Fall Colors Ride Recommendation?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Fall Colors Ride Recommendation?

    Hello,

    Out-of-towner here. I may be in Charlotte in late October, and if I do, then I'll likely have 1 day free to go riding. Coming from Washington, I'd really like to see your famous fall foilage that we in the Evergreen State don't get to enjoy.

    In terms of types of rides, climbing won't be an issue, and neither would be roots and rocks, but since I'm really chasing colors here, a mellow XC ride with great scenery would win over adrenalin pumping tech descent that'd be over in 10 minutes. I'd prefer a mountain bike ride, but if there's an absolute must-do road route, I'd be open to that as well.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions/recommendations from locals!!

  2. #2
    Rogue Exterminator
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    Don't worry, you won't find much climbs, rocks or roots in Charlotte.

    Been out there and rode WWC and Lake Norman.
    I like the WWC trails a little better but Lake Norman may be more what you are looking for.

    If you want more climbs and adrenaline pumping tech, you will need to travel a couple hours west out here to ride Pisgah.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  3. #3
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    That is also where he will find the color he is seeking.

    Quote Originally Posted by kjlued View Post
    Don't worry, you won't find much climbs, rocks or roots in Charlotte.

    Been out there and rode WWC and Lake Norman.
    I like the WWC trails a little better but Lake Norman may be more what you are looking for.

    If you want more climbs and adrenaline pumping tech, you will need to travel a couple hours west out here to ride Pisgah.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjlued View Post
    If you want more climbs and adrenaline pumping tech, you will need to travel a couple hours west out here to ride Pisgah.
    Yeah, I figured I'd have to travel to Asheville area to get the goods, which I don't mind doing. Should have clearly said that in my original post.

    My thought was to drive out from Charlotte early AM Saturday, rent a bike in Asheville, be out in the woods for 4 hours or so and then go back to Charlotte. Longer total driving time than riding time goes against my basic rule, but I'll have to make it work somehow since I don't know if I'd ever be back in NC.

    Would this change my options?

  5. #5
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    It depends on when you get here. The leaves start changing in the highest elevations 1st - 2nd week in October and move downward in elevation. If you're at the end of October (24-31) the peak color will likely be around 2000 ft. So you may do well around Dupont as that is a little lower in elevation than a lot of Pisgah. Check out this which may help:
    Asheville NC Fall Foliage Color Leaf Report 2014
    Keep in mind, all of this is predictions. Could be a week earlier or later.

    I'd suggest head out from Charlotte on I-85 S. Take Hwy 74 off I-85 @ Kings Mtn exit. Head west on 74 until you hit I-26. Go I-26 westbound and take the second Hendersonville exit. (Hwy 64 west) Stay on 64 until you come to the community of Pisgah Forest which is at the entrance of Pisgah Forest NF. A couple of good bike shops there, Sycamore Cycles and the Hub (I think?) At that time either shop can maybe tell you peak areas for leaves, and it will be a pretty drive anyway. They'll rent you a bike, and provide maps and suggested routes. You'll be right at Pisgah. A few miles from Mills River. About 8 miles or so from Dupont. And a lot of other options not too far away.

  6. #6
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    Wow, some great pictures on the Color Leaf Report website. Thanks for sharing! Direction from Charlotte is also very helpful.

    I'd presume lower elevation trails won't likely be covered with rime ice and snow toward the end of October like Craggy Gardens was in some of the pictures? I also presume trails to Looking Glass Rock area are not open to bikes?

    Wondering if anyone wants to share pics of fall colors from their favorite trails. Like, my favorite fall ride in Washington State has views like these:

    Fall Colors Ride Recommendation?-fall-colors.jpg

    Fall Colors Ride Recommendation?-cooney-lake2.jpg

    This a very high elevation ride. I'm sure scenery in Pisgah would have totally different but hopefully equally spectacular sights.

  7. #7
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    You are correct that Looking Glass is a hiking trail only. Great view but an out and back hike. I prefer nearby John Rock which offers a better view IMO, including a view of Looking Glass, and you can do a loop hike. But it also is open for foot traffic only so all irrelevant unless you're hiking.
    You're also correct in that it is highly unlikely you'll encounter any snow or ice at that time of year, possible but unlikely. Especially below 4000-5000 ft. which the vast majority of trails are below that elevation. You're more likely to encounter crisp mornings and daytime temps in the 60's but again, with a one day shot you could encounter any weather.

    I'm a complete noob in the mountain biking scene. I have hiked a lot of trails but typically, unless you are on some overlook trail like John Rock or Looking Glass, the vast majority of our trails are in a thick canopy of mixed hardwood forests.
    Maybe Pilot Rock trail or Laurel Mtn trail offers some nice vistas. Both are nearby. There are some trails offering views in Dupont also, I just don't have enough miles in to direct you to which ones they are, sorry. (In Dupont, maybe Cedar Rock or Stone Mountain. Also Hickory Mtn may offer some views and it connects to Ridgeline Trail, a great downhiller)

    Wish I could be more help with individual trail suggestions. Perhaps some more experienced riders can offer some suggestions.

  8. #8
    Pisgah-Pale-Alien
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruiser View Post
    Wondering if anyone wants to share pics of fall colors from their favorite trails.
    Late fall on Laurel Mtn.



    Bennett Gap







    FSR 477





    Pisgah Forest NC

  9. #9
    I love Pisgah
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    Black Mtn trail.


    Climbing up to it from the Horse stables.


    Daniel Ridge bridge.


    Solo over Black.



    ..and then around over via Turkey Pen Gap trail to Squirrel..


    Bridge at the other end of Squirrel.
    "I've breathed the mtn air, man" Johnny Cash

    It's a long way to the top
    . . . if you wanna rock and roll (ac/dc)

  10. #10
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    Lake Norman will definitely be a mellow ride, it's one of those faster = funerer places. Not much elevation change and there is nothing out there that I would consider difficult. The lake will make some nice backgrounds for the colors, but I'm not so sure of the color timing. It is sensitive to rain and closes easily so planning a ride there could prove challenging. Rent a bike from Cycle Path, Specialized and Niner rentals. I fear that this isn't the experience you are looking for.

    For proper color viewing, in the mountains, head west.

    DuPont. Trails are super fun, no brutal climbs that can't be done on a 1X10, you can ride 100k out there and not get bored, mix of singletrack and fireroad, amazing waterfalls to add to the colors with good views. I would recommend renting a bike from The Hub as mentioned above. I've never rented from them, but have been with several people who have and their pre-ride service seemed top notch from a bystander POV. They're heavy on the Santa Cruz rentals.

    Pisgah. Go with someone who knows it or buy a good map and bring your map reading skills. I personally only know death march routes up there.

    I think you'll have to wait until closer to the date to see where the colors are going to be prime.

    That said. Shoot me a PM, I'd be more than happy to roll with ya.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruiser View Post
    In terms of types of rides, climbing won't be an issue, and neither would be roots and rocks.
    Great suggestions so far. If you choose Pisgah, and the timing on color is running average to late, Cat Gap/Butter Gap/Long Branch trails might also be good options. They're near Looking Glass & John Rock at mid elevations (around 2400 - 3200 feet), offer a bit of tech & variety without too much climbing, and the colors up there are usually very nice. Plus, Cat Gap is seasonal, so you can take advantage of a route that isn't always open to bikes. A portion of Cat Gap opens to bikes October 15.

  12. #12
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    If you cant get away from Charlotte, there are a few nice woodsy trails in town where fall colors are nice. Sherman Branch and Rocky River Trail are both nice woods rides where you can escape noise and the city commotion. I dont think that time of year would be super great for colors though. They peak in Charlotte the 1st-2nd week of November.

    Uwharrie National Forest is an excellent fall ride due to the diversity of tree species (very similar to western NC) and topography. Make sure to wear blaze orange because its deer season that time of year.

    For more info on Charlotte area trails check out the local club:

    Tarheel TrailBlazers Charlotte's Premier Mountain Bike Club
    On your left!

  13. #13
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    Thanks, guys. Excellent recommendations! I'm actually surprised to see in Tarheel's website that there are so many trails close to Charlotte available for mountain biking, but I'd try to head West if I can help it. I'll keep this in mind as a back up option though, so thanks!

    Of the pictures posted so far, Black Mountain one by Duckman looked very intiguing. Nice open vista of the valley, looks like you can even see Looking Glass from the top. Description of the ride sounds pretty Gnar though, and so does Laurel Mountain. Death March late in October in a total strage land may not be what I need. Hmmm...

    DuPont sounds fun, but looking at the trail map, it looks like a maze! Any specific routes that are highly recommended for views/photo opps?

    Another one that I thought looked great (in pictures anyway) was Flat Laurel Creek. Someone suggested parking at the bottom by 215 intersection and do it as an out-and-back. Can't get lost that way, right? But the trail being all above 5,000 ft mark makes me wonder if it's even accesible in late October?

  14. #14
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    Yeah, it'll (Flat Laurel) be accessible. Easy RR bed grade. Rocky here and there tho, but no biggie really. Typically..you won't see much snow on that trail until you get into Dec, Jan, and Feb. I backpack that trail many times in the winter, to get in toward the Shining Rock wilderness area. Since they often close the Parkway during the winter months. You can also ride Ivester Gap trail once you get to the other end on FS rd 816. Its pretty rocky in some sections.

    And your right about Black. It and Clawhammer diff have their share of hike-a-bike. Yes indeedy.

    My fav mini death march loop while doing it..-->coming in from the N end of South Mills..up Buckhorn gap to Black and over Claw and Black mtn itself..left on Turkey Pen(which is a mofo too)..down to S Mills..up Mulinax..Squirrel Gap over to the other north end of S Mills again and back to the start via FS475(if I remember right. its the first right coming in from 276 on FS rd 1206). All day-ish loop thats prolly not more then 25 miles total. Done its many times being always in the Fall, as it was my yearly Fall ritual for awhile training up for the Snake Creek Gap TT that starts in Jan. Was always solo, sans 1 time.
    "I've breathed the mtn air, man" Johnny Cash

    It's a long way to the top
    . . . if you wanna rock and roll (ac/dc)

  15. #15
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    Thanks for great beta, Duckman. RR grade was not exactly what I was thinking about, so I might have to go back to Black or other areas to look for the right mix.

    Solo rides by and in themselves don't bother me at all and backcountry is the name of my game, but I do become a little more cautious about riding in a totally strange forest on my own in late fall. My boyfriend tells me I'm a lot more accident prone than average riders, though I don't know why...

    I will revive this thread when date gets closer to get some updates on color progress. Maybe I could tag along with one of you on your ride if timing works out

  16. #16
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    I diff understand about a totally new area. And agree. I also take much less chances when alone, especially there. My moto when solo in Pisgah..."he who walks today..lives to ride another day"..

    The higher alt Laurel Flats area does indeed change(early Oct) much earlier then lower(which typically peaks the last week of Oct). Plus theres just much less of everything in that area. More scrub, blue berry bushes, stunted hardwoods, Fraser furs, Hemlocks(which are now dead and dying), etc.
    "I've breathed the mtn air, man" Johnny Cash

    It's a long way to the top
    . . . if you wanna rock and roll (ac/dc)

  17. #17
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    Another idea, since you are coming from Charlotte, is to stop in Old Fort off route 40 and do the Curtis Creek/Parkway/Heartbreak loop (35 miles with most all the climbing in the first 20 or so on pavement and gravel - a strong rider should be able to knock it out in about 5-6 hours at a casual pace) Toss in Kitsuma (10 mile loop) if you still have some legs left. If the timing is right, Curtis Creek will have color, the Parkway overlooks will be nice, and there are several overlooks on the awesome downhill run of Heartbreak. Plus you cover about 3500' in elevation differences, so there will be color somewhere unless the cold weather comes early. Bonus: it's about an hour closer to Charlotte than Brevard (about 1.5 hours from downtown Charlotte to Old Fort). See if you can rent a bike in Charlotte, though, before you hit the road.
    "Get busy living, or get busy dying"

  18. #18
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    Dupont is really easy to find your way around (if you pick up a map!) since all the trails are well maintained and all the junctions are marked. Plus it gets fairly high usage so you will always run into someone to point the way for you.

    For views and color there, the best spots are Cedar Rock (go up the backside on Cedar Rock Trail and descend Big rock for some real fun!) and Airstrip (an old unused runway on a hilltop that affords nice views at the end). Best route is to climb up to the airstrip on Conservation Road and descend via Airstrip Trail.

    And be sure to hit all the waterfalls! If that's your decision I can certainly meet up and play tour guide or at least toss out some other route suggestions.

    This differs largely from my other suggestion of Old Fort - nice and flowy with not a lot of long climbs.
    "Get busy living, or get busy dying"

  19. #19
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    there's lots of good route and trail selections being offered. In the short timeframe you're shooting for, I'd recommend a Black Mountain loop. Real close to the rentals in Brevard, park ranger station for safe parking and restrooms, well marked trails, and some of the best rides that folks seek out in Pisgah.
    Another suggestion if you have a smartphone, get the free Avenza PDF map reader and purchase one of the Pisgah Map Company maps. They are GPS based and show real time 'you are here pinpoint' so you know where you are even without cell signal (which can be spotty in the valleys). Have a great trip and post up your ride review

  20. #20
    colobubba
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    Just moved here from CO. Have not seen proper fall colors since 2000 in OK. I am really stoked to see it! More pics please!!!

  21. #21
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    Here is another link which will give a little guidance as far as elevations/times/species.
    I just received this from USFS. Last year colors weren't that good as we had LOTS of rain. In fact, we passed our yearly average in July! This Summer has been a little dryer in the second half though it was wet through July but not like last year. Typically, dryer years produce more brilliant colors.
    National Forests in North Carolina - Home

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