Mountain Biking in the Region
Tom Horsch, author of "Mountain Biking the Appalachians.

How would you like to be able to jump on a mountain bike and ride from Bristol all the way to Atlanta on singletrack trails and dirt Forest Roads? Well you can, or the equivalent anyway. There are 200+ miles of trails in the form of singletrack, doubletrack and Rail-Trail in the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area (MRNRA) open to mountain bikes. Add in the Forest Service Roads and you come out with nearly 300 miles of bike friendly territory. That is equivalent to the distance between Bristol VA and Atlanta GA, all waiting to be explored by you on your mountain bike. And that means miles of fun and challenge for people of all levels of riding ability.

Of course, you won’t be able to ride all of those trails in one or two visits, so prepare to come back time and again because the MRNRA will capture your interest and seduce you into thinking about leaving your day job for the lure of the fat-tire life.

Damascus, VA forms the western gateway to the MRNRA and is quickly becoming a bike town on the weekends. Historically, the claim to fame for Damascus has been the Appalachian Trail, which runs right up Laurel Ave. the main corridor through town, and the Appalachian Trail Days festival each spring. Now Damascus is becoming synonymous with the Creeper Trail and great mountain biking opportunities in the Mt Rogers recreation area.

Mountain biking is not limited to just the MRNRA however. Johnson City claims Buffalo Mountain as its home turf for local fat tire fanatics. Kingsport boasts Bays Mountain Park, site of the Funfest Mountain Bike Race each year and Bristol features the knarly knobs of Steele Creek Park. Convenience to the cities make all of these parks nice areas to get away and ride for a few hours.

Many of the local shops can point you in the right direction, sell you a map or guide book and make sure your equipment is ready for the challenge of the ride. You may even get lucky and catch one of the organized group rides that some of the local bikes shops sponsor each week.

We are fortunate to have so many mountain biking options available to us in the Tri cities region. Be you a first time biker or a dedicated hammerhead, there is a trail for everybody to get outside and enjoy.

You may want to start by getting acclimated on a nice easy rail-trail ride. How does 17 miles, all downhill, on one of the most scenic trails in the country sound? Sounds like the world famous Virginia Creeper Trail to me! The eastern half of this trail meanders alongside world-class trout streams and passes through high meadows filled with Christmas trees. The Green Cove Station is a favorite stop for visitors as it is the only remaining original depot on the trail left from the days of the Virginia Carolina Railroad. Stop in for a visit and you will see many of the items of merchandise still on the shelves from when this was an active depot and country store.

The MRNRA was established in 1964 by an act of the US Congress. It is composed of 120,000 acres of land designated by the US Government as land to be used primarily for recreational purposes. It is because of this foresight and good fortune that we have the opportunity to hike, bike and horseback ride in some of the prettiest and most rugged country in the eastern US.

The fat tire lifestyle is just that. A way of life for many people. The feeling of freedom, independence and distance from your mundane day-to-day existence. Care free feelings of youth and vigor as you wind your way through the forest on your steely steed, accompanied by a good friend or two. Or by yourself accompanied only by your own thoughts, in total oneness with your natural surroundings. This lifestyle is fat indeed. It’s easy to understand why millions of people in the US have turned to mountain biking as their primary form of recreation.