“An amazing 1800's contour narrow gauge rail line used to mine iron ore for Civil War musketballs.”
— Kyle Inman
No access to the parkway when winter weather strikes. Otherwise, no regular closures expected.
Begin on the country's finest driving/cycling road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, complete with a premium view of 4000' Sharp Top, one of the Peaks of Otter. Drop onto an unkempt fire road for a mile before a sharp, steep up a stout grade (25+%) for a short challenge before arriving at the amazing contour trail that is Mineshaft (locals name, part of the Glenwood Horse Trail).
For five miles, ride varying technical terrain past iron ore shafts in the "hollers." No major climbs, but hardly flat, with some short steep surprises to up your suffer score. Very narrow sidehill in sections barely clinging to the wall.
Need to Know
No mud, even in rainy times, except waterholes on Chair Rock Road. The loop takes 2 hours for me, with no stops. Please stop, however, and explore the old mines, which are not deep, but very cool. Be very careful doing so, however.
Drop in behind the picnic table at the Bobletts Gap parking lot onto a short trail that takes you to Boblett's Gap fire road, also known as Chair Rock Road. Turn right, dropping exactly 1 mile on a sometimes rocky, sometimes water-holed blast of a 5% downhill.
The singletrack is a hard right that cuts back, and straight up a hard to see section following a left hand sweeper. Watch your odometer...more than 1 mile exactly and you've missed it. Glenwood Horse Trail #3004B: Mineshaft Segment
(Mineshaft) starts as a short, steep 25%+ gradient before reaching the shelf trail that becomes much more reasonable.
For five miles, enjoy singletrack experience like no other, passing iron ore hollers with mineshafts and holes visible when you climb up the ore piles in certain crevasses of ancient Appalachian mountains.
The trail changes form dropping off through hardwoods and limestone to a large National Forest parking area with kiosk. Go through to the pavement, Pico (pie-ko) Rd. Go left for 2 miles, mainly downhill.
At T-intersection, turn left to start a 5.5 mile climb back up to the start. The first 2 miles are paved, followed by a mile of improved dirt. Turn left on Chair Rock (aka Bobblets Gap) Rd, unimproved dirt. This remaining 2 miles takes you past the Mineshaft trailhead, and climbs the last mile that you came down earlier. When you see the Blue Ridge Parkway underpass, turn left back to the parking lot where you began.
History & Background
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a history making project of the Great Depression and the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of Roosevelt's New Deal program. Iron ore was mined on Mineshaft, which was a narrow gauge rail bed. See if you can find the piece of rail still bolted to the trail!