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Mountain bike group building new trails at Cacapon

by Kate Shunney

A group of Winchester mountain bikers have added several miles of trails at Cacapon State Park for cyclists and hikers, and plan to create several loops through the park forests in the future.

The Winchester Wheelmen have coordinated their work with park officials, reopening old trails and creating new ones from the top of Cacapon Mountain down to the Nature Center. The all-volunteer effort has already racked up several hundred hours of planning, trail marking and clearing. New trails are cleared by hand, using rakes and heavy-duty hoes, chainsaws and hand saws.

Mark Hoyle, who is spearheading the effort by the mountain bikers, said his group has come to Cacapon since the late winter to work on trails. He estimates 20 volunteers have put in hours to clear the narrow trails along paths best suited for mountain bikes.

On Cacapon State Park’s trail work day last month, seven mountain bikers cut trees and raked trails above the Nature Center, and worked on a new route for a very wet section of the Central Trail above the park’s reservoir lake.

Hoyle said his group is using established guidelines for designing trails, but also paying close attention to the natural terrain of Cacapon State Park as they build.

He said good mountain bike trails have smooth turns, a grade

Mark Hoyle points out new trails for mountain bicyclists at Cacapon State Park.

between 5 and 10 percent, and long sight lines so riders can see trees and hikers along the trail. Trails also avoid wet areas, but often weave in and out of trees and around natural rocks.

Mountain bikers go both ways – up hillsides and down. Trails include spots for riders to stop and catch their breath as they work their way up.

“If the design for up is good, it’s good for down,” Hoyle said. “If you build it right, it feels like you’re floating.”

GiddyUp Trail

One of the first projects of the group was to reopen an old horse trail that led from the park’s Batt Pavilion up to the top of Cacapon Mountain. That trail, now called the GiddyUp Trail, connects to the Overlook Trail which runs the length of the park along the top of the mountain. It’s a wider and less steep alternative to the existing Ziler Trail, which has been used by mountain bikers but is showing signs of erosion.

Hoyle said the trail gives riders two options – to bike the paved road leading to the overlook, and then down the GiddyUp Trail to the Batt Pavilion, or along the trail both up and down.

The Batt Pavilion, located nearly a mile from the park’s main picnic and playground area, will serve as the “hub” for mountain biking at the park, said Park Superintendent Scott Fortney. There is ample parking there, and access to several trails.

Hoyle said the mountain biking trails at the park are between beginner and intermediate levels.

“A bunch of us are in our 30s and 40s and want a place we can take our kids,” said Hoyle.

Cacapon Assistant Superintendent Kelly Smith said mountain bikers have been coming to the park for years, and she has encouraged them to use certain trails that won’t interfere with foot traffic. Now they are creating new places to bike using old trails. Smith said the volunteers have put in serious work, and their efforts will benefit not just mountain bikers but hikers as well.

“We’re trying to increase recreational opportunities safely,” she said.

There are just under five miles of new trail already built by the mountain bikers. A total of 20 miles of new trail are planned.

Hoyle said work will slow down over the summer, when volunteers are busy with family obligations and the weather is too hot for trail work.

He hopes visitors to the park will use what they’ve already built.

“Giving back – it’s kind of part of the culture of mountain biking,” said Hoyle.


  1. Ladybug on May 30, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you so much !

  2. Mike Vandeman on May 30, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    What were you thinking??? Trail building destroys wildlife habitat! It’s nothing to celebrate.

    Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It’s dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don’t have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else — ON FOOT! Why isn’t that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking….

    A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it’s not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

    Mountain bikers also love to build new trails – legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat – not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals’ full use of their habitat. See for details.

    Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it’s NOT!). What’s good about THAT?

    To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video:

    In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: .

    For more information: .

    The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users — hikers and equestrians — who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

    The parks aren’t gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

    Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won’t understand what I am talking about — an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

    • Dave on June 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      Ummm….there are no “grizzlies” in Cacapon and no, I’m not a mountain biker….

    • Kyle Lawrence on June 20, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Don’t worry too much about Mike Vandeman. He does a good job posting this same piece for many mountain bike related stories all over the internet. You can even read about “The Trial of Mike Vandeman” from Outside magazine:

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