The US Forest Service has released the draft final Non-Motorized Trail Strategy document, which is available on their web site for review. The final Trail Strategy collaborative meeting for Pisgah is to be held tomorrow, Thursday Feb. 14, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at the UNCA Sherrill Center, Mountain View Conference Room in Asheville. Agency employees will present key elements of the draft Trail Strategy document during the meeting. I will be attending the meeting to see what they have to say, and I’ll be sure to post any news from that meeting to this blog.
I haven’t had time to review the document, but keep in mind that the Forest Service touts this as an evolving plan that is still subject to change. There is still time for collaboration from the public on the trails on National Forests in NC. As the Forest Service starts the process of revising its Forest Plan, it is expected that the final Trail Strategy will contribute to that analysis as well.
The National Park Service released the General Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Blue Ridge Parkway today. This begins a 30 day “no action” period, after which time they’ll officially select an alternative for implementation. While there is good stuff to be found in the plan, there is at least one sad piece of news to hikers that survived the planning process: the Craggy Pinnacle trail and overlook north of Asheville will be closed under the Park Service’s preferred alternative
There is no exact timetable on the implementation of the plan. You can get more information on the plan (including the entire 700+ page document for a good Saturday afternoon read).
Scratch that – don’t read the plan, it’s too late to do anything about it. Just go hike Craggy Pinnacle as many times as possible before it’s closed!
The National Forests in NC just announced a camping ban, until further notice, in the Shining Rock Wilderness and Graveyard Fields areas, due to bear activity (trying to get food inside campers’ tents). The news release is below:
Date(s): Oct 17, 2012
Pisgah Forest, N.C. — The U.S. Forest Service is closing the Shining Rock Wilderness and Graveyard Fields areas to overnight camping because of ongoing bear encounters with humans.
The areas will be closed to dispersed camping until further notice. The agency will monitor conditions to determine when it is safe to reopen the areas.
On Monday night, a bear damaged a tent and food bag. Two people were in the ent at the time of the encounter, but no injuries were sustained. The encounter is the latest in a series of bear encounters in recent weeks
Questions regarding the camping closure can be directed to the Pisgah Ranger District, 828-877-3265.
We received the following US Forest Service alert yesterday:
TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, N.C. – The U.S. Forest Service is warning visitors to the Shining Rock Wilderness area of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, to be on the look-out for black bears.
While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.
The warning comes after several bear encounters were reported recently in Shining Rock Wilderness, located north of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Transylvania County. Minor property damage was reported. There were no injuries.
Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing the following safety tips:
Do not store food in tents.
Properly store food by hanging it in a tree or in another secure container.
Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills or other areas of your campsite.
According to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation’s web site, much of Gorges State Park – including the loop road, picnic areas, and several trails – have reopened after a long period of closure for construction! So get on down there and enjoy it! We’ll be visiting ourselves to be able to provide more information soon.
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.
Sign for the Alexander Park MTB Park Trails
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.
Multi-Use Trail Sign and Yellow Directional
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.
Information Board with Trail Dedication and Maps
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):
Michael McGauhey M3 Trail Dedication
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.
Creek Crossing at Alexander MTB Park
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.
Right Loop Trail thru the Woods
Right Loop Trail thru the Virginia Pines
Right Loop Trail thru grassy woods. This is a fun section, if not a bit overgrown by this late in spring.
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.
The landfill road crossing. Just ride straight across, making sure not to get flattened by a garbage truck…this is actually looking back toward the red/right loop.
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.
View of the French Broad River from the M3 Loop
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.
Grassy Woods on the M3 Loop
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.
Bridge and Technical Descent Over Rocks
Rock Wall Beside M3 Loop Trail
Finally you pass through some pine woods – with one area covered in creeping ivy – before coming back to the trail junction.
Pine Woods on the M3 Loop
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.
Rock Outcrop along Alexander Mountain Bike Park Trail
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!
We’re going to post updates from tonight’s Trails Strategy meeting with the forest service, regarding the Pisgah Ranger District trails (Bent Creek, Mills River, Davidson River, Shining & Middle Prong Wilderness areas, and the Graveyard Fields/Black Balsam areas). Keep watching as we’ll be providing updates from the meeting (we have wifi). And post comments with your suggestions – we’ll be sure to share it with the working group while we’re here!
According to a recent Forest Service press release (and to confirm a lot of rumoring going on before that), part of most of Mortimer Campground has been closed due to the potential for flash flooding in the area. 12 of the 23 campsites, in the lower area of the campground nearer Wilson Creek, are now closed. It is true that a massive flood wiped out the former town of Mortimer here in 1940, and you can see remains of the buildings standing in flat areas near the stream, so there is the potential for something like a 100 year flood to cause problems again. However, it’s disappointing that the only campground in the area now has less than half the sites it once did – and it didn’t have that many to begin with!
We hope the Forest Service can add some new sites in the area at some point to make up for the loss. It’s a nice campground, with trails that start right there and a waterfall just upstream on Thorps Creek. In the mean time, nearby private campgrounds, or public ones like Linville Falls, Julian Price, or Crabtree Meadows on the Blue Ridge Parkway, could fulfill some of the need – albeit at a much greater driving distance to the Wilson Creek area. So get there early to get one of the remaining spots – they don’t take reservations!
We’ve added two new GPS maps of big area trail systems: Wilson Creek, in the Pisgah National Forest near Grandfather Mountain, and Panthertown, in the Nantahala National Forest near Lake Toxaway. Both of these trail systems, although very different, have two common types of destinations within them: waterfalls and trails cliff-top views. And both trail systems have trails open to both bikes and hikers!
Harper Creek Falls is in the Wilson Creek area and the centerpiece of a Best Hike in that area. Several other falls exist in the area as well. In Panthertown, choose from Schoolhouse Falls, Greenland Creek Falls, Wilderness Falls, and several more!
Cliff top views in the Wilson Creek Area include overlooks at Big and Little Lost Cove Cliffs, affording panoramas up to Grandfather Mountain. And in Panthertown, you get Big and Little Green Mountains, as well as the more subtle Salt Rock, among others. Both areas are prime destinations for hiking in the area, so we hope these maps will help you get out there and explore them! Links to the maps, where you can view and download to Google Earth or your GPS, are below.
We’ve added the Jackrabbit Mountain trailhead to both MTBikeWNC and HikeWNC. Although the trail system was designed with mountain biking in mind, it’s a pleasant place to hike as well, being close to the campground and lake. For mountain bikers, though, the experience here couldn’t be better. Purpose-built for mountain bikes as a “stacked loop” trail system, an easy, central loop (with that name) leads you to junctions with other loops that are harder as they reach out toward the lakeshore.
Overall, none of the trails here are terribly difficult – but there are some areas which require a bit more technical skill and effort to climb. For the most part, these are the kind of fast, flowing, and smooth trails you’d expect for a lakeshore trail system – similar to Tsali or the W. Kerr Scott trail system. And there’s a nice picnic area at the trailhead parking by the lakeshore to round out your trip.
It’s been nearly a year since we attended the grand opening and we wish we could’ve gotten the info out sooner. But for your patience, along with the trail info, we have full GPS maps of all the trails for you to download. Enjoy!