“Backcountry ridgeline riding in VA.”
— Paul Stahlschmidt on May 26, 2013
DescriptionThis segment of the Iron Mountain Trail (IMT) is from Hurricane Mountain to the trail town of Damascus VA, and has one-way mileage over 20 miles. The IMT contains a goldmine of amazing terrain including long rocky ridgelines, scenic vistas, and oak forests. This trail has its share of technical spots including some washed out steep sections. Ridgeline riding is the definite highlight of the IMT, as many parts are aligned right on the the backbone of the mountains. Riding the whole IMT one-way or putting together a loop on any section of it would be a solid addition to any mountain biker’s bucket list.
The northeast terminus of this section is on Hurricane Mountain at FR 4022 near VA 741. There are several options for long distance rides in this area of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Other forest roads and the Virginia Highlands Horse trail (67 miles) can be used to plan rides on other sections of the IMT on this end.
Damascus is on the southwest end of this IMT segment, and serves as a gateway to the entire Mount Rogers NRA, which is over 115,000 Acres. It markets itself as “Trail Town USA,” because of the four designated trails which intersect with it, including IMT, the Hwy 76 Bicycle Route, Appalachian Trail, and Virginia Creeper Trail.
This MTB designated section of the IMT was actually old Appalachian Trail until 1972, when the AT was relocated to the southeast. Now, the IMT in this section is a multi-use trail, with bikers sharing travel with foot traffic, equestrians, and even motorcycles in some sections.
Worth noting: the ability to plan smaller loops on this section increases the closer you get to Damascus. There are many possibilities including riding trails or roads through Skulls Gap, Shaw Gap, Beartree Recreation Area, Straight Branch, and Sandy Flats among others.
Back in Damascus, make sure you find a Trails Illustrated Mount Rogers NRA Map (#786) of the entire area. Pack it on your ride. Also consider making use of one the many bike shops/shuttle companies that service Virginia Creeper Trail visitors. These outfits make daily trips up VA 58 to Whitetop, VA. 58 intersects with other trails and roads that can get you up on Iron Mountain. Call around; these businesses are friendly, and have been known to service mountain bikers who want to do some riding on the IMT and end their ride in town.
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