As mountain biking continues to grow in popularity, one of the unintended side effects is that high traffic takes a toll on local trails. In order to maintain a healthy trail system, there’s an ongoing need to repair sections of entrenched singletrack and develop new loops to alleviate congestion. Fortunately, with the support of volunteers and groups like Pisgah Area SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association), or PAS, the forest service is making some great improvements and exciting changes to trails in the Pisgah District.
For the past few years, volunteers with PAS have been busy fixing years of backlogged maintenance on the Pisgah trail system. They called it the “Pisgah 60,” roughly 60 miles of prime singletrack that needed some love. Volunteers and contractors have done some fine work stacking rocks, cleaning drains and hiding those low lines that have been worn in. “We had to look at Pisgah and attack the major problems,” said PAS president Jeff Keener.
“We had major sediment issues and other water issues, which is what happened with Spencer Gap. They were going to close it. It was filling up the Hendersonville Reservoir. But the forest service gave us the option to raise money and reroute it. Now we have that maintenance done, and now we can start to do new things. Hopefully, one day, we will have an actual mountain bike specific trail. That’s my goal.”
With much of that work already accomplished, members of PAS turned their sites to grander things than maintenance. For the first time in many years, new trails are being built in Pisgah. It started with a reroute of Spencer Gap in the Mills River tract of Pisgah. What was once a steep trail that fed the creek with silt is now a contouring ribbon of jumps, turns and high lines that’s about three miles long. The old trail was fun, but the new one is sooo much better.
Plans are also being made to develop more singletrack loop opportunities. Connecting to other areas of the forest without riding on roads is important both for mountain bikers and motorists. Getting dusted out on a local forest service road by a big truck is about as appealing as trying to pass a group of slow moving mountain bikers.
One project that is currently underway is a connector from the top of Laurel Mountain Trail to Big Creek Trail, keeping riders off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and giving some breathing room to Pilot Rock Trail. There are changes in the works on Black Mountain Trail as well. After all, not everyone wants to hike their bikes to the top of Black Mountain Trail, only to have to dismount in some of the super steep downhill sections. To better accommodate more riders and make an arguably better use of elevation, a new line contouring below the ridge has been flagged for Upper Black Mountain. There’s a lot of rock up there, a lot of topo and a lot of potential.
But the news gets even better, because the old trail is going to remain in place. So, if you can clean Black Mountain going up (yeah, there’s a handful of locals that can), and love the steep backside, then you don’t have to worry about trail sanitation. It’s going to stay open.
Buckwheat Knob, connecting Black Mountain on the western end to Bennett Gap, is also on the list for some major work. Stacking rocks, fixing entrenched sections of trail and adding some water bars will keep water from running straight down the trail for 50 yards at a time. Because Pisgah gets as much rain as a temperate rain forest, water mitigation is essential for these trails.
Avery Creek and Butter Gap trails are also receiving some makeovers. Both of them are slated to receive some love for water control, and the top section of Butter Gap will eventually receive a reroute. The intake at the fish hatchery has been clogging up these last couple of years with sediment, and rerouting the trail just a little bit will not only fix these issues, but also add more elevation drop.
Renderings for paralleling singletrack along U.S. 276 have also been drawn, and while they are just drafts at this point, if built, their impact could be significant. If you haven’t sat in traffic leaving Pisgah in the summer, it gets pretty bad. Anything that can be done to keep mountain bikers off the pavement and between the trees is a welcome improvement.
You might wonder where the money to fix and build trails comes from. Grants through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which is supported by a small percentage of gasoline sales in the state, help hire professional trail contractors to perform work that requires trail building machines and experience.
But the trails still need your help, and joining and supporting PAS is a great way to contribute. By joining PAS, you can help support fun and sustainable trails in our community. For more information and to give your support, visit www.pisgahareasorba.org.