Work progressing on mountain bike trail

By Jeff Nations

The next section of mountain bike trail at Sherando Park might be ready for riders sooner than thought.

Sherando Park manager Cory Smith said a surprise influx of volunteers, in sizable groups, could push the timetable forward on opening Section F of the planned loop trail in Stephens City.

“We had a group of 20 or so 14- to 18-year-old kids out there today clearing the corridor for Section F,” Smith said. “We were going to wait on starting work until the fall when the leaves start falling and it’s easier to get in. We have another large group looking for volunteer work in September, so we’ll do some work then.”

Smith said the single-track trail, the only dedicated mountain bike path in Frederick County, continues to progress since work began back in the fall of 2012. The initial Section A of the trail opened that same year, and succeeding sections have been opened up since then. The trail is now 1.87 miles long, with at least three additional sections planned that will ultimately lengthen that distance to about 4 ½ miles.

Section E of the Sherando Park trail opened in late June, and Smith said reports from riders are that the newest segment is a bit tougher than the previous four. The Sherando Park trail is classified as an intermediate level course according to International Mountain Bicycling Association guidelines.

“There are some areas where a small child might have to get off their bike,” Smith said. “There’s a couple switchbacks, small switchbacks, where they might not have the strength to pedal through it.”

The bonus labor pool of volunteers will help get the next section open earlier, probably by late fall. Smith said that trail building usually takes place in late fall and early winter.

Much of the work is done by volunteers from the community, which can be a hit-or-miss proposition.

“It’s been sporadic,” Smith said. “It’s weather dependent. When it’s really, really nice weather people want to be out on their bikes riding. When it’s a little cooler or there’s a drizzle, we might see a few more people come out to help.”

The trailhead for the mountain bike path is accessed off the park’s asphalt path. Riders can park at the softball field lots on the north side of Route 277 (Fairfax Pike) and take the asphalt path a little less than a quarter-mile to reach the marked trailhead.

Smith said the trail corridor measures 8 feet high and 5 feet wide, leaving ample room for riders to negotiate the moderately hilly terrain.

“We’re seeing more and more younger age kids on these trails,” Smith said. “We’ve been hearing from people that they’re glad they don’t have to drive to Andy Guest [Shenandoah River State Park] or Cacapon State Park [West Virginia] or the George Washington National Forest to ride their mountain bikes.”

Runners and hikers have also made use of the mountain bike trail, Smith said.

Other than regular maintenance by park staff and volunteers, the new trail continues to hold up well and has had no real problems.

“Even after all these torrential downpours that we’ve had, we’ve had one or maybe two tiny wet spots,” Smith said. “That’s it. We put a lot of time into planning the design of this trail.”

Contact staff writer Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com