Leah and I drove out to Lake Norman State Park just outside Statesville, NC on Saturday to check out the mountain bike trails there. The Itusi trails had been on Leah’s singletracks wishlist for some time and we decided driving up to Blacksburg or Damascus would just be too far for the day. The forecast for the day was 74 degrees (in January!) so we were stoked to hit the trails.
At the trail we saw at least a dozen cars or so and a number of people gearing up to hit the trails. There were mountain bikers of all sorts – from the guys wearing jeans and sweatshirts to the dudes in spandex and pro jerseys. There were men and women at the trailhead and we even saw grey hairs riding with 10-year old kids. Truly an eclectic mix of riders that makes riding in the southeast so interesting.
The Itusi trails are broken up into a main loop with 2 shorter loops branching off at various points. The trails are designated for one way travel and we were a bit confused about where to start since the only trail we could see was marked “Do Not Enter.” We quickly realized the trail started across the road and we were off.
The first quarter mile or so is on a fire road but that quickly gives way to some smooth, fast singletrack. We were very surprised at the overall smoothness of the trails and the lack of rocks and roots to slow things down. There were some nice spots to get a little air on the trail and none of the climbs or descents were too steep. Trail distances were marked every half mile and the loops were very well marked and easy to follow. We didn’t see too many of the riders from the parking lot but that’s probably because the trail is mostly “one way.” This seems like a great way to manage a trail: people can ride fast without worrying about collisions, you won’t see as many people, and the trail is easy to follow. My only suggestion would be to alternate directions from day to day for local riders who tire of riding the same direction.
We rode the entire 7 miles or so of trail in around 45 minutes and having driven 2 hours to get there we were ready for more. We jumped back on the trail and did another, shorter 4 mile loop before we had our fill. After that it was off to Statesville for lunch and then back to Durham.
The Itusi trails at Lake Norman State Park are great for riders of all abilities. Work is continuing on a new phase of trails that promises to add another 6 miles or so to the existing network and we can’t wait.