Big news: Feds to consider allowing bikes on PCT
For the last two to three years a small group of us has been working to get mountain bike access to non-Wilderness sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. (About 60% of the PCT lies outside Wilderness.)
We have convinced the Forest Service that its 1988 closure order requires reconsideration.
As a result, the Forest Service is going to begin a rulemaking procedure, probably in March of 2013, to consider making the non-Wilderness parts of the PCT multiuse. This will involve public notice and comment.
When something similar happened with the Continental Divide Trail about four years ago, the Forest Service received about 8000 comments. The PCT reconsideration can be expected to generate even more controversy.
If the Forest Service decides to keep bikes off the Pacific Crest Trail, we can expect that closure to stay in place for the rest of our lives and maybe those of our children. If the Forest Service decides to open it, it will be revolutionary.
Stay tuned. We'll be looking for your help in coming months.
mmmm, singletrack bikepacking!!!
Glad to see your enthusiasm! If you belong to any local mtb group, it would be helpful if you could alert the group leaders. At some point the Forest Service will be collecting comments from the public, and it'll be important for groups to tell their members so they can all weigh in.
Outstanding news. Please keep us updated if possible so that we can be helpful with adding comments!!
Would love to ride it... legally!
I'm in! But that trail goes through some very tree hugging happy hikers that want the whole thing to themselves, and they wont let go easily. It's going to be an interesting fight.
This would be incredible indeed. I am very anxious to hear the outcome!
There is a Panther lying in wait for "me" to enjoy. Might be nice to see the daylight version, it's been a while.
I'm all for increased mountain bike access and all, but really, let's think about this. Have you all ever hiked on a mountain bike use trail? It sucks. Bikes passing you all the time. Ruining your zoning out time. It's quite annoying and makes the experience so much worse. Part of the reason I don't ride on the McKenzie River trail as often as I'd like.
The PCT is a meditative experience. I have a whole bunch of respect for those who complete portions of it. I know some sections might not be wildly used, but really, I only see allowing bike access to these parts will not settle well with hikers and will turn them off. I know they have a whole plenthora of trails exclusive to them. But which trail do they exclusively get that will allow them to hike in solitude from Canada to Mexico?
This being said, I am all for having an alternative.
Wow, this is not high on my list of MTB desires (I didn't think it was a battle we could possibly win), but would be pretty cool, due to the bikepacking potential that chaingangster mentioned.
But boy oh boy, would it be an ugly fight. Just because we managed to get access to CDT in inland mountain states (where MTBing is, in my experience, more accepted) doesn't mean we'll get access to the PCT in the Pacific Northwest (where the hiking clubs OWN the woods).
The PCT is sacred to a lot of people. Many hikers, from Harvey Manning on down, have decided that the plodding 1-2mph pace of a backpacker is the only acceptable pace to enjoy the woods, and anything faster is disrespectful, dangerous, damaging and prevents you from fully enjoying nature. Their objection to mountain bikers is really just a user conflict, but is all too often wrapped in self-righteous eco-indignation.
Imagine the fury from the thru-hiker when they start seeing fully loaded bikepackers passing by at 3x their speed. Or day-tripping riders going by even faster than that, covering in one epic ride the terrain that takes a backpacker several days. People are going to FREAK THE F*** OUT. I'm trying to decide if I think this is a battle worth taking on.
I am all for more access, and while I agree it will likely be an ugly and hard fight, I think the reality that this will lead to MTBs ruining the solitude of hikers isn't very likely. While I don't have any maps in front of me, I doubt there are that many sections outside Wilderness that are popular for hiking and would be regularly ridden. Let's face it, while MTBing is more popular, it seems to me that most of that popularity is in MTB specific trails (see Sandy Ridge). Exploring and long out and back epics on rough trail appears to be isolatad to a niche population. There are plenty of existing trails, open to MTBs that are dissapearing because no one maintains them because no one uses them. Upper Souxson, Huffman Peak, Boulder Creek area, Paradise Hills and Paradise Ridge are among a few off the top of my head. There will definitely be some use on easily accessed sections such as North of the Bridge of the Gods, but that section is known as one of the more miserable sections to hike. Like many areas of the PCT outside wilderness, it goes through old clear cuts, power line ROWs, has no views etc.. I think the reality of conflicts would be small. Unfortunately the perception will be HUGE, hence this will get ugly......if it is ultimately true. Sorry I am skeptical, but optimistic and wholly supportive. May even join the PCT alliance just so I can send a supportive comment as a member.
Please remember that hikers take no issue ruining "our" experience on a regular basis. Actually, many delight in it. I agree about all the trails that are already legal that have been left for dead too. Siouxson-Huffman are perfect examples. As much as I adore that descent off Little Huckleberry I wonder why Huffman has been ignored. Is there a better descent? Let's take back whatever we can!!! It seems as if there is less to ride every year. Plus, I WANT THE WILDERNESS!
Much of the PCT in Oregon doesn't interest me...but interests my friends and riding buddies. Long-range potential Impact (positive or negative) of this on access and collaborations is off the charts.
It will be one hell of a debate either way. I'm on the board of Disciples Of Dirt. I'll try to keep this on my radar...but please feel free to reach out, put me on a mailing list, etc (ireman_1"at"yahoo) to nudge me.
I ride frequently (but poorly)and definitely wish we had more access to trails. Forest park anyone?
But I also enjoy long distance hiking/backpacking (aspiring thru-hiker 2014) and I'd prefer to keep the PCT bike free.
I don't think I'm self righteous and I am not eco-indignant. I also disagree with a lot of reasons given for restricting bike access.
But I'd vote to leave the PCT alone.
Hi, Big Dweeb,
I live in California but have backpacked about 1/3 of the PCT in Oregon, from Mackenzie Pass to Timberline Lodge. I would have been happy to encounter mountain bikers along the way. But people can reasonably disagree about that.
I think you'll find, if you through-hike the PCT in 2014 (I hope you succeed!), that large stretches in Northern California are falling into semiabandonment from lack of use. That's what I hear from other hikers. Mountain bikers could keep the trail open through more use and provide badly needed volunteer maintenance help.
I know someone who I think has hiked the whole PCT. He told me that the real problems that cause unpleasant experiences are logging, grazing, damage caused by horses and packstock, and stretches along public roads. He thinks the occasional mountain bike would be inconsequential compared to the impacts of those other things.
Agree with this as it seems that mtb'ers and affiliated clubs do more for the trails that are in desperate need of restoration than other user groups, horse clubs in particular, and bikes obviously cause less of an impact to trail degradation than the horses. My ultimate take and should be the sediment of all bikers, is that if horses are allowed access on any particular trail, than bikes should be included at the very least as well. I also agree that most people (hikers) are typically happy to run into others users on multi-use trails, especially in desolate areas.
Originally Posted by imtnbke
imtbike - Good point about the neglected trails in nor cal.
However, consider the Oregon section you hiked. The trail leading up to Mt Jefferson, down into Jeff park and up the ridge was really fantastic. I don't think I'd like running into bikes there. Or on the section past Timberline around Mt Hood.
But I can see your point for sections like Ollalie lake to Mt Hood (for example).
Have you hiked the JMT/PCT in the Sierra? IMO Mtn bikes have no place on those trails.
Another way to look at this: I think motorcycles should not be allowed on some of our MTB trails. Those motorcycles look like a helluva lot of fun. But it makes sense to me to segregate some trails.
Just my thoughts...
Based on what criteria? Just curious.
Originally Posted by BigDweeb
The Boundary Trail, and too many others to name, would be gone without motorcycles. Motorcycles do not $!^* on the trail , or post hole them into oblivion either. Do yourself a favor and practice some mtb based civil disobedience and ride your MTB from Crest "HORSE CAMP" to Panther Creek. Then you can decide if it is worth it. I would trade 25 SANDY RIDGE'S for that area alone. BTW, the only through hiker that I know(complete) is my best companion on the PCT. THE BEST TIMES ARE WHEN HE SEE'S SOMEONE THAT HE KNOWS FROM THROUGH HIKING. They are always encouraging and thoroughly jealous of the wheels. Can't the self righteous spend there free time in church instead. If horsies are allowed we should be as well.
Zorg - good question and I'm struggling to put it into words.
I suppose some might say all trails should be open to every kind of user.
I'm suggesting that some trails (not all trails) should be reserved for certain activities. The question is why...
For me it does not come down to physical impact on the trails (postholes, erosion, whatever) - though many make that argument. Rather, I'm thinking about the impact to my experience.
As I mentioned before - dirt motorcycles look like a kick ass time and I'm glad those folks have places to ride. I'm not worried about how they impact a trail.
But there are times during a mountain bike ride when I enjoy the mixture of excersise, adrenaline, relative solitude, and nature. And having motorcycles tear-assing all over would diminish or change that experience.
By the same token, there are hiking experiences that I relish for the solitude and nature. And having lots of mountain bike traffic would change that too. I also don't think we should have gondolas providing access to every mountain peak.
I also suspect that some folks feel the same way but use physical trail impact or safety arguments that don't really add up...
So to adress the PCT sections I mentioned above. The area around Mt Jefferson and the JMT have that solitude/nature component. The hike from Olallie to Mt Hood is a slog through a green tunnel. In fact I did a 32 mile day from Olallie to Timothy Lake and all I kept thinking was how much faster I could go on my bike... So yeah, I'm a hypocrite too.
I don't think I'm doing a very good job explaining my reasoning... Am I the only one who thinks like this?
Poppa#1 - Dude wtf? You make a good point about the horsies being allowed so why shouldn't we. I suppose if all trails are not open to every type of user then there's going to be some messy debates.
BD, thanks for answering. To be fair, it was a loaded question. If I understand you correctly, what you're saying is: "well, if I have to share this space with others, it'll make my experience less enjoyable". Frankly, it's a completely fair comment, but that I happen to wholeheartedly disagree with. It's a public land and is meant to be shared. It's not a private playground for hikers and equestrians. Furthermore, with 50 million acres of Wilderness in the lower 48, plus 1000s more treated like wilderness, there are plenty of space for you to experience solitude (BTW, I also happen to disagree with the Wilderness ban for the exact same reasons, but that's another story).
Originally Posted by BigDweeb
With all that being said, I doubt that the impact would be that great anyway. Most of the PCT is out of the way and there won't be that many cyclists on it.
The proposal being considered by the FS would only apply to areas OUTSIDE the wilderness. So the area around Mt Hood, essentially from Timberline Lodge to just before Cascade Locks would be in Wilderness and off limits to bikes (whole other debate). I am also pretty sure the MT Jeff section is wilderness too. This porposal would open bikes to areas like the Timothy lake area you mentioned, and Panther Creek that Poppa advocates for. If I understand you right, this proposal will meet your request/desire. Wilderness areas will still be off-limits and there will still be "solitude". (If that is even possible on a through hike; everyone I know that has through hiked the PCT has ended up hiking with others, no matter how hard they tried to escape, whole other story). As I mentioned above, I have a hard time beleiving there will be more than a handful of trail sections that will get much riding, and the sections that will are pretty much all "green tunnels". Any distance hiker will see exponentially more hikers than MTBers. I really beleive your concerns are a bit unfounded. Even if the entire trail was opened to MTBs there would still be tons of areas that no one would ride. Just look at Mt St Helens, almost all of the S side is open to bikes, but outside of the Ape Canyon/Smith Creek loop you'd be hard pressed to find a bike. Why? They are not ideal trails for riding. But there are some sections of the PCT that would be a blast on a MTB. In the big picture it will be a small percentage, but even a small percentage of the PCT is HUGE for MTBers.
I rode just about every mile of trail in the Mt Hood forest that is open to MTBing this year. Yet in an entire decade when I was a hiking fanatic, I didn't come close to hiking every trail in the forest. There is and always will be plenty of space for all, and tons of solitude for hikers. I appreciate your concerns, but if you really look at the lay of the land, and what this proposal would do, I don't think you have anything to worry about from bikes.
Zorg, I kinda figured it was a trap! So I tried to take my time and get my thoughts clear. don't think I did a good job. Your interpretation suggests that I want something all to myself - no other people. I'm suggesting that certain activities my not complement one another. It's about the activities - not the other people.
Don't get me wrong. I'm only talking about perhaps reserving a few places for certain activities.
I'm guessing that horseback riding and motorcycles do not mix well. If there's a conflict aren't both sides better off if some space is carved out for each.
And pointing out how much wilderness area we have is a bit of a red herring since we don't spread out homogeneously throughout all of that area. Certain places will always be more appealling than others: close to cities, near epic natural stuff (grand canyon), etc. So I think we're going to clump up and have conflicts. Don't we already?
I agree it's not a private playground for hikers and equestrians. And frankly I think those two groups have too much sway.
But can you honestly say that motorcycles should be allowed on any trail in the Sierra Nevada (or your favorite wilderness area)? Because it seems to be a consequence of your argument.
And I agree with your last sentence.