This loop provides a nice, lakeside ride with a bit of streamside as well. Most of the old-school singletrack is mellow with only a couple of short, hard climbing sections.
The trail was originally a hiking-only trail that recently opened to bikes in 2016. The trail is adjacent to a developed US Forest Service recreation area with developed camping, bathhouses, swim area, and picnic area. The lake is perfect for canoeing and kayaking as only small horsepower motors are allowed.
The preferred riding direction is clockwise. From the Nancytown Lake Trailhead, there is a footbridge that would require you to descend steep steps and cross a bridge. The suggested mountain bike route, however, begins by traveling clockwise around the Nancytown Lake.
Go through the gate and follow the paved road, turn right and go through the group camp parking area, cross the footbridge and you'll be on the Nancytown Lake Connector
. Just before a steep climb, look for a trail to your right that carries you around the rest of the lake (look for the large picnic shelter). At the dam for Nancytown Lake, you'll need to dismount and walk a short section of trail. You are now on the Lake Russell Trail
The trail winds through pines and hardwoods along the shores of the lake. Although there are only a couple of difficult grades, the narrow, root-laden tread and proximity to the water in many places will keep you on your toes. This is old-school singletrack with some short, quick turns and lots of short ups and downs. There are a couple of bridges that are in need of repair. Take care and walk these bridges!
You'll continue to wind along the lake shore and around the coves for a couple of miles. A short downhill dumps you out on the dam. At the end of the dam, there is a spillway and the trail descends to the left to a footbridge. When the water is down, some people opt to ride across the dry lake bed, but this is not suggested.
Once on the other side of the spillway, the trail continues on a gated gravel road for about 1/2 mile. When you reach a paved road, the trail continues directly across the road with a short, steep downhill. Continue to wind along drainages with several bridges.
As you approach the lakeshore, there will be a short series of three or four rideable concrete steps. You'll continue along the edge of a campground area then into the developed swimming area. Follow the sidewalk in front of the bathhouse (yield to pedestrians). Continue to follow the trail along the picnic area up a short climb until the trail turns right into the woods along the lake.
After some nice singletrack, the trail will enter the paved FS road - continue clockwise. As the paved road begins to turn away from the lake and into the woods look for the trail on your right.
Once on the trail, take the left fork until you reach a stream crossing (the bridge has been washed out). Cross the stream and continue a couple of hundred yards to arrive back at the parking lot.
You'll see a lot of interesting stone work. Much of this was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps.