“A great loop that offers lots of variety and traverses the Iron Mountain Ridge.”
— sean barb
One of the very best link-ups around Beartree Gap
: a rooty, rocky mix of singletrack, doubletrack, gravel roads and some asphalt. This loop has great forest scenery and some expansive views up on the ridge tops. Expect some short sections of hike-a-bike.
Need to Know
- The ride up Whitetop Road is kind of a boring grind up asphalt, but it has very low automobile traffic and there is a wide shoulder. Look out for broken glass!
- National Geographic's Mt Rogers map is the best map for navigating these trails, but you'll want to blow up a scan to make it more readable. Take note: the map has a really confusing depiction of where Old 84 Trail intersects with Rowlands Creek Trail.
Shortly after entering the Beartree Recreation Area on Beartree Gap
Road, there is a parking area on the right that has a porta potty and a map kiosk. Ride out of the Parking area and back down to Hwy 58, where you take a left and ride a short distance to the Straight Mountain Trail
. Straight Mountain Trail
is a rarely used doubletrack, so expect some downed trees. The trail steadily climbs up to a ridge and then quickly descends back the fishing lake at Beartree where you pedal up the asphalt road to its termination at the trailhead for Straight Branch Trail
and the campground. Water is available here at the bathhouse for the campground. Straight Branch Trail
is roughly half a mile of climbing and just a bit less than a mile of descending.
Next up is a long, uphill grind up Whitetop Road; it's paved and has a nice shoulder. Jump back onto Iron Mountain trail near the crest of this hill and follow the IMT until you can continue heading east on FS 84, which is a gravel road. Fork to the right again on the IMT and ride up to the Cherry Tree shelter. Stay on the IMT and roll down to a left on FS 828, another gravel road. At the intersection of Forest Service roads 84 and 828 take a right and ride downhill on FS 84 to the Rowlands Creek Trailhead on the left. Roll down Rowlands Creek until a left on Old 84 Trail
. Old 84 is a nice contour trail that begs to be ridden fast! Ride it until it ends back or Forest Service road 84 and roll it back to Whitetop Road.
Cross Whitetop Road and jump back on the Iron Mountain trail which ascends up to the Straight Branch Shelter, stay on IMT and roll the ridge which is characterized by sharp uphills and downhills with lots of exposed rocks and small boulders. At Shaw Gap
, you'll look for a left and then a right following the left with signage pointing to Beartree Gap
Trail. Use Beartree Gap
trail to descend back to the start and enjoy the thrilling cobbled chutes and sweeping turns!
History & Background
Much of the Iron Mountain Trail
was orignally The Applachian Trail before it was relocated to the south. Two backcountry shelters passed on this ride are the Cherry Tree Shelter and the Straight Branch Shelter; bikepacking anyone? The Beartree recreation area is aptly named as it is prime black bear habitat and you are likely to see bear scat on the trails.