Pandapas Pond "Challenging" Loop
ElevationAscent: 1,718' 524 m
Descent: -1,720' -524 m
High: 2,845' 867 m
Low: 2,015' 614 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 25% (14°)
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“One of the best ways to link the trails at Pandapas Pond for true mountain biking.”— Michael Bruce
Electric Mountain Bikes Unknown
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.
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
Local Club: Blue Ridge Off-Road Cyclists
Land Manager: USFS - George Washington & Jefferson National Forests