Pandapas Pond "Challenging" Loop

Consensus:    (details)
  4.0 from 8 votes
black  Difficult from 5 votes
Rank: #3 in the Southwestern Virgina area
#32 in VA, #1,061 Overall
Views: 3,930. Last 30 days: 154
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Featured Ride in the area near Blacksburg,
“One of the best ways to link the trails at Pandapas Pond for true mountain biking.”
Michael Bruce on Aug 13, 2013
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13.121.1 milesKilometers 1,718’524 m Ascent 2,845’867 m High 5% Avg Grade (3°)
90% Singletrack -1,720’-524 m Descent 2,015’614 m Low 25% Max Grade (14°)
Poverty Creek, and the Poverty Creek Trail, divide the Pandapas Pond trails in half. Facing west, the trails on the right are on Gap Mountain (ie - the "Gap side") and trails on the left are on Brush Mountain. This is an important distinction to keep in mind since the Gap side trails are *far* more technical than trails on the Brush side.

There are a lot of ways to connect the trails at Pandapas Pond to make a ride. This particular loop will give you a great cardio workout on Horsenettle, a fun downhill on Jacobs Ladder, and test your technical skills in the rock gardens on the "Gap Side"!

Rated double diamond mainly for the combined rock gardens on the "Gap Side" trails (especially Prickly Pear). And while not technical, the climb up Horsenettle is certainly no picnic.

This ride should take around 2 hours.
Starting at the map kiosk from the main parking lot at Pandapas Pond, head to the left to pick up Horsenettle. You'll ride for about half-a-mile on doubletrack before making a sharp left onto the trail. The climbing starts immediately :) There are a few places on the way up to do a brief rolling recovery, but it's pretty much a solid 2-mile climb up. You're about half way when you make a right onto the fireroad portion of the trail.

The fire road has 3 false summits where you think you've reached the top, only to see a short descent followed by another climb. You're just about at the top when you pass the communication tower on your left. Salvation can be found at the circle which marks the end of the climb and gets you back into singletrack. The singletrack is a short, fast section that will take you a very short and fast section of fire road to the top of Jacobs Ladder - It's real easy to blow past the entrance of the trail, so look for it right after the small mogul in the road (you can catch air on the mogul if you're going fast enough).

Jacobs Ladder has 2 tight switchbacks at the top and one lazy one. After this, it's pretty much a straight shot down the hill. The top section has a good amount of loose rocks to navigate. The middle section levels out a bit and you have to shoot a gap between 2 small trees so watch out if you have ultrawide bars. The bottom half gets a bit hairy with erosion channels creating 2 rooty drops. If you're not ready for these drops you'll crash hard so either plan to drop them or dismount - You won't be able to simply roll them. At the bottom of Jacobs Ladder you'll cross the creek and make a right onto the Poverty Creek Trail.

This section of Poverty Creek is pretty fast and flowy with one rooty section and one small rock garden. Take the trail down a bit and pick up Royale, which will be a hard left.

Royale will be a steady climb which starts smooth and ends rocky. Royale will dump you out at a Forest Service Road 708, where you'll go directly across to access Prickly Pear. A very short distance down the Pear, the trail will turn to the right and you'll see a large flat rock on an uphill that you have to hop up on to (totally fun and doable). From this point on, it's rocks, rocks, and more rocks through Pear, Skullcap, and Trillium, though things mellow out *a bit* for the second half of Skullcap and into Trillium. There is a short, steep climb about half way down Prickly Pear, and another shortly after getting on Skullcap. While not long, they have max grades of 20%-25% so a good granny gear helps a lot! At all trail junctions, stay right - from Prickly Pear, make a right where it hooks up with Skullcap, from Skullcap, make a right where it hooks up with Trillium.

At the end of Trillium, hang a left on to the Poverty Creek Trail, cross the road, and take Poverty all the way back to the parking lot. Poverty Creek likes to keep mudholes around for a good while after a rain. And the closer you get to the parking area and Pandapas Pond, the more likely it is that you'll encounter other trail users. Poverty Creek finishes up with a short but steepish and rocky climb up to the park entrance. You'll see the main parking lot where you started directly across the road.
History & Background
Nothing. Dinosaurs. Cavemen. Indians. Columbus. Pilgrims. Gary Fisher. You.
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