The entire 22-mile Perimeter Trail
may be a little too long for some riders. This 14-mile loop on the northwestern side of the system gives riders amazing views, rocks, ruts, streams and lush forests but at only 2/3 the distance.
A HELPFUL HINT: If you have a Garmin Edge, it's a good idea to download the GPX file and use the map function on your Edge cyclometer. The trails are fairly well-marked with signs and blue blazes but bike, horse and hiking trails all co-mingle creating some confusing intersections and trail forks where I was really glad that I had the map on my Garmin.
I feel that the best way to do this 2/3-length part of the trail is to take Crosby Lane and park at Lake Cheston. There are picnic tables and an outhouse at the lake that make this a great place to start and end your ride. Plus, in the summer, a dip in the small lake would be a great cool-down.
When you pull into the parking lot, you'll see a metal gate straight ahead and across the lot. Adjacent to the gate (to the left) is a trailhead that is marked, “0.3 to Perimeter Trail
.” You can take that, but I like going around the lake. Go through the gap in the gate and ride across the dam and around the lake until you get to a little bridge that looks like a mini railroad bridge. Once you cross this bridge, you’ll skirt the lake then the trail will mysteriously end. Just turn right off of the trail and ride up the grassy knoll to a parking lot and up the gravel road. You'll see a fenced-in dog park on your left. At the end of the gravel road, turn left onto Breakfield Road and ride along the Equestrian Center.
From there, take a left on Girault Jones Dr. At this point, I was thinking, “Wow, this is a lot of pavement.” Well, it’s a great way to get warmed up for the real trail. At the cul-de-sac at the end of the quaint neighborhood is a virtual door into a MTB wonderland.
Immediately, you'll be glad that you had the warm-up because the trail begins with many downs and ups. The Perimeter Trail
is littered with small ravines where the fun, steep, and rocky sections are followed by an immediate grinding, rocky climb out. The climbs are short but very steep and littered with both anchored and loose rocks that make keeping traction a challenge. For the honest blue-black rider, most of these are rideable. For the true blue rider, most of these will be hike-a-bike sections.
About 5.5 miles in, you'll see Elliot Point where a lot of hikers and bikes take pictures of the amazing view of the valley below. I was one of those picture takers. As you ride along the ridge, it’s hard to focus on the trail as you'll want to glance over at the view on your left. Mile 6 presents you with a long, fast downhill followed by a big climb that culminates in a hike-a-bike before turning you back into the forest. This is mainly easy singletrack, with a few short stretches of forest roads, until you get to a jog where parallel hiking trails merge with the biking trail.
At this point, the trail gets very twisty and the quick down-and-up gullies continue. For several miles there isn’t more than ten feet of straight trail as it zig-zags through trees, rocks, and streams. We did go out to Dodson Point but there were campers out so we didn’t dwell as we looked at one of the best views of the ride. Unless you want to see the view, you can skip the Dodson out-and-back and keep riding.
Right before the Solomon Road intersection, there is a REALLY rocky section followed by a neat little bridge. After crossing the bridge, you’ll find yourself up on Solomon Road. This can be confusing at first but turn left and in about 20 feet you'll see a trailhead the takes you back into the forest.
At mile 10.5, we rode past a cool little cabin with a grill and outhouse as amenities. Since the place wasn’t occupied, we stopped to down some Clif Bloks and look around before pushing on. At this point, my legs were still feeling great but we stayed on task of riding the short loop for this review.
The trail continues with mostly the same terrain but at the intersection with the sign “To Breakfield Rd.” we turned right. THIS IS YOUR BAILOUT SPOT THAT SHORTENS THE Ride. Like it says, this leg drops you right onto Breakfield Rd., behind the Equestrian Center that you road past earlier.
There is a clever, grassy cut-through between the water tower and the horse pens. From there, it’s back down the gravel road, back around Lake Cheston and back to your car. Once back at the car, I was tired and glad that I only did the shorter loop.
The land and trail are property of the University of the South. Construction on the University started in 1860 on a 13,000-acre piece of land. The campus is gorgeous, almost out of a Harry Potter book.