Trail Report: Bear Trap, Ridge Top Loop

Bear Trap, Ridge Top Loop

2-3 hour ride

Trail Report: December 4, 2011

Terrain: Fire road, and wooded trails, very steep climb up, good views, some downhill but not too rough.  Year around creek crossing.  Some rocky areas but nothing too rough for this area.  Picnic table break point about midway. 

Parking: Along side of the road.  There is room for several rigs to park, but keep in mind, it is along the side of a road and not an actually pull over.   

*Ill take some photos of the turning points next time I get out to Bear Trap and then Ill add them into this post. 

Bear Trap is currently my favorite access point.  I have not fully explored the whole trail/fire road network there yet, and there really is a lot to explore from this entrance, so it will probably stay at the top of my list for a while. 

Last weekend I did what I call, Bear Trap Ridge Top Loop.  The ride involves parking on the side of Bear Trap Road at a fire road entrance to National Forest.  It starts with a hack in along the fire road for a short while, and crossing a creek that runs year round, about midway.  This fire road is littered with lots of trails that start with mounds and signs that announce motorized vehicles (think 4 wheelers) are prohibited from entering them.   I have explored a good dozen plus of these and most ride for a mile or more before dead ending or becoming too over grown to pass. This trail is distinguished from the others by being where the FR sharply curves to the right and is equipped with a small pull over just before it that has room for a couple vehicles to park. 

After a trek along this pleasant trail that has a gradual incline, it ends at a largish clearing and forks out into a couple directions.  Only one direction is usably clear, and it is the one straight ahead that sits behind another (very large) mound, and then goes steeply up.

Daisy in her high viz vest

It is a pretty steep climb, that gets steeper as it goes.  A few level resting points, just wide enough for one or two ponies have been cut into the trail to give a break during this excruciating climb.  The trail crests out onto the very ridge top of the mountain and a lovely trail that runs along its top in both directions.  I call this Ridge Top Trail and have it drawn in on my map in black marker.  I made it appear way straighter than it is.   A large tree at the crest of the trail is marked  with paint, but with the trail being covered in leaves year round, it is still very easy to miss the turn down from the ridge top if you tried reversing the loop.  I have tried this one time, and I did not like the climb down.  It was very steep, and being littered with leaves, slippery.  I hiked down next to Simon, rather than staying on his back, and was happy to have his mane to hold onto as I slipped and slid down. 

View from Ridge Top Trail

This loop requires the explorer  to turn right at the top, where the trail has ended in a T.  I have only gone left one time, so far, and I only went a short distance.  Fully exploring this direction is probably going to be my next solitary Sunday adventure though.  This ride requires a turn right, to follow the trail as it wonders along the ridge top, with excellent views.  It is a very clean clear trail, that slips between trees and around a few rock piles.  There is one point that the trail comes to somewhat of a lookout point, pile of rocks.  The trail goes up the rocks and over it through the boulder tumble, but there is also a more horse friendly path through deep leaf litter below the rock pile.

Daisy on top of the rock pile

Shortly after the rock pile a nice view of Heartstone Lake can be seen to the left.  I have only twice run into another person when I have been in the Bear Trap complex and this trip was one of them.  I met up with a 3 man group of mountain bikers on this portion of the trail.  Mountain bikers are some tough cookies.  I cannot imagine biking up some of those climbs!  After we said our hellos and I continued on I realized I should have asked them what their loop was and if they were going out the other end of this trail, in the direction I have not been yet.  Hide sight…

Daisy sprinting down the rock pile

Ridge Top Trail eventually pops out onto a fire road, that a short skip to the left ends at a cell phone tower with an overlook view point, picnic table and rest area. 

Several other trails converge in this area, and taking the fire road all the way back (by turning right from Ridge Top Trail onto it, and again, turning right when the FR comes to a T)  is an alternative ride that adds about an hour to the circuit. Having gone that rout one time was enough for me.  It was much longer, mostly downhill and pretty boring.  Instead, turning right off of Ridge Top trail onto the fire road and riding the short distance to the next hard left turn in the road brings up a trail on the right.  This trail was previously marked with a nice wooden sign, declaring it trail 439 but after some road clearing this summer, the wooden sign seems to have disappeared.  It is easy to miss this trail now, and there is a bit of cleared brush piled somewhat in front of it making it harder to find.  Which is why I tried the long way taking the fire road back earlier this year, I could not find the trail!  In my defense, the  brush on that side was piled much higher at the time. 

Daisy scouting ahead on the fire road back to the trailer
439 is a nice downhill trail that goes through the woods and over a few logs.  On my ride there were some down branches along 439 from the weird October snow storm we got, but all were easy to pass.  The trail ends at the FR, with a prominent sign, which is helpful should you reverse the ride.  Turning right onto the FR closes the loop, and a few miles of hacking ends back on Bear Trap Road. 
 
It’s a nice 2-3 hour ride, depending on how much pace is put in on the fire road stretches and includes a big climb, some downhill work and a lot of nice views and scenery.  There is also the year round running creek and several spots that springs pop up near the fire road for most of the year.  I have also seen a turtle two different times on this loop.  And turtles are hard to spot!  

    

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  1. Bear Trap Exploration | Blue Ridge Pony

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