens in DuPont State Forest

In celebration of National Trails day on June 1, 2013, several new trails were officially opened in DuPont State Recreational Forest, including a new connector between the end of Turkey Knob Road at Pinnacle Mountain Road and Little Briery trail. This new segment of trail, which was built by Long Cane Trails and funded by Friends of DuPont Forest, is an important connector and completes a “missing link” needed to make longer loops around the south side of DuPont, including a loop all the way around Lake Julia, without using some boring gravel roads. Designed with all users in mind, it’s not a difficult trail but does include some nice features along the way to make it more interesting – including vast areas of Galax and beautiful forests, rock slabs and rock outcrops, a creek crossing, and a sturdy bridge. With some switchbacks, frequent rolling grade reversals, and a gentle grade, the trail should remain in good condition for years to come!

We weren’t able to make the opening on June 1, but I did make it out Saturday to check out the new trail on foot. Here’s some pics and a report from that hike.

Starting at Pinnacle Mountain Road (where we parked), the new extension to Turkey Knob trail begins heading downhill. Right now, it’s still signed Turkey Knob Road at this junction, but word is that the road portion is going to be allowed to revert back to trail, and the whole thing will be labeled as a trail in the future.

Riders at the beginning of the new extension to Turkey Knob Road (Trail).

As the trail starts descending the ridge, it passes through vast beds of Galax, an evergreen plant common to DuPont and popular for greenery around the holidays. In June, it flowers with straight, white stalks – an amazing sight if you hit it at the right time.

Galax flowers beside the new portion of Turkey Knob trail.
Galax and mountain laurel flowering beside the new stretch of trail.

The trail passes several nice rock outcrops and over a few rock slabs near the top, spicing it up just a little. There are several rock slabs along the way, actually, but nothing like the vast expanses of rock on Big Rock or Cedar Rock trails.

Rock outcrop beside the new section of Turkey Knob trail.
Rock slab along the new Turkey Knob trail. 

The trail descends through some switchbacks, across a creek, and over another tributary on this new, sturdy bridge.

Sturdy new bridge along the Turkey Knob trail.

As you approach the bottom intersection with Briery Fork trail, you’ll see more ferns along rolling sections of the trail, before entering a forest of white pines – probably an old plantation. Here are a few more shots from the lower 1/3 of the trail.

Winding section of trail.
Rolling grade dips along the new Turkey Knob trail.
Ferns grow beside the trail near the bottom.
The trail winds up in a white pine plantation.
Trail sign at the bottom – it looks temporary.

At the intersection of Briery Fork trail, you can go left or right up to Joanna Road to make some nice loops. The trail here is signed as Turkey Knob Trail (not road), so that lends some support to the idea that it may be re-designated a trail from end to end. Whatever it’s called, we definitely thing this one’s worth hiking or riding. Here are some links to the trail pages with maps and GPS data:

Turkey Knob Road (Trail) on HikeWNC
Turkey Knob Road (Trail) on MTB WNC

Enjoy!