As Freehub’s second annual photo book hit newsstands and mailboxes last week, the trails of Pisgah National Forest will have a new level of exposure. While some people might say, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” most mountain bikers would probably disagree; no one likes crowded trails. However, the photo book is so much more than trailhead directions or elevation statistics. It’s a visual guide to one of the country’s premiere trail networks, giving a sense of the playful riding and glory dirt. It also highlights the eclectic mountain bike hubs that surround the area, including bike shops, nightlife and—of course—beer. But most importantly, it’s an acknowledgement to the pioneers and current advocates that keep it all dialed.
Four local photographers, TJ Kearns, Tim Koerber, Tommy Pennick and Derek Diluzio, covered their four respective regions, working with local pros, industry insiders, and the young groms who are the heirs to these trails. This issue is an effort to capture the community that keeps the ever-growing network of trails alive in the area that surrounds the East Coast’s tallest mountains: Pisgah.
While we were certainly welcomed by all the people that make this area so unique, our week of riding only scratched the surface. The twelve trails that are explored in the photo book range from classic loops to DH shuttles and lift-accessed park laps, a little bit of everything. However there are still plenty of amazing trails out there, some we were told about but didn’t have time to explore, and others that were just whispers of epic descents and insider knowledge. Everyone has their secrets. So if there is one thing that this photo book is successful in, we hope it inspires those who open it to explore, be it North Carolina, or their own back yard. There’s always new trails and more adventures to be had.
Born and raised just outside of Brevard, photographer Tim Koerber is a true local. The town has firm Southern roots and is well within the Bible Belt, but once the timber industry flatlined, people became more accepting of non-traditional lifestyles, cycling included. At the heart of he Appalachian Mountains, the town has world-class singletrack right outside most people’s front door, dubbing itself the ‘Cycling Capital of the South’. Whether it really is, or isn’t that’s for the riders to decide, but the adventure within its surrounding network of singletrack, that undisputed.
Partnering with fellow locals Sarah Hill, Jon Angermeier, Bernadette Merriman and Daniel Sapp, the crew rode a few of the area’s most popular trails, chasing sunsets and waterfalls. Squirrel Gap is an out-and-back loop that provides a fun combination of ups and downs, both ways. It traverses ridges and cuts through lush sections of greenery, with a unique playfulness. Next up was Daniel Ridge, another loop that winds along ridges and rivers. It’s a fun mix of off-camber and rocky tech, a classic Pisgah trail. Finally, the Brevard riding tour ended with the Laurel Pilot Rock trail, a ride that gives stunning views and trail-side swimming holes. The scenery is beautiful, but the descent is beastly, filled with loose rocks and roots.
Directly south of Asheville, Hendersonville sits equally as close to Pisgah National Forest, and thus, epic singletrack. One of the older towns of the area, many of its building date pre-1900s, however like many other nearby areas, it’s recently seen a refreshing influx of bikers and outdoor-enthusiasts alike. Photographer, Derek Diluzio and NC Locals, Evan Voss, Walker Shaw, Dan Ennis and Michael Mcqueen explored both sides of I-26, the infamous DuPont State Forest to the west, and the lesser-ridden Green River Game Lands to the east.
The Green River Loop is one of the most well-known rides in the area, and after a short climb, gives way to a long stretch of singletrack, a few large rock gardens, and some technical root sections. It parallels the Green River itself before it climbs back up to the ridge for another descent. On the west side of town, the Hickory Mountain Loop provides a ride with less vert, but just as much flow. The area’s dirt is also notoriously tacky. In the DuPont State Forest, Big Rock is one of the more well-known trails, and aptly named. It’s got more than a few sections of slick rock that grip like no other when it’s dry out, but become a biker’s nightmare when the rain hits.
Mountain bike towns always seem to have a unique draw, and Boone, NC is no exception. TJ Kearns first visited the area in 2009, and although he lives by the rules of the road, Boone is a frequent destination. The area has lush forests filled with some intensely technical trails, “The epitome of East Coast gnar,” as Kearns says. That gnar also happens to breed exceptionally gifted mountain bikers, like Mike Thomas, Alex Dawson, Tim Haren, Scott Besst and Kristian Jackson. Just a few years of Boone’s masterful trail work will give any rider a knack for choosing smooth lines. And although the area’s home to serious gnar, it’s also got a healthy share of flow trails and jump tracks, keeping anyone and everyone entertained.
The crew started at Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, a 185-acre park with eight miles of singletrack. Originally established in 2009, the area’s been expanding ever since. After that, it was off to Wilson Creek, home of the aforementioned gnar. The area’s Woodruff Ridge Trail has more than a few trail-side waterfalls and a swimming holes, the perfect cool-down for summer rides. Finally, they ended their Boone tour at Beech Mountain, where a network of trails built by Mike Thomas is the only lift-accessed ones in the area. TheEmerald Outback trail delivers serious flow and sunset views, leaving little to be desired.
Photographer, Tommy Penick explored the trails outside of Asheville, or “Hype City,” as he calls it. Over the past decade, the small town has experienced a culture explosion, meaning young professionals, art districts and a plethora of breweries. However Tommy’s crowd is more established than these new residents, they’ve been running the trails of the nearby corner of Pisgah National Forest for some time now. Along with local riders Sam Anderson, Tim Haren, Cam Garrison, Eric Wolfe and Claire Tuttle, the six rallied Asheville’s native trails that encompass everything from flowy trails to “steep, rowdy drainages (if you know where to look),” as Tommy says.
The first area they covered was Bent Creek, just outside of downtown Asheville. The area has 44 miles of trail, with every type of riding you could ask for, making it a perfect post-work destination. Next was the Kitsuma trail, a descent from the summit of Black Mountain—steep, flowy, singletrack-galore. Finally, their crew headed to Big Ivy, a shuttle that gives you two miles of pure downhill exhilaration.
Freehub Magazine Issue 6.3, the Pisgah Photo Book hits newsstands October 13th or you can subscribe and have Issue 6.3 along with 3 more issues delivered directly to your door. Pinkbike readers can save 30% with the Shared Reader Discount.