Mountain Bikers Shortchanged in Proposed Trail Updates at DuPont State Forest in North Carolina

In a proposed list of trail changes at DuPont State Forest, horses get more trails than mountain bikers, hikers are still allowed on downhill flow trails, and new trail development doesn't include mountain bikers.
File photo: Leah Barber

“Big changes are coming” to the mountain bike mecca of DuPont State Recreational Forest near Brevard, NC. DuPont is renowned as one of the best mountain bike trail systems — not just in the Southeast but arguably anywhere in the country. With some 80 miles of trails and dirt roads, this expansive trail system is home to iconic rock slab lines on the Big Rock and Cedar Rock trails, a popular purpose-built flow trail descent on the Ridgeline Trail, and a mixture of chunky rocks and flowing singletrack throughout the rest of the forest.

The 10,300-acre forest draws many hikers, runners, and equestrians as well, thanks to its six waterfalls and three lakes. The scenic beauty and fantastic trails of DuPont attracted 1.2 million visitors to the forest in 2023.

Due to DuPont’s massive popularity, changes are in the works to allow the forest to sustain this increased visitation. While many of the proposed changes will be focused on improving trailhead facilities and infrastructure, the trail system is also going to be modified to accommodate the increased trail traffic.

Unfortunately, mountain bikers have been shortchanged by the new trail updates. In a mountain bike destination as famous and well-developed as Brevard, that’s a bit surprising, to say the least.

The changes to the trail system fall under four major categories:

  1. Moving some trails from multi-use to dedicated use. Currently, all but two miles of trails are open to all users.
  2. Making some trails designated directional.
  3. Closing underutilized trails.
  4. Opening new trails.

According to an article on MountainXpress.com, foot travel will continue to be allowed on all trails in the forest. Ten miles of trails will be open to equestrians but not mountain bikers, and only 5.6 miles of trails will be opened to bikers but not horses.

Trails like Ridgeline — a famous downhill flow trail in the forest — will become designated directional. However, since hikers have access to all trails, hikers will still be able to hike up the trail.

5.2 miles of trails that are underutilized and heavily eroded will be closed.

In one possible bright spot, the article notes that a 717-acre parcel acquired in 2021, known as the “Continental Divide” area, is slated for new trail development. Unfortunately, the article notes the property “would house some horse/hike-only trails.”

To recap:

  • Horses get more designated-use trails than mountain bikers.
  • Even designated downhill flow trails are still open to uphill hiker traffic.
  • While some trails are planned for specific user groups, no mountain bike-only trails are mentioned in the current plans.

In short, mountain bikers are getting a raw deal in the upcoming changes in DuPont State Forest.

In the Mountain Xpress article, Tyler Donaldson, a board member for Pisgah Area SORBA, commented on the decision to designate some trails for specific user groups.

“I think that does cut down user conflict and people being scared, horses being scared, things like that,” he said. “So if that’s what they end up doing in the end, I think that that could be a good thing. Do I want to see anybody lose access to trails? Not at all. But I’m open-minded to the fact that there is conflict, and so I would rather it be a situation where people can recreate the way they want without having to worry about interrupting someone’s good times.”

At this time, the changes listed above have been included in a draft proposal that was previewed to the public in April. The final plans are set to be submitted to the state in June.

See Also: This popular state forest is handing out $218 fines and misdemeanor charges to e-bikers

 

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