The notorious Black Mountain Trail in the Pisgah state Forest North Carolina.
Ask any mountain biker what is the “must do trail ” in NC and they will all say “Black Mountain” with a smile on their face, I didn’t know if it is an evil smile, like wrapping up a Pork Chop and giving it to a vegetarian for a gift kinda smile, or a Oooh yeah that brings back fond memories kinda smile!
So it was time to find out what all the fuss is about, and the only way to do that was to put the rubber to the blubber.
The ride was put off 3 times, once for bike maintenance, and twice for heavy rain, but today I can officially say that I tamed the beast!!, and not just the downhill, no, I started from the ranger station, did the climb, and then another climb, and another, got to the top of Black Mountain, carried on past clawhammer to buckhorn and only then did I turn around and head back!!
Black Mountain —> Buckhorn and back .. total time 3.5 hours
I Started at the parking on the right just before the Rangers Station, I started my ride at exactly 9.am, from the car park I followed a gravel path for about 2 min. then the Black Mountain Trail veered off to the left heading uphill, the start was well marked.
The trail climbed on a wide single track, but was nothing serious, and was fairly easy going. Followed the track around and crossed a log bridge over an empty ditch, and continued climbing at an easy pace. After about 15 min. the trail took a left ( Straight on was the Thrift cove Trail) Now the trail started getting steeper, and my gears went to the lowest, but it was still not too bad. My biggest problem I had with the climb was that i was not getting enough traction because of the slippery ground, and i was forced to walk at places I know I could have easily handled on dry ground. After an uphill grunt of 70 minutes I reached a top, and started to enjoy a nice, fast and very bumpy downhill. My enjoyment was very short lived, and 5 min. later I arrived at Presley Gap. Here I had a 10 minute break and enjoyed a snicker.
The climb after presley Gap soon became brutal, I don’t know if it really was brutal, or it was because I had just spent well over an hour climbing. The traction issues I was having, and the fact that I was knackerd, meant I probably walked about 30% of the way until I reached the Top of Black Mountain, from here it is a fast and bumpy downhill that took me most of the way to Buckhorn. At Buckhorn I had another 10 min. and another snicker, and then headed back UP to Black Mountain.. by now I was really tired of the Uphill, and again I was walking in places I would usually not have any problems with. When I reached the top of Black Mountain for the second time, it was just gone 12 pm.. just over 3 hours, and I was ready for the Downhill Mayhem!!
I knew that the Downhill was going to be fast, furious and scary!!, and I had already decided that I would loosen my breaks, cos I knew that if without thinking I braked too hard it would be a serious Humpty Dumpty, so at the top I took some tension off both front and back.
10 past 12 and I was off!!.. It was a hell of a bouncy ride, and I was gripping my back brake so hard, my hand was cramping.
My mind was doing a 1000 things at once, stones, trees, roots, drops, jumps, etc..etc.. I was taking it all in whilst screaming down, or should I say “Bouncing Down” I had ONE thing on my mind… actually TWO things, One … Please don’t fall off or crash!! and TWO … Please God don’t let me shit myself!!
At this point, you are at the trails mercy, one wrong move could do extreme damage to yourself and your bike, you can’t go too slow, that is just not possible, and too fast is just plain mental.
Today I was lucky, I made it up and down in one piece, and so did the Giant Yukon FX… the ride back took me less than 20 min. to ride down. At 12.30pm, I was back at the parking.
A few things crossed my mind whilst I was riding this this trail, some of which became clear to me on the way down. My first big question mark is “Where is everyone?” for a trail that everyone talks about, and everyone recommends, it was completely empty, i did not see a single person the whole ride, and yesss it was a Friday and 9 am, but there were sections of the trail that had previously had water on it, but was now dry, and it was clear to me that no one had used the trail for quite a few days!!. I have been on very well known trails throughout the USA, but there are ALWAYS people riding them, no matter what day or time. This makes me think that maybe the Black Mountain Trail is actually not as popular as everyone say’s it is.
The climb is high and long, but not really as bad as I thought it would be, and the downhill is brutal, fast and bumpy, but again I had expected worse.
I am very glad I have done this Trail, but I see no reason at all why this is rated the best trail in North Carolina by so many mountain bikers. Actually the best part of the trail was the bottom section, that can be looped with “Thrift Cove”, this can be done both clock and counter clock for an excellent ride.
If I had to recommend a Trail in North Carolina Black Mountain would probably not make the top of my list, but maybe I just chose the wrong day ( slippery)
Black Mountain is unique in many ways, I don’t know of any other trail (yet) in the USA that is a solid 4.2 miles of sheer downhill… so, if you are in North Carolina, and you love Downhill, you love “Fast”, and you are off your rocker then Black Mountain is definitely the trail for you…
My Trail Rating : 6.5 / 10