History of the Bent Creek Logging Project and Trail Changes

posted in: WNC Hiking, WNC Mountain Biking | 0

This information originally appeared on the Bent Creek trailhead page, and was moved here in January 2012.

A 2004 Forest Service decision to move forward with a research logging project within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest turned 3.3 miles of existing singletrack trails into roads. In actuality, these trails followed old "unclassified" Forest Service logging roadbeds, and the roads were reconstructed to allow logging equipment and passenger vehicles to once again access the research areas. 2 miles of the 3.3 miles will be allowed to “revert to trail” as quickly as possible, while the remaining 1.3 miles of what was previously trail will be maintained as a closed gravel road. All reconstructed roads will be re-opened for mountain bike travel, though in a greatly altered condition. The trail that was permanently changed to road was the former Sidehill trail from Boyd Branch Road to Ledford Gap. Unfortunately, it contained two of the best singletrack trail segments within Bent Creek.

This project represented a significant change to the dynamics of mountain biking in WNC, as Bent Creek – and the particular trails being reconstructed – were some of the best options Asheville area mountain bikers had when they didn’t have a lot of time to drive. (New trail systems opening up near town have mitigated this somewhat in recent years). These moderately technical, moderately climbing trails appealed to a wide variety of users – from near beginner to expert – and they were quick and easy to access from the city of Asheville. The group of trails north of Bent Creek Gap Road combined to make many loop options, several of which were Best Rides on this site. Now that the project is complete, the trail system in Bent Creek is great to ride once again, and we will all still be able to enjoy fantastic mountain biking in this multi-use area.

It is important to note, however, that this project represented an excellent example of how public involvement can steer Forest Service actions. The original EA (Environmental Assessment) released to the public outlined a 5 mile road reconstruction project. The EA sparked
comments, debate, and letters by area residents and other land managers who were concerned about the effects of the project. After this public involvement period, Forest Service officials
re-considered the project and were able to reduce the amount of road reconstruction to 3.3 miles, which represents 1.7 miles of "saved" trail. This change underscores the Forest Service’s willingness to listen and work with the public on matters like this.

Also not to be forgoten is the research itself. This country’s National Forests are managed for the widest variety of uses for as many different users as possible. While Bent Creek has long been established as a mountain biking destination for locals and visitors to WNC alike, it has been around much longer as a research forest and this is the primary purpose of this area. Frankly, I applaud the Forest Service for even allowing recreation in Bent Creek and greatly applaud them for scaling back their road reconstruction to save our trails. The value of the research done in the Experimental Forest should not be underestimated. In the EA, it appears that in many locations, American Chestnut and Chestnut hybrid trees will be planted. This is an interesting development, and as far as I am aware, this represents the first release of the resistant, genetically altered trees back into the "wild" after being eliminated by the Chestnut Blight in the first half of this century.

Trails Affected by the 2005 – 2007 Logging Project

Trail Map Number Comments
Little Hickory Top 136
  • Lower half of trail has been converted into a gravel road
  • This will be allowed to “revert back to a trail” but will take a while to resemble a singletrack trail in any way
  • This was used by "The Top" Best Ride, which has been removed from this site.
Sidehill 145
  • This was previously one of the best singletrack trails in the region
  • The section from Ledford Branch Road Boyd Branch Road has been permanently changed into a gravel road
  • This section was used by the "Single Track Sampler " ride, which has been removed from this site.
  • The section from Boyd Branch Road to Litttle Hickory Top will be allowed to “revert to a trail”
  • This will likely take a long time to resemble a trail again
  • This section was used by "The Top" Best Ride, which has been removed from this site.

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