Mountain Bike Trails Harming the Environment? Cut Down Live Trees to Keep Bikers Out


Photo: Matt Gephardt, KTVX. Courtesy

Don’t get us wrong, we love the US Forest Service. The Forest Service is one of the biggest federal supporters of mountain biking and most of our favorite mountain bike trails around the US are located on Forest Service land. But methods used in a recent trail closure near Salt Lake City, UT leave us scratching our heads.

In Little Cottonwood Canyon, Forest Service workers closed off an unauthorized trail used by mountain bikers by cutting down mature trees to block the path. According to this article, agency workers claim this is the most natural way to close a trail (we might add it’s also one of the quickest and easiest ways to do it). Nothing harshes the flow more than huge trees trunks and tops blocking a trail and we predict this will be very effective at keeping riders out.

But what about the environmental impact of felling mature trees just to block a trail? Obviously the trees can’t be harvested – then they wouldn’t doing their job blocking the trail. The Forest Service claims the old trail was damaging the watershed – but how damaging is removing living trees? We hope there’s more to this story (like the downed trees were infested with Pine Beetles or something)…


Sope Creek trail closure.

Last year during a trail work day at Sope Creek our group closed some old bike trails by piling logs, leaves, and branches from the surrounding forest on top of the old track. After a few hours it was literally impossible to know there was ever a trail there. Sure, we had plenty of manpower and there was a good supply of natural debris in the surrounding woods but these were wide paths – wide enough for a car to drive down. I’m sure after we were done no one wanted to ride their bike down the old path, even if they had the log hopping skills of Hans Rey.