It seems there’s no better way to ensure an onslaught of rain than to wish for a sunny day on the trails. Getting a new bike or having an old one fixed can also feel like a catalyst for a week long deluge of watery precipitation.
For those who love to get out in the woods and explore the network of off-road biking trails our area and state has to offer, it can be frustrating when inclement weather forces closures. However, most people in the local biking community understand that it is important not to ride the trails when wet or after a storm, as doing so can damage the trail.
It may seem obvious to point out that some trails drain better than others, and some were simply at a higher elevation to begin with, factors that make for a shorter waiting period after a storm. Those in the know have made a visit to the website maintained by the Cape Fear Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA) a part of their pre-bike routine.
The nonprofit was formed in 2009 to create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for local bikers. Its website, located at www.capefearsorba.org,has up-to-the-minute information about closures to trails that are maintained by the organization. With trail maps, advice about how to get there, and tips for having the best experience possible, the website is a trove of information about local “mountain” bike trails.
Off-Road Trails Beckon
Blue Clay Bike Park
This is one of the more challenging and fun trails in the area, but it’s also one of the most sensitive to rain, as portions of it were built on wetlands. One of the coolest things about Blue Clay is the designers repurposed land that was the site of a county landfill. This can amount to some interesting smells from time to time, but also differences in terrain that up the fun factor significantly.
Located in a scenic hardwood forest in Elizabethtown, this is definitely a road-trip-worthy biking destination. With more elevation than one would expect to find in a coastal area and many recent improvements that were completed in 2020 — a result of trail designers and volunteers having more downtime on their hands due to the pandemic — Brown’s Creek is the crown jewel of the Cape Fear trail system.
Brunswick Nature Park (BNP)
Cape Fear SORBA worked in partnership with the Coastal Land Trust and Brunswick County Parks and Recreation to design and build the trails on this 912-acre property. It features 7.2 miles of custom-built single track, as well as hiking trails, a kayak launch, picnic area and restrooms. One of the great things about BNP is that it handles rain remarkably well and drains very quickly.
A recent development that is particularly exciting for the local mountain biking community is that Cape Fear SORBA was recently granted permission from University of North Carolina Wilmington trustees to maintain the trail network behind the campus.
“The idea is to keep the area as natural as it has been for years. We will add certain features to cross wet areas but for the most part it will not change,” says Cape Fear SORBA president Dave Ellegood. “Our goal is to provide space for mountain bikers and pedestrians to enjoy nature in a fun and responsible way. This can be a great example for the city to see what our Cape Fear SORBA chapter can accomplish as we work together.”
The trails behind UNCW have always been a good option, because they are convenient to access and drain well. Of course, paved trails have always been a solid choice in a light rain or after long rainy periods and luckily, there is the Gary Shell Cross-City trail in Wilmington.
There are several paved trail systems elsewhere in the state that are worth the time and effort in reaching, especially in the Raleigh-Durham area. With 33 miles of paved trails running along the banks of the Neuse River from Falls Lake Dam to the town of Clayton, the Neuse River Greenway trail is a great place to visit.
Hitting the American Tobacco Trail is also a fun thing to do in the RDU area, especially for those with an e-bike. It is a more than 22-mile rails-to-trails project that crosses Chatham, Durham and Wake counties, passing through Cary, Apex and the Lake Jordan project land.
The RDU area is also home to a large network of mountain biking trails. For information, check out www.trianglemtb.com.
A list of road-trip worthy biking destinations is not complete without mentioning Horry County Bike and Run Park, better known as The Hulk.
With a wide array of options for getting out and exploring our state’s incredible natural beauty, as well as a brand-new bike park in Jacksonville that has already accumulated extensive positive feedback from the local community, there has never been a better time to be a cyclist.