How Rock Creek bike park in North Carolina went from zero to hosting DH Nationals in less than a year

And the Western North Carolina bike park, co-founded by pro racer Neko Mulally, is hosting the USA Cycling National Downhill Championships again in 2024.

“Are we in the right place?” I wondered as our GPS announced that we had arrived at Rock Creek bike park. The valley appeared to hold nothing more than a cow pasture ringed by forested hills and shaded homesteads. In the distance, what appeared to be several broken-down school buses sat parked against the tree line, with a couple dozen empty cars sitting in the field beside a babbling creek.

Like an old speakeasy, Rock Creek bike park is hidden and off the beaten path, a well-kept secret for those in the know. A short walk or pedal up the hill and beyond the gate reveals a barn-like bike shop stocked with essential snacks, parts, and accessories for sale, and where you can purchase your day pass for the shuttle. The shop also rents Propain enduro and downhill bikes.

Park facts

  • Location: 298 W Rock Creek Rd, Zirconia, NC 28790
  • Hours of operation: Friday-Sunday from 10am-6pm
  • Season: Open year round, rain or shine
  • 7 downhill trails on 300 acres of private land
  • About 765 feet of vertical drop
  • $55 day pass includes unlimited shuttles. Monthly and annual passes are available.
  • Website:

Rock Creek bike park opened in 2023, founded by professional downhill mountain biker Neko Mulally and business partner Dr. David LaMond. The two worked together to establish Ride Kanuga in 2020, and jumped at the opportunity to create an even more gravity-oriented bike park on privately owned land. It took the team less than seven months to build the trails and open the park to its first riders.

“Neko’s passion is to have national-level events,” LaMond told me in February. “In our first year we were able to host the [USA Cycling] Downhill Nationals […] and we had Enduro Nationals, and the tracks are hard. They’re like EWS-hard. So we’re going back there to kind of mellow them out to make them a little more accessible for USA Cycling Nationals and collegiate Nationals.”

Rock Creek business partners David LaMond (left) and Neko Mulally (right).

On the day of our visit to the park, Mulally and crew were hard at work moving rocks and dirt along the steep racecourse to make it hard, but not too hard. Of course, what you or I consider to be a difficult trail is likely very different from what a professional mountain biker like Mulally thinks is difficult.

The USA Cycling Gravity National Mountain Biking Championships are scheduled to return July 31 – August 4, followed by Collegiate Nationals in October. The park also hosted regional enduro and XC races earlier this month.

Though Ride Rock Creek is located just 17 miles from Kanuga by car (and less than five miles as the crow flies), the two parks clearly attract different types of riders. At Rock Creek, the bikes are bigger, the riders are younger, and the vibe is more fearless.

Official park map as of February, 2024.

The lone beginner trail, Green River, is about 1.4 miles long and dips and swoops its way down the mountain with small- to medium-size table tops and short rhythm sections. My 10-year-old son rode it on his hardtail, though he flatted toward the bottom of his second run and clearly could have benefited from a full squish bike (or at least burlier tires). I’d recommend a bike with at least 140mm of rear suspension travel to fully enjoy the trails at Rock Creek, and the website notes that full-face helmets are required.

Photo: Leah Barber

A couple of the intermediate-rated trails, Bark Buster and Strange Beast, are more natural trails with off-camber sections, roots, and fast narrow lines running between the trees. Dark Hollow is another natural trail that’s even steeper. With an optional gap jump or two, it earns a black-diamond rating. The main race run, under construction when we visited, looks to offer a mix between natural and sculpted terrain, with huge boulders, big jumps, and steeps.

The shuttle pickup area is located behind the bike shop, and Rock Creek is using modified pickup trucks pulling Southern Gravity bike trailers. The road up the mountain is steep, but it’s paved, so shuttle trucks can haul about 20 bikes and riders to the top in just a few short minutes — much faster than a lift. On the mild February day we visited, the shuttle truck’s engine was constantly running hot with little time or distance to cool down between trips.

Rolling the machine-built trails at Rock Creek, I assumed the builders had hauled in tons of the sandy, tan dirt to surface the trails and sculpt the various features. As it turns out, the soil at Rock Creek is pretty good for building trails, though keeping the flow tracks smooth is a constant battle against the seemingly endless chunks of Henderson gneiss that poke their way to the surface every few weeks. The trail crew at Rock Creek continues to optimize the trails to minimize runoff and keep them running smooth.

“Trails are living things,” LaMond said. “When you do a really good job, and you maintain them, actually riding them in all conditions, around here, the way the dirt is, it actually works to your favor.”


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