Last week I met up with Greg and Jeremy near Chattanooga, TN to check out a couple mountain bike trails. Chattanooga was recently named “Best Town Ever” by Outside Magazine thanks to the miles and miles of fresh singletrack in the area – and local trail builders aren’t done yet. The weather was great on Thursday – sunny and warm but not too humid.
White Oak Mountain
I had ridden Raccoon Mountain a couple times and Greg and I recently checked Five Points off our trail wishlist so we decided to ride White Oak Mountain on Thursday. Jeremy has ridden pretty much all the trails near Chattanooga but not White Oak Mountain so none of us really knew what to expect.
The trails are located on the Southern Adventist University campus just east of Chattanooga and for some reason I imagined the 15 or so miles of trail would be a network of old hiking trails that happened to be open to mountain bikes. That may have been the case at one time but last week we found well-groomed bike trails with excellent signage and maps. In fact, I scanned a QR code on the map at the trailhead and downloaded a system map PDF directly to my phone. Welcome to the 21st century!
We headed up Krebs Cycle trail and to be honest the climb didn’t flow very well with several short steep climbs punctuated by awkward turns and descents. Continuing on to Mid Range and Points Unknown (those are trail names) it was clear that machine work had been done recently, resulting in fast, smooth tread with better flow.
The Points Unknown trail lead us to the double black diamond White Oak Ridge trail and I have to admit I was a little nervous. All three of us were on hardtail 29ers and a guy in the parking lot seemed to think we needed trials bikes to attempt White Oak Ridge (or maybe he meant trail bikes, I don’t know).
Rider: me. photo: mtbgreg1.
As soon as we hit the ridge things got gnarly with rocks and boulders littering the trail. We all stopped at the first boulder and sessioned a bit. Ok, I sessioned until I was able to clear the rocks. Greg rode straight through the first time and made it look easy. Jeremy tried an alternate line that nearly panned out – but didn’t. 🙂
For the next mile or so the rocks were a constant, though I found everything rideable thanks to expertly constructed lines. In a few spots we stopped to scout the best lines but once we realized there was always a way through, we got into the rhythm of the trail. In the end I felt a real sense of accomplishment for riding the ridge trail pretty cleanly. The White Oak Ridge trail certainly fits my definition of a double black diamond, though Greg didn’t agree. 🙂
We continued on to explore trails like Southern Mission and Big Red. These trails had great flow with well placed whoops, jumps, and bermed turns. By the time we returned we had clocked about 10 miles on all but the beginner-rated trails.
I had heard good things about Enterprise South so I was stoked to hit these trails after a quick BBQ lunch in between rides. The Enterprise South trails are built on the site of a former ammunition storage facility near the newly constructed Volkswagen assembly plant. After driving for what seemed like several miles within the park we arrived at one of the bike trailheads.
The first trail we hit was a short one-way loop that was fast and fun! Near the end of the loop we found a skills area with a few jumps, an air bridge, and one of the longest log-skinnies any of us had ever seen. I made a couple attempts but never got past the first of three massive logs. On his second attempt Greg cleaned the entire skinny – and he has video to prove it!
Immediately after Greg’s performance his rear derailleur cable snapped so we rode back to the car where Jeremy had a spare bike waiting (his Trek Fuel). After an absurdly difficult pedal swap, we were back on the trail. Everything flowed well and the moderate climbs seemed to fly by. Aside from the first loop we rode, the loops at Enterprise are directional by day and we were riding clockwise.
Near the middle of the final loop we hit a pump track at the entrance to one of the dozens of ammo storage bunkers on the property. This bunker’s doors were open and stepping into the underground dome the sound of my cleats on the concrete reverberated like a mortar launch. It’s surprising no one has filmed a post apocalpytic / industrial themed MTB video here yet!
The descent from the pump track was fast and full of jumps. It reminded me of a narrower, less steep Green’s Lick with dozens of opportunities to get big air. I nearly lost it after a series of bumps but thankfully recovered before hitting the next set.
We rode every inch of trail at Enterprise South and clocked nearly 11 miles. Thursday was one of the best days I’ve had on the bike in months with buff trails, technical challenges, and good friends. I’ll definitely be back up to Chattanooga again soon!