Dirt Rag Magazine

Featured Ride: Maah Dah Hey, North Dakota



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The Maah Daah Hey is one of the jewels of North Dakota open space and a designated IMBA Epic. This ride is a serious adventure and a serious commitment. It is 93 miles of singletrack through painted buttes and tall grass prairies that will both test and awe you.

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As it follows the Little Missouri River, the trail blends difficult climbs up the bentonite buttes with challenging downhills. Beautiful vistas abound. Also known as the MDH, this long-distance route is best enjoyed as a multi-day bikepacking or sag-supported adventure

The trail connects the north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park across the Little Missouri Grasslands. Note that mountain bikers are required to ride alternate routes through the sections of the MDH that cross through national park lands.

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For those who plan to support themselves with a vehicle on the Maah Daah Hey, it’s best to identify contact points for each day’s ride to refuel the group with food and water. This will require some planning to navigate the surrounding rural road system. Most roads are passable by two-wheel drive vehicles, although high clearance is recommended. Consult a copy of the Little Missouri National Grassland’s map for a support vehicle strategy.

The MDH is broken down into five sections, each anchored by campgrounds along the route: Buffalo Gap to Wannagan, Wannagan to Elkhorn, Elkhorn to Magpie, Magpie to Bennett, Bennet to CCC. It is located between Medora and Watford City, North Dakota, approximately 40 miles from Dickinson Municipal Airport and 140 miles from the state capital of Bismarck.

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The Maah Daah Hey is a shared-use trail, enjoyed by cyclists, equestrians and hikers alike. However, due to its remoteness, it requires total self-sufficiency. Be prepared with your own water, food and maps. Be prepared to employ route-finding and navigation skills.

Photos and information courtesy of MTB Project. 


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Featured Ride: Chicopee Woods, Georgia



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A fast, intermediate ride through beautiful hardwood forests, Chicopee Woods links together almost all of the trails and loops in this system adjacent the city of Gainesville (northeast of Atlanta) for an 18-mile zig-zagging, roller-coaster ride.

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Expect flow, berms, bridges, a few climbs up a gravel road and a somewhat technical descent down White Tail Trail. The Tortoise Loop serves as a good warmup or a nice beginner trail. The trails are well-maintained and well-signed thanks to Gainesville SORBA.

Photos courtesy of MTB Project.


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Featured Ride: Wedekind/Crestline/Greenline, Washington



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This week’s featured ride from MTB Project is southwest of Olympia and is called the Capitol State Forest’s “signature ride,” linking intermediate and advanced trails. This particular 16-mile ride covers everything from steep, loose climbs to fast, flowy downhill and everything in between. Greenline #6, the black-diamond trail, features sections known as The Luge, Roots of Fury and Tokyo Drift.

Griffin Meyers (Single Speed Open).

Griffin Meyers (Single Speed Open).

Greenline #6 can easily be shuttled and the more difficult Crestline Trail can be skipped by riding the dirt roads. There are so many options in this loop and in Capitol State Forest itself that you can customize your ride to your day. According to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, the forest has 166 miles of riding available (50 percent singletrack, 50 percent fire road). Most of the riding is classified as cross-country style.

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Photos courtesy of MTB Project


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Beyond the Bike Park: The Dirt Affluence of Park City


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Words: Matt Kasprzyk
Photos: John Shafer
Originally published in Issue #190

There’s a lot in Park City for the cosmopolitan, just as there is for the adventurer. We know that not everyone rolling up to its opulent resort in a Porsche is a millennial wearing sweatpants and an Affliction T-shirt—some have a roof rack on their Cayman. We know not every dude wearing a $6,000 wristwatch as he sits in a cafe with his wife likes bathrobes and spa days—that watch has a heart rate monitor. We also know that resort towns can seem like cesspools of bacteria-laden brown mud leaking out of the abandoned mine shafts that these towns were built on—a place that can be a hub for incredible adventure far off the beaten ski resort path. A type of choose-your-own-adventure of sorts for those who prefer grit to glamour.

Most people think of two things when Utah is mentioned: Mormons and beer. Rightly so, perhaps. Although those two things may not come to mind together, they are separately associated with Utah, for sure. There’s an odd juxtaposition of values in Utah, and more specifically Park City, where the tourists outnumber the residents.

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But there is a lot more to the story than Brigham Young, “mild drinks” and Gucci. For example, the Utah Recreational Use Statute of 1971 “is to encourage public and private owners of land to make land and water areas available to the public for recreational purposes by limiting the owner’s liability toward persons entering the land and water areas for those purposes.”

That’s a pretty big deal. The land that many of the resorts use around Park City is privately owned—not leased from the state or federal government—giving the public easier access to the terrain with fewer restrictions. Since landowners in Utah are much less liable for uninvited guests, the statute has helped create a unique ride center that is less restricted by land access issues compared with much of the nation. It’s no surprise then that this valley on the Wasatch Back, with more than 400 miles of public access trails, was IMBA’s first gold-level Ride Center.

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This development wasn’t overnight though. There’s been a tangible commitment to recreation in Park City since the 1960s. It’s hard to imagine that the now affluent community was once almost an abandoned ghost town. Like many other modern resort towns throughout the Rockies, Park City has a history of mining and extraction. It was once the site of the largest silver-mining camp in the country, and the Ontario and Silver King mines were two of the most famous silver mines in the world. But then there was a devastating fire, several mining deaths and a declining silver market, all of which contributed to a dramatic shift in the economics of the region.

On Dec. 21, 1963, United Park City Mines opened Treasure Mountain using a combination of federal funds meant to revitalize the community and its mineral rights. The last surviving mining corporation in Park City opened a ski resort on the land they had the property rights to. Most of the infrastructure was old mining equipment. Aerial trams that hauled ore were converted into chairlifts. The special “Skier’s Subway” was a 2.5-mile ride through the Spiro Tunnel on a mine train that culminated with these early skiers boarding a mining elevator that climbed 1,750 feet to the surface. By the end of the ’60s, Treasure Mountain had changed its name, and we currently know it as Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR).

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The reason all this winter stuff is relevant is that it illustrates a dramatic shift in policies and economics that helped created a unique environment based on outdoor recreation and land access. The tourism industry now reportedly contributes over a third of the total economic value to the state of Utah. In a few decades Park City went from being almost forgotten to the center of the world stage. When Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympic Games, some of the events were held at PCMR and Deer Valley.

Rags to boots lined with fur riches. Tourism to the resort saved the town. It’s a community that embraces and preserves its heritage while encouraging material indulgences. The Victorian storefronts of Main Street are an eclectic group of bars, restaurants, boutiques and tourist traps. Park City hosts the Sundance Film Festival, but the No Name Saloon will host your motorcycle club. Across the street there could be a Lamborghini parked in front of the Banksy mural. You can take a beater shuttle van up to the top of Wasatch Crest or fl y your private jet into town for an afternoon ride. There are expensive resorts and less expensive resorts.

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But what you don’t have to pay for is trail riding away from said resorts. PCMR, Deer Valley and Canyons all have unrestricted trail access. Sure, you can buy a lift ticket and ride the bike parks. Deer Valley’s new Tidal Wave flow trail, designed by Gravity Logic, opened for the 2015 season and was finished by early September. Canyons Resort has also been investing in its bike park, but it’s the singletrack access right in town that’s unique.

There are a few mini-Valmont-style bike parks with pump tracks, jump lines and progressive skills courses throughout the Salt Lake City and Park City areas. From anywhere in Park City you can hop on a free bus with your bike. Although the buses are outfitted with the usual metro tray racks on the front and back, you can also bring your bike right into the bus with you and get a free shuttle to anywhere in town. Many of the resorts also offer complimentary shuttle services with your stay. So once you get there, you can leave the car parked and head off the mountain to ride. White Pines Touring is a great place to start your ride experiences. They offer guided tours of area singletrack or rail trails.

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There’s so much riding in the locale that a guided tour is a great idea for first timers to the area. Behind the White Pines Touring shop you can pick up the bike path and ride safely to the Park City bus station. Grab your bike and hop a bus to Mid Mountain near the Montage Deer Valley resort free of charge. The Montage is a new bike-friendly resort hotel that offers superb access to the Mid Mountain trails. It also has every amenity to make your stay incredibly comfortable. From the bus stop, or front door of the Montage, it’s a quick ride up the road to the Mid Mountain trailhead.

The Mid Mountain Loop is an IMBA Epic ride. According to MTB Project, it’s a 22.9-mile loop featuring “classic Wasatch singletrack with lots of climbing, descending and ridge-top riding through aspen and pine forests.” Highly rated, it’s a must-do ride. End it at the Silver Star Cafe near the Sundance Institute and you won’t be disappointed.

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Deer Valley also has terrific dining options. Prepare to indulge yourself, but don’t feel guilty about a plate of four ice-cream sandwiches for lunch that are made with homemade cookies. You’ll pedal it off at Strawberry Narrows. At Alberto’s Mexican, grab your breakfast burrito for the road because this recommended ride is a bit out of town but worth the drive.

Strawberry Narrows begins at the Aspen Grove Marina. The trail follows a narrow strait between Strawberry Reservoir and Soldier Creek Reservoir. There isn’t much net gain or loss in total elevation, but you’ll be doing several short, grunty climbs. It’s a lot like riding the rolling terrain of the East Coast. What’s unique about it, though, is how often you’ll transition between sagebrush with high-desert-like conditions to pines and aspens. The Narrows is a winding strait between two larger bodies of water. Each finger that juts out has two distinct sides—one that gets a lot of sun and one that doesn’t. The out-and-back ride transitions between desert-like flora with some ledgy rock sections to swoopy forest singletrack through aspens.

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Another not-to-miss loop is Big Cottonwood Canyon, 12 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. There are some technical sections threaded together by high-altitude ribbons of dirt with spectacular scenery and terrain. A long ride on the Wasatch Crest can take you all the way to Canyons Resort. Pick your own adventure through this bike park’s trails as you meander your way to the base to grab some post-ride beers.

If you really want to plan a getaway and challenge yourself, there’s the Park City Point 2 Point race held Labor Day weekend. It’s billed as one of the toughest endurance races in the West, clocking in at about 78 miles with 12,000 feet of elevation gained. Plus, 90 percent of the course is singletrack. And about that beer in Utah…

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Not everywhere has lusty singletrack, but you can bet that nearly everywhere in the world has their local brew. Utah is no different. Yes, they have it, but there are restrictions. The craft beer and distillery scene in Utah isn’t as strong as other places around the country, but nonetheless great things are happening there despite a few Mormon-influenced laws still in the books. Beers served on tap cannot be above 4 percent ABV. Secondly, you can’t have more than one drink in front of you at a time. Also, alcohol higher in proof and ABV must be purchased at a state-owned store, but that’s not much different from some other states. It’s still very possible to get drunk.

When I asked a bartender about the unique laws, the response was, “Are you coming here to drink or are you coming here to ride?” Point taken. I was there to ride some of the most affluent singletrack on earth.

 

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Beyond the Bike Park: Whistler, Canada


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Words: Hailey Elise
Photos: Mark Mackay
Originally featured in Issue #190

She’s elusive. Cheeky, only showing glimpses of her true nature the farther in you find yourself. And by farther in think of an hour climb. Whistler’s trail systems are easily accessed by those who are looking for them, but outside of the bike park they require a mindset of going on an adventure. Beautiful, extreme and a few pedal strokes away, the established network can provide a great ride while allowing for exploration of Whistler’s wilderness.

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With a history extending almost 30 years in the making, the trails spanning the Whistler Valley have evolved alongside the modern-day mountain bike. As technology advanced, so did the trail building, leading to new-school trails that are feeding the current trend among gravity riders of earning your turns.

History

With mountains set before them, rogue builders went in search of downhill descents in Whistler as early as the 1980s to escape the boredom of the offseason from skiing. The first trails can be traced back to decommissioned logging roads that provided access to the hills surrounding the valley. Trails such as the challenging Binty’s were carved into the mountainside using dirt bikes and chain saws. Many of the skeletons of trails created by these first builders laid the foundation for the trails we know today.

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While mountain bike technology improved and the sport grew, trail building increased throughout the Resort Municipality of Whistler. With that came conflict and the need for maintenance, regulation and supported growth. The trails were soon faced with potential closure, and The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, or WORCA, came to be in 1989 to lobby against the bike trails being shut down.

River Runs Through It, Cut Yer Bars and other infamous trails became established shortly after the founding of WORCA. The acknowledgment of biking as a recreational resource for the area translated into increased building, participation and trail traffic, in turn laying the building blocks for Whistler’s extensive world-class riding.

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New Directions

Driven by the progression of the sport and technological advances in mountain bikes, modern-day trail builders in Whistler have been creating descents that have been putting Whistler on the map for riding well outside the bike park. One such trail builder is Paul Stevens, co-builder of Blackcomb’s Micro Climate, a trail containing a little bit of everything from steep to flow and every bit worth the climb. His initial inspiration came from Dave Anderson, fellow rider and co-builder of the trail, who skied the zone in the winter and felt the terrain would be perfect for riding a bike down.

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The following summer, the two flagged the line and Micro Climate began. Upon completion, the trail gained a lot of traffic. What’s more, the Enduro World Series was making its debut at the 2013 Crankworx. Developers wanted to showcase the best riding Whistler had to offer as well as release a course that would surprise even the locals. The inclusion of Micro Climate helped set the stage for the Whistler round of the EWS to be known for challenging and exciting riding.

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Expanding Zones

WORCA, along with new builders, is expanding the horizons of Whistler’s biking scene to the surrounding mountainous zones, such as Wedge, Sproatt and Whistler. In addition to an extra-long descent, the creation of trails that connect subalpine regions to well-known recreational areas allows for an adventurous ride down through the stunning forest zones of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains. A bike rider now has the option of taking a full-day excursion or a leisurely few-hour jaunt.

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When asked about the future of building and riding in Whistler, Stevens says that he thinks it is following the new-school style, which focuses on using the terrain more efficiently and emphasizes sustainability. Whistler is notorious for its rugged, technical and rocky landscape, but as building advances, more fl ow and jump trails have been popping up along the outskirts of the valley.

Stevens is also quick to note that with the transient population that goes along with being a resort town, involvement from people looking to build for their preferred style of riding could lead to some interesting trail innovations.

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Culture

Together with progression and growth in trail building, the biking culture in Whistler has grown immensely. From WORCA-sponsored weekly rides to larger-scale events, mountain biking has become a recreational and social foundation for the Whistler area. Far more people, locals and tourists alike, are riding outside of the resort.

Climbing has become as sought-after as the world-renowned downhill singletrack, whether it’s for the fitness or the thrill. Social gatherings now take on forms ranging from epic day rides to after-work climbs. And one cannot forget the traditional post-ride visit to one of the many lakes.

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The past, the present and the growing mountain biking culture have made Whistler a destination for all disciplines of riding. Although Whistler is most known for its incredible bike park, there is a whole other dimension that incorporates adventure, beauty and equally exciting trails. The mountains that line the village already harbor trails that will leave you wanting more, and the future looks bright for the surrounding regions.

“Intriguing, gorgeous and challenging” sounds just like the perfect soul mate, but in fact it’s Whistler’s trail systems. The only way to find out is to book a plane ticket and to experience for yourself, exploring the real Whistler.

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Featured Ride: Kerr Scott IMBA Epic, North Carolina

Photos courtesy of MTB Project

 

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“Welcome to Wilkesbermo.” Kerr Scott gets its nickname from the hundreds of bermed and banked terns, and has been compared to a 30-mile roller coaster ride.

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Kerr Scott, located in central North Carolina, has three main trail systems: Dark Mountain, Overmountain Victory Trail and Warrior Creek, plus shorter trails either looping or connecting to those main veins. Most riders park at one of the main trailheads for shorter rides, or set up a shuttle to incorporate the entire 31 miles of 95 percent singeltrack that make up the epic.

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Dark Mountain is the oldest of all the trail systems at the lake, and its 5 miles were designated a National Recreation Trail in 2005. You’ll encounter rooty tech and downhill jumps.

Overmountain is 5 miles and the easiest trail in the system—perfect for newer riders or visitors not sure of where to start.

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Warrior Creek, at just under 11 miles, is among the most progressively-built trails at Kerr Scott and represents the evolution of more than 10 years of purpose-built MTB trailbuilding. Along the way there are rock gardens, bridges, tons of in-sloped turns and great lake views. Warrior Creek also contains several “super-stacks” of berms and banked turns that are likely to provide the most memorable part of your ride.

Off Warrior Creek (but not part of the official epic) is the 1.6-mile Headwaters Trail, a double-black diamond snack. Headwaters was designed to ride one-way because of its challenging rocky sections, chutes, boulders and stacked slabs. The trail also has a nice mix of drops, berms and jumps to tie it all together.

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When designing Headwaters, the local club sniffed out the most rugged areas for an advanced trail and, during construction, rock was hauled in if there wasn’t any. As a result, alternate lines are often more difficult than the main line.

A big thanks to the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club, which built and maintains the trails.

Photos courtesy of MTB Project

 

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Featured Ride: HyMasa/Captain Ahab, Utah



 

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Simply utter the word “Moab” to many a mountain biker and you can watch their eyes glaze over joyfully as they’re spirited away on their daydreams to slick rocks, red dirt and technical ledges.

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One of those daydream-inducing rides is Captain Ahab. This featured ride, which is just one combination of trails in this location, is about 9.5 miles with 1,500 feet of climbing and descending. When you’re done, check out any of the myriad of trails surrounding this ride. The trailhead is just a short jaunt southwest of downtown Moab.

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We can’t describe this ride any better than Mark Knowles did in his writeup of this ride for MTB Project, so we’ll let him take it from here:

“MTBing ecstasy is what it is. I can not do justice for Captain Ahab in words. Most intermediate riders will walk a spot or two on this trail. Fact is, there is even a sign that says you should walk a particularly risky spot on the trail. But don’t let that dissuade you from the experience. Ahab will etch in your memory. Visually stunning, technically thrilling, a true gem. You’ll not want it to end.”

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The ride begins with a 3-mile ride up the HyMesa trail, which was built recently to replace a Jeep road ascent. The trail brings you along canyon rims and affords views at the top of Canyonlands National Park.

A big rock drop marks the start of the descent. The upper half of the trail is a playground for long-travel bikes and technical descenders. Most of the largest drops can be avoided with ride-around options. The trail contours so there will still be a bit of climbing, here. The lower half of the trail flows along tight singletrack with a few spots of serious exposure on cliff edges. You’ll know you’re nearing the end when you hit a “spicy” rock garden.

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If you’re looking for a shorter route or want to avoid the most technical upper sections, there is a bypass via the Amasa to Captain Ahab Connector trail. Find that at 3.3 miles into the HyMasa Trail climb.

Photos courtesy of MTB Project.


 

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