Mountain bike trails can have many different features that draw the rider in and create an enjoyable outdoor experience. These different features could include challenging, rewarding climbs, rough, technical tread, amazing flow, man-made stunts, or gorgeous views – and the list goes on and on.
Historical trail features are particularly interesting to me and whenever I ride a trail with a bit of history I feel a deeper connection with my surroundings. While this historic element is not present on every mountain bike ride, many trails go past historic sites containing relics of a time long gone or are themselves pieces of history. Here are just a few examples that come to mind.
Bull Mountain, Georgia
This rusted hulk from a time long past lies just off the Bull Mountain trail outside of Dahlonega, Georgia. The truck isn’t located anywhere near a road, but the mountain bike trail lies on an old road bed that must have once been passable by trucks like this. I wish I knew why this truck was parked and abandoned miles up this mountain in the North Georgia forest, and what it had been used for. The mystery is intriguing, and every time I roll by this truck I at least have to glance at it and wonder what stories it would tell if it could talk.
Johnson Peak, Montana
Based on the large windows on all sides of this building, I’m guessing this dilapidated shack used to be a forest fire lookout post. There’s no longer a view from this spot, but the trees surrounding the cabin look relatively young in comparison to the rest of the forest, indicating that at one time you probably could have seen for miles from this vantage point.
Canada Creek, Georgia
I imagine these silos once had a barn to go with them and if they did, it’s no longer there. When I rounded this corner and rode right beneath these looming concrete structures, I couldn’t help thinking: “How cool is this?” The nearby land in this sunken valley along Canada Creek looked like it had been farmed at one time. Now, the whole area is wild and looks like it’s only used by rednecks mudding in their 4×4’s.
Tsali: Left Loop, North Carolina
photo posted by ositoking.
This chimney from an old homestead on the Tsali trails is really representative of a lot of unsung historic sites all across the nation. If I had $10 for every old fireplace I’ve seen while riding I’d probably be a rich man. However, that doesn’t detract from the interest and the history of this particular location. Where the Left Loop trail now runs used to be someone’s kitchen/living room. I wonder if it was a sizeable house, or just a small cabin? We’ll probably never know…
These are only a handful of the historical sites that I have noticed along the bike trail. I’ve stumbled across many old foundations, graves long forgotten, the remains of old bridges, and more. Trails like these are more than just another ride through the woods, another statistic on your training log; they are a ride through history!
What trails have you ridden that pass by a historical site or have their own historical significance?
Greg Heil (singletracks screen name: Goo) has mountain biked trails all across the nation and is currently a member of the Airborne Flight Crew. He writes a mountain bike blog that’s choc-full of useful, objective mountain bike information.
I’ll throw in a couple more examples. During the hut-to-hut trip we spent the night in an old mining area and there was one shaft we found that looked like something straight out of Indiana Jones. There was a series of rickety, rotten wood ladders leading down into darkness – you couldn’t even see the bottom! Fortunately the shaft was covered by a large metal grate but even standing on the grate made my heart race. I took some pics but they didn’t come out that great because it was so dark down there.
Here in Atlanta the Waterworks trail goes past the old DeKalb County water treatment plant (early 1900s) and the ruins of Mason Mill (constructed pre-1850s).
As you mentioned, many trails are themselves pieces of history. Many bike trails in National Forest areas actually started out as hiking trails built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Now if I could just force myself to slow down to read plaques I might actually learn even more about where I’m riding. 🙂
Same deal with Fort Mountain. If you like the historic stuff, you shouldn’t miss that one. Tons of old mines and a rock formation that they “think” may have been an old fort used by the Spanish coming up from Florida.
@trek7k, that mine shaft sounds intense!
@GoldenGoose, so does it basically look like a pile of rocks? Regardless, Fort Mountain has definitely been on my “to ride” list, and now it just got kicked up a few places!
I used to think that my friend and I invented mountain biking as college sophomores in 1969 when one night he suggested “Hey there’s a full moon tonight. Let’s take these old ten-speed beaters and ride them out in the hills!” This was at UC Irvine at an area called the Bio-Farm. The bikes were rideable on the rabbit trails and we could see without lights. That area is now all housing.
One could argue that George Loher invented mountain biking in 1895, as there were NO paved roads in that day. I consider his book required reading for all mountain bikers!
“The wonderful ride: Being the true journal of Mr. George T. Loher who in 1895 cycled from coast to coast on his Yellow Fellow wheel”
-Captain James Brock
@goo- you can make out a wall and they said they have figured out where “gates” and “pits” used to be but they don’t really know what or who was there. The ride itself is killer even if you didn’t have all the old mines and stuff around.
I like the historical aspect of Klondike bluffs in Moab, starting with the dinosaur tracks, and further in some old mining equipment.
@GoldenGoose, right on, thanks for the info!
@maddlsacker, that sounds like a fun ride!
In rock hill, SC on the river walk trails that wind down the Catawba river. The mountain bike trails pass by multiple old plantation foundations created from the river stone below on the river banks. The size and age of the remaining stone structures are very interesting and might date over 200 years old. While being a newer trail, it still is a very fun and Flowy ride on the tall river banks of the Catawba.