Sandy Gap Trail - What a Beauty, What a Shame- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Sandy Gap Trail - What a Beauty, What a Shame

    After the rain yesterday, I went to check out a trail that has been on the “not yet done” list. The trails in this area are rocky and drain well. This trail starts at the top of Middle Mountain in Douthat State Park and descends to Forest Service Road 125. The trail crosses 125 and climbs to the top of Warm Springs Mountain. The part of the trail from FS 125 to Douthat is well used and maintained. Of course me, I had to go up the other side.

    The trail starts just the other side of the road from the parking lot at the Sandy Gap trailhead from Douthat. The trail climbing Warm Springs Mountain has no trailhead sign and starts behind the gate across from the parking lot.



    Upon starting the climb, immediately I missed the gloves I had left at home. This trail is covered with brush from top to bottom. When I go back I will carry gloves and glasses.









    There are a few trails that give you a magical feeling. For me, the trail on top of Middle Mountain is one. I could see Kennison Mountain in West Virginia as that type of trail (if it was cleaned off). Sandy Gap Trail is also that kind of trail. The rockwork on this trail is absolutely the most beautiful I have ever seen on a trail. The trail is in excellent shape after all these years – a tribute to good design and drainage. Unfortunately, I think the CCC folks who probably built this trail would roll over in their graves if they saw the shape this trail has deteriorated into. The trail base is flawless, but it is grown over from tip to bottom and will beat you up pretty bad.

    The slope of the trail is good too, it is quite rideable going up despite it being a 1200 foot climb. I had to bail in a few of the rock gardens on the climb due to lack of momentum. Coming down this trail is a treat. Even covered over, I enjoyed the downhill. I can imagine how nice it would be if it was brushed out.


    Cool Rock Work









    Some blowdowns along the way too.








    Looking down on the top of Middle Mountain in Douthat State Park.






    More brush



    Vegetation gets short and scrubby at the top


    At the top of Warms Springs Mountain, apparently the trail crosses a stretch of private land. The land is part of a 9000 acre Nature Conservancy land purchase in 2002 (I think). I’m not sure of the present access situation. The Posted sign is placed at the mountain top trailhead. I have always liked what the Nature Conservancy does. Be a shame if they denied access to a trail as classic as this. Maybe that’s why the trail is in the shape it is in. I’ll have to investigate that some. According to the National Geographic software, the private land is only about 1/3 of a mile at the top.

    View from the top of Warm Springs Mountain towards Hot Springs, VA and Marlington, WV.


    Couldn’t resist – Appalachian Donuts?

  2. #2
    www.justthebonnet.com
    Reputation: Capt_phun's Avatar
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    nothing a folding saw & machete couldn't clear !
    Capt_Phun's Riding Blog:
    http://captphun.blogspot.com/

    I better go get my headlamp while I'm sober....ish

  3. #3
    Because I am !
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    Agree with Capt. A small group on their bikes with machette's and saws could clear a lot
    of that in a short period of time.

    Thanks for the post CCR. Glad to see you out and about also. Just another trail that
    finds it's was on my "Would like to ride" list.


    ODN
    Caffeine ! "Do stupid things faster and with more energy" ! !

  4. #4
    mtbr member
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    Let's do it!!!

    I have a Dakine builders pack, a Poulan 18 chainsaw, hand saws, rakes, a brush cutter and shovels.
    I also have an 18 year old son who is "strong like bull"...we can camp at Douthat and clear that sucker out in one weekend. Maybe we can ride as well.
    You give the word and we'll be there.
    Out of all the places I ride in Virginia...that area is numero uno.

  5. #5
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Some more trail info

    Thanks for the interest Capt, ODN, and BlueRidgeRider. This trail would definitely make a nice addition to the rest of the cool stuff in and around Douthat.

    Corresponded with some folks at the Forest Service about this trail. Apparantly the Nature Conservancy (and the owner before that) doesn't want anyone on the stretch of trail at the top. Thats why this trail was not included in the Alleghany Highlands Trail System. Thats also probably why no-one has maintained it in the recent past. Per Sharon at the Forest Service, it is probably only a 1/3 mile that is posted. I never saw any posted signs or Forest Service red paint boundaries on the trail itself. Sharon (recreation forester) is going to check on that and see when it was last marked. Nothing really impressive about the top stretch of trail anyway, but no access at the top prevents a good point to point ride from the top.

    Private Stretch of Trail in Blue


    Too bad the CCC folks didn't work out an easment or purchase of the land at the trailhead when it was built. I think the rest of the trail is still worthy as an out and back. BlueridgeRider, may have to put your "Stong as a Bull" son to work sometime. "Mayor Dale" or "Douthat Dale" also wants to work on it sometime too. He probably does more maintenance on Douthat trails than anyone else. I have FS saw certification. I think it could be sawed out in a couple of hours, but clipping back would require quite a bit more time and energy.

    Trailhead at the top

  6. #6
    featherweight clydesdale
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    That whole area is somewhat neglected. It's like there aren't enough local users to keep stuff open.

    I think a new trail running north below Bald Know up to that next trail, 461, could be done?

  7. #7
    mtbr member
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    Another cool post CCR...Thanks for sharing!

  8. #8
    CrgCrkRyder
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    True, More Trails than Riders

    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    That whole area is somewhat neglected. It's like there aren't enough local users to keep stuff open.

    I think a new trail running north below Bald Know up to that next trail, 461, could be done?
    True Fattire. Just a few riders in the area. I only know of 3 (I'm one) between Fincastle and Clifton Forge, though there may be some more in the Warm Springs and Lexington areas. Easier to sit on the couch, or ride around in your pickup with CB radios and let your dogs chase bear, or ride 4-wheelers - all more popular activities than MTBing in this area. Maybe one of these days....Hooking into 461 might be a good idea. Haven't found that one yet, but I am guessing there are access issues there too since it comes out at the Warm Springs Airport. Hooking the two together would kill 2 birds with one stone.

    The guys from Shenandoah MTB club in Harrisonburg come down pretty regular and do trail maintenance, but its certainly on the fringe of their area. They just like riding here too.

    WVKayaker - Thanks for the comments. Looking foward to some of that poor man's Gumbo in 2009.

  9. #9
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    Resurrecting an old post. Any recent updates on Sandy Gap? Of all the times I have been to Douthat, I have never ridden Sandy Gap. Just ride by it on Middle Mountain.

    Also curious about the condition of Fore Mountain from Middle Mountain down to McGraw Horse Loop and back to Stony Run.

    Heck, while I am at it, anyone been on Little Mare lately?
    Am I all zipped up?

    Escaping the Dreary Confines

  10. #10
    Thinking about riding.
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    Those crib walls are impressive!

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