Did the entire 18-mile loop around Chicot State Park today. I used to wonder why it wasn't more popular among Louisiana mountain bikers but now that I've done it I can see the lack of appeal. Although I had a good ride and conditions were about as good as they could get, it was an ordeal.
Very long. Not on paper but on the ground there are long stretches of very steep terrain which is not a problem by itself except that the steep, muddy transitions make it difficult to maintain momentum and invariably you start most of the hills from a virtual standstill. Kind of like a roller coaster except the car stops at the bottom of every descent.
A lot of the transitions are creek beds with root shelves on the exit; I got off the bike on many of them to avoid 1) breaking a spoke, and 2) going endo after planting the front wheel in thick mud. And although short, most of the ascents are very steep rootapaloozas where picking a careful line is essential. The first four miles are nothing but this as are most of the last five miles. The trail on the east side of the lake is flatter but it goes on forever.
Mud. Not that big a deal today and in fact I'd say with the exception of the last half mile the mud was very manageable...but it's been dry for a couple of weeks. There are sections of the trail literally at bayou level and a couple of days of rain will make the place impassable for weeks. You can just tell that this place is a muddy hell if the conditions are right. I ride the Lakeshore trail near Alexandria a lot and by contrast, it is bone dry a few hours after it rains.
Bugs. Again, not too bad today but imagine in the late Spring and Summer. Wow. I'd bring some bug spray and re-apply every four miles or so. Apparently there are also some big gators in the lake although I have never heard of an attack. About two miles of the trail skirts the edge of the bayou and I mean it is five feet away so I suppose an enterprising gator could ambush you there.
Very well-marked with orange blazes and mile markers. You can get a very good map at the pay station and you always know where you are and how much torture is left.
The trail is currently in very good shape. Only one down tree and none of the trail was unridable. Like I said, the last quarter mile-or-so was very muddy but I was able to pedal through it. The rest of the mud was mostly at the bottom of creeks and sporadically on the trail particularly on the flat sections near the dam. There are also a lot of bridges over many deep creeks so I'd say that if you go in the dry season with plenty of water (because it is hot, hot, hot here in the summer) and you know what to expect you might have a decent ride. Timing is everything. I'd get there, in the Summer, early in the morning and really tear it up while it's was still relatively cool and then cruise the remainder at a more leisurely pace. Virtually the entire trail is under a forest canopy so that would help.
Scenic. You have no idea There are quite a few wooden bridges across the bayou, for example, and the scenery is like something out of a nature show..the Louisiana that everybody pictures. Beautiful forest scenery everywhere else.
This trail is definitely worth a trip. It really kicked my ass and I suffered but that's what mountain biking is about sometimes. Look at the link below and try not to laugh at my average speed. I ride about four-thousand miles a year on various trails so although I am not a professional, I am not completely out of shape.
Chicot State Park by guslaskaris at Garmin Connect - Details
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