KINGSPORT - Visitors to Bays Mountain Park have long been able to enjoy a leisurely mountain bike ride around the Bays Mountain Reservoir or challenge themselves with a trek out to the Fire Tower on River Mountain Road.
Now, riders have a choice of two new trails — the first ones built through a joint effort between the park and members of the Northeast Tennessee Mountain Bike Association, under the guidance of club member Jay Hayes.
“We designed the Chinquapin Trail and built it from scratch,” explained bike club member Rick Davidson, who also serves on the Bays Mountain Park Association. “The trail basically runs parallel to the Lake Road. I believe it’s about two miles total. This is probably considered closer to intermediate — not quite beginner but not quite expert.”
The second trail, Big Oak, runs parallel to the Azalea Trail.
“It’s maybe not quite a mile long,” Davidson said. “Big Oak used to be an old homestead road, I believe. That trail was basically cleared by Fred Hilton, who is one of the naturalists up there.”
It took the club a good six months to build the Chinquapin Trail.
“We built everything by hand. We used a Rototiller and a mattock, and that’s how we built it. Usually there were anywhere from five to 10 people working on it,” he said. “It was a lot of hours.”
The club’s role with the park’s trails is far from over. Now, members are responsible for maintaining them.
“That’s part of what we do. We will maintain the trail. If there’s places where there might be damage or trees down, we try to keep the trail in good shape,” he said.
The park already has more than 35 miles of hiking trails covering 3,550 acres.
“A lot of the trails that were mountain bike friendly were mostly just the service roads, and the purpose of building a trail was to have a true single track trail in the park that mountain bikes could use,” Davidson said, “and also to try to promote a little more mountain biking in the park.”
Bays Mountain has a wide variety of terrain suited to all levels of riders. Only certain trails at the park are open to mountain bikes, and riders are asked to take a current trail map along on their rides. Maps are available online and at the Nature Center.
All riders must register their bikes at the Nature Center Gift Shop. There is a one-time fee of $2 to register your bike. To register, bring your completed form to the Nature Center. Once park officials inspect your bike, you will receive a sticker to place on your bike. Registration forms can be downloaded.
Helmets are required, and riders are asked to respect the park’s natural environment by staying on the designated mountain bike trails. Riders are welcome anytime during normal park hours.
The NTMBA is a charitable, non-profit organization formed to promote mountain biking and mountain biking opportunities in Northeast Tennessee.
Its members spend hundreds of hours each year in the woods building and maintaining trails across the region. Members have developed trails at Warriors Path State Park and the Elizabethton Watershed, and have ongoing projects in the Cherokee National Forest. Future plans include building a third trail at Bays Mountain.
The NTMBA holds monthly meetings and group rides. It will host a mountain bike picnic at Bays Mountain on May 15, where the public will be invited to participate in beginner rides and classes.
For more information on the club, visit www.ntmba.org. For park information, visit www.baysmountain.com.