On New Years Eve morning 5 of us went over to the Big South Fork to ride the Grand Gap Loop. This trail was originally a BSF hiking trail but a new "shared trails" program has opened this trail to mtn bikers on weekdays only. The trail is located just outside of the Bandy Creek campground and the drive from Knoxville took about 2 hours.

I have hiked at BSF often and I have always thought the place offered excellent camping and riding opportunities but previously the only mtn bike trails were shared with equestrians. These trails were beat-up, slow moving with large deep sandy pockets. However, the Grand Gap Loop offers everything I ever wished for from The Big South Fork. The trail follows the gorge off and on, creeping along the edge of the bluff with spectacular views of the river some 500' below. The trail is precarious in sections and if were to loose your footing the penalty would be pretty enormous. The surface is sandy and drains very well, the elevation gain is minimal and most of the time you are pedaling hard through flowy, rolling, very fast singletrack. Typical of BSF there are huge sand stone rocks that seem to be everywhere along the trail. Many of these offer a nice place to take a break or fix a flat as we did a few times. The trail also offers some challenging technical rocks sections from time to time. Most everything is ridable even for a low skilled 29'er rider.

We started our ride just outside of Bandy Creek and took Duncan Hollow Trail (fireroad) to the Grand Gap Loop (singletrack). We rode the full length of Grand Gap and then took the John Muir Trail (singletrack) north all the way down to the creek. From there we had to climb out of the gorge back to the plateau along Duncan Hollow (fireroad) back to the car. We could have taken a short cut but we missed the turn so we were forced to finish the ride with a very steep assent out of the gorge. When we got back to the car we had ridden 23 miles but we all felt like we had done much more than that. Although the elevation was minimal the pedaling input was high thus making this a challenging ride.

So if you're looking for a new cycling venue give the BSF another look. I wish I could have provided some photos as we had a near perfect day of weather with clear visibility. However, we all left our cameras at home. Below is a map of the route we took and a link to article in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/travel/a...826194,00.html



Happy New Year!