Guide: Triangle Mountain Bike Trails

March 1, 2010 

p>Love to ride? The Triangle offers a diverse and growing number of ride options.

LAKE CRABTREE COUNTY PARK
Location: Morrisville.
Getting there: From I-40, take the Aviation Parkway exit, then head west. Park entrance is less than a mile, on your left.
Hours: 8 a.m.-sunset.
Miles of trail: 7.7.
The skinny: Lake Crabtree was the Triangle's first legal singletrack, and for years the 4-mile beginner-friendly network didn't change much. But under the direction of park manager Drew Cade, Crabtree is once again a fun place to ride. Significant rerouting has eliminated some ugly rooty spots, and new trails have been added, including the feisty new Loop 6, Crabtree's most advanced trail. Cade believes in keeping the trail free of leaf litter, meaning it offers a faster ride year-round and isn't as susceptible to closing after it rains. If you haven't been to Crabtree in a while, check it out.
Who did this
: N.C. FATS Mountain Bike Club helped establish the trails; the Triangle Off-Road Cyclists now maintains the trail network.
Contact: Lake Crabtree County Park, 460-3390.

BEAVERDAM AREA OF FALLS LAKE STATE RECREATION AREA

Location: Far north Wake County on Falls Lake.
Getting there: Take N.C. 50 north from Raleigh (if coming from Durham or Chapel Hill, take either N.C. 98 or I-540 to N.C. 50 and go north). The Beaverdam entrance is four miles north of N.C. 98, on the right.
Hours: Opens at 8 a.m., closes during the winter at 6 p.m., later as daylight increases. Also, there is a $5 per carload access fee daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and weekends in April, May and September.
Miles of trail: 13.5.
The skinny: Beaverdam grew out of the same Sig Hutchinson/North Raleigh Mountain Bike Association effort that opened New Light (see below). Beaverdam opened as a pilot project for the State Division of Parks and Recreation in 2001 with three loops totaling 6.4 miles. A year later, NRMBA got the green light to double that total with the monster South Loop. When South Loop opened, a sign warned that it was a long, hard trail with no escape route. The trail has since gotten even longer, says trail developer Bill Haste, and has been groomed and tweaked into perhaps the Triangle's best trail for folks who like a long cross-country ride with some technical challenges.
Who did this: North Raleigh Mountain Bike Association/Cooper Group (a loose-knit, loosely strung group of riders).

LEGEND PARK
Location: Clayton.
Getting there: head east on U.S. 70 into Clayton, then go left on Robertson Street until it dead-ends at Stallings Street. Go left, then take the second right onto City Road. Legend Park is about half a mile, on the right.
Hours: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Miles of trail: 8.
The skinny: Who would have thought Clayton would emerge as the freeride capital of the Triangle? Allen Tutt and the volunteer trail crew at Legend have just completed Phase I of a stunts area, which includes platforms, a teeter-totter and low-to-the-ground skinnies. Master the low stuff, then move into the woods where an 85-foot-long, foot-wide skinny rises up to three feet off the ground (there's also a 30-foot-long ramp that's a good five feet high). Then venture over to Hucksville for some jaw-dropping drops (25 to 30 feet, by my estimate). Lots of ups and downs and well-tailored log stacks in between. "I don't build trails to get in a gazillion miles," says Tutt. "I build trails to have fun."
Who did this: Allen Tutt and a handful of other volunteers.
Contact: Clayton Parks & Recreation, 553-1550

GARNER RECREATION PARK

Location: Garner.
Getting there: Take U.S. 70 east into Garner. Exit at Vandora Springs Road and go left. Go right on Garner Road for about two miles; park entrance is on the left.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Miles of trail: 3.
The skinny: Open since last spring, this intermediate (due largely to some good elevation) network is something of a pilot project. Dickie Westbrook with the Garner Mountain Bike Association hopes to use it to show Garner officials that mountain biking deserves a spot at the 96-acre White Deer Park being developed near Lake Benson. Westbrook acknowledges that three miles of trail may not be worth driving across the Triangle for, so he recommends piggybacking GRP with a visit to Clayton's Legend Park.
Who did this: Garner Mountain Bike Association.
Contact: Garner Parks & Recreation, 772-4688.

HARRIS LAKE COUNTY PARK
Location: New Hill (southwestern Wake County).
Getting there: From Raleigh, take U.S. 1 south to Exit 89. Go left on New Hill Holleman Road; the park entrance is 2.9 miles, on the right.
Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset.
Miles of trail: 7.75.
The skinny: Harris Lake's Hog Run Trail is a nicely graduated network. From the trailhead, start on the beginner loop, a gently winding cruise ideal for novices. More experienced riders proceed to the intermediate loop, which has a bit more elevation. Then, it's across the park road to the more adventurous four-mile-long advanced loop. This loop is actually well-suited to intermediates, with moderate log crossings and a funky bridge; the "advanced" part, a series of whoop-dee-doos ranging from "Hey-that-was-fun!" to "Ay Carumba!" can easily be avoided.
Who did this: Triangle Off-Road Cyclists.
Contact: Harris Lake County Park, 387-4342.

NEW LIGHT

Location: North shore of Falls Lake, northern Wake County.
Getting there: Take New Light Road north from N.C. 98 (south of N.C. 98, it's Six Forks Road). Go left onto Old Weaver Trail. About a mile down the road, a dirt road on the left leads into the trail network.
Hours: Dawn to dusk. Note: This network is on N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission land and is closed during periods of hunting. It is open daily from mid-May through Labor Day, Sundays only the remainder of the year.
Miles of trail: 7.
The skinny: New Light once was the place to ride in the Triangle. Opened in 1999 after a two-year battle by Sig Hutchinson to open Falls Lake to mountain biking, the then-18-mile network drew riders from afar with such trails as the long and speedy Eastern Territory and the intimidating Gauntlet. On a winter Sunday morning, it wasn't surprising to see 50 or more cars spilling out from its parking area onto Old Weaver Trail. The appearance of new trail networks has dimmed some of New Light's glow, as have logging operations that periodically close portions of the trail. Ironically, its diminished popularity may be its salvation. WRC had been worried about too many riders scaring off wildlife, especially the wild turkey. Down to just 7 miles or so, with limited riding most of the year and with competition from other trail networks, those crowds are a thing of the past.
Who did this: North Raleigh Mountain Biking Association/Cooper Group.
Contact: New Light

UMSTEAD STATE PARK
Location: Raleigh.
Getting there: Two main entrances: Off I-40 at Harrison Avenue and off Glenwood Avenue (U.S. 70) between I-540 and Ebenezer Church Road.
Hours: Opens daily at 8 a.m. Closes at 6 p.m. November-February; 7 p.m. March and October; 8 p.m. April, May and September; and 9 p.m. June-August.
Miles of trail: 13.
The skinny: OK, it's not singletrack. But if you're looking to log a lot of miles on your mountain bike, this is the place. The 13-mile bike & bridle trail has some good hills (be prepared to lose a lung on the 2.5-mile Turkey Creek portion of the trail). Once caveat: the fine-screened surface doesn't hold up well after a big rain. Ruts are common afterward.
Who did this: N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
Contact: 571-4170.

LITTLE RIVER REGIONAL PARK

Location: On the Durham/Orange county line, north of Durham.
Getting there: From I-85 in Durham, go north on Guess Road for 10 miles. Park entrance is on the right.
Hours: Opens at 8 a.m., closes basically at dusk.
Miles of trail: 7.
The skinny: The intro is pretty tame, and then...: Heart pounding climbs, some rocky stuff, funky 8-inch wide bridges, a sky bridge and lots of log crossings. Instead of trail signs indicating "Beginner," "Intermediate" or "Advanced," these point to the "Easy" option and the "Hard" option. (The first time I went the Hard way, I was relieved to finally come across another Easy/Hard option. I thought I was going back to Easy; in fact, I was still on the Hard trail, only taking the easier of the two Hard options.)
Who did this: The defunct Durham Orange Mountain Bike Organization. Trail maintenance has been assumed by the Triangle Off-Road Cyclists.
Contact: Little River Regional Park, 732-5505.

SANFORD TRAILS
Location: Sanford.
Hours: Generally dawn to dusk.
Miles of trail: 15 combined.
Sanford has three trail networks: Governor's Creek is the granddaddy, six miles of relatively fast riding with some good climbs and some rooty areas. San Lee Park is more of a cross-country ride, offering a fast workout. Devil's Ridge is actually a motocross trail that allows mountain biking; its one unusual feature is lots of bermed turns.
Who did this: Volunteers largely associated with Sanford's Fit To Be Tried bike shop.
Contact: 776-2453.

SOUTHERN COMMUNITY PARK

Location: Chapel Hill.
Getting there: Go south on U.S. 15-501 from Chapel Hill; a mile south of where N.C. 54 crosses, go right on Main Street into Southern Village. Go around a half-traffic circle, take first left, then next left. Just past church, go right; the trailhead is straight ahead, at the back of the park and ride lot.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
Miles of trail: 1.5.
The skinny: Have a girlfriend you'd love to take mountain biking? A child who just got their first mountain bike? Bring them here. This is flat-as-they-come singletrack with a few obstacles. One short rocky area, a big dip, that can easily be walked. Guaranteed to make a good first impression.
Who did this: Chapel Hill Parks & Rec.
Contact: 968-2784.

Additional Information

For details on these trails, others in the region and the latest Triangle mountain biking news, check out Triangle Moutain Biking.

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