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Woods Mountain Loop

Consensus:    (details)
 5.0 from 1 vote
  Difficult from 1 vote
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Rank: #3 in the Hickory and South Mountain area
#8 in North Carolina
#271 Overall
Featured Ride near Marion,  area, 
“Miles of old-school Pisgah riding that includes one epic descent”
Paul Stahlschmidt on Jul 15, 2013
Getting There     GPX File     Print
24.940.1 milesKilometers 3,381’1,030 m Ascent 3,583’1,092 m High 5.2% Avg Grade
45% Singletrack -3,388’-1,033 m Descent 1,487’453 m Low 24.1% Max Grade
Overview
Remote is an understatement. This loop contains a bit of everything, but its backcountry setting may be its best quality. There is more doubletrack than singletrack, but you'll definitely be out there.

This shared use loop (bike, horse, hike) has been blazed recently by the USFS with orange triangles on the road and trail sections.

Destination motivation. This loop can be traveled in either direction, but due to the thrilling descent of Betsy Ridge, it's outlined here in a counter-clockwise direction. Be ready for some climbing.

Difficulty is rated Black because of the hike-a-bike sections of the Woods Mountain trail, the potential for high-speed consequences on the Betsy Ridge descent, and the overall grunt factor that is involved in some sections that lead up to that crux. MANY parts of this loop are easy to intermediate. Note the different ratings in the descriptions for those individual trails.
Need To Know
This loop is over 26 miles with several intersections and spur trails. If you are navigationally challenged, be sure to use the MTB Project mobile app or study some maps. Note though that some of the published maps out there include inconsistencies with trail names, labels, and trail lengths.

It’s legal. While there are many hike-only trails in this area, this entire loop (as outlined in this ride) includes bike-designated trails, including a few sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST). The MST segments that do not allow bikes are marked at those intersections. Repeat: the segment of Woods Mountain/MST that traverses Woods Mountain and descends Betsy Ridge is designated for bike use.

The summit of Woods Mountain is the most rugged area of the ride that includes some hike-a-bike (think upper Black Mountain). The descent from its highest point is five miles long and 2000 ft. of elevation loss, the most epic part of this ride.
Description
This ride begins on Green Mountain Rd. across the street from USFS Work Center in Woodlawn. There is also a large parking lot and a rest area adjacent to this trailhead on US 221. Just past the parking area and kiosk turn left at the gated road on the left. The Woods Mountain trail starts here and also shares designations with the the MST and some forest roads in places.

Stay on the main doubletrack for about a half mile and look for a right turn with MST white blazes. Turn here climb up and over Grassy Knob, and descend down to Tom’s Creek. Cross the creek on the left, opposite of the campsites and continue straight. This will dump you on FSR 1073 where the MST Woods Mountain heads left. Turn right on 1073 through the muddy sections to an open field where Harris Creek begins.

Harris Creek is a grunt and contains some bits that are too steep to ride for most riders. After 3 miles of up and down, you’ll pop out on FSR 469A. Take a right here and continue to a gate at the intersection of FSR 469.

Take a left on 469, which will take you to another gate in two miles. The next section is less gravel and more rural doubletrack. Continue on this and wind around through a beautiful section of forest. Take a left at the fork in the road where another gate awaits (its ~4.4 miles between these gates. Do NOT go right at this spot.

The last section of 469 is more overgrown with mixed surface conditions. The beginning is more of a field than a road, but it becomes more defined in places. 2 miles from this spot is where Bad Fork comes in on the left. VERY EASY TO MISS. Bad Fork is singletrack, and sweet, but a short stout climb up to the intersection with Woods Mountain.

Woods Mountain holds dual designation with the MST here, and for the most part is well maintained. Take a left, roll past the campsite, and start the hardest part of the ride, a climb/hike up Woods Mountain. Stay on the main trail. There are many unmarked intersections. Be sure to also read the separate description of this trail for more info.

Enjoy the amazing views on the way up, and take it all in. When you reach the summit, you’ll know because the main trail goes right and a long descent awaits from here.

Not many trails can boast a five mile descent, but this one is just that (sweet justice for the work to get there). 2000 foot of DOWN may rival any MTB descent, and this one will likely not disappoint.

The MST splits left at one point on the descent, but again, staying on the main corridor, you may fly right past it. The trail merges into FSR 104 at this point and rips down this all the way to the intersection with FSR 1073 near Old Toms Creek Rd. Take a sharp left through the gate at this spot and follow 1073 to where you popped out of the woods on the first pass. This is easy to miss.

At this point you'll be back in familiar territory and can start retracing your tire tracks back to Woodlawn.
History & Background
The Woods Mountain area has been open to mountain bike use for a long time. Recently the Forest Service has funded trail rehab on Harris Creek and also on Woods Mountain before that. Improvements are ongoing in several spots.

As previously mentioned, there is often confusion about trail designations and maps. This loop is currently being promoted by the Pisgah National Forest Grandfather District as a destination to ride.
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COMMENTS
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PHOTOS of Woods Mountain Loop
 2.6 from 5 votes
Lush forest on Bad Fork Trail (Spruce Pine, NC)
 2.5 from 6 votes
Summer at Woods Mountain (Marion, NC)
 2.0 from 5 votes
Orange blazes mark this loop on the road sections (Marion, NC)
 2.0 from 5 votes
No justice to the actual gradient (Marion, NC)
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