You've probably heard of Ohiopyle State Park. Coming in at over 20,000 acres, it is the largest state park in Pennsylvania. You may have even heard of the whitewater boating opportunities here...merely some of the best whitewater in the eastern United States. And the world famous Great Allegheny Passage rail trail that passes through the park - we're sure that you've heard of that one, too.
But have you heard of the superb mountain biking trails here in Ohiopyle State Park? No? Well lucky for you, we spent our spring exploring and mapping these trails for our recently released Ohiopyle-Laurel Highlands Lizard Map. Open up your Lizard Map and follow along as we give you a quick run down of the shared-use trail system surrounding Sugarloaf Knob in Ohiopyle State Park!
For a park with 80 miles of trails open to hiking and 25 miles open to mountain biking, there is still a surprisingly large amount of state park acreage void of formal trails for the roughly 1.5 million visitors that come here every year. Luckily for everyone, there are a few groups attempting to revitalize pre-existing trails and update the green space in the park with fresh new trails for everyone to enjoy. One of the most influential groups completing this volunteer work as we speak (every Wednesday evening to be precise) is the Ohiopyle Biking Club (OBC).
Working closely with local enthusiasts and DCNR park staff, groups like Ohiopyle Biking Club are helping the park to realize its potential as a destination for not only whitewater rapids, but also single track trails. Now, thanks to these volunteers, everyone who visits Ohiopyle should bring their mountain biking gear with them every time they visit! If you forget your gear, quickly slip over to Wilderness Voyageurs Bike Shop or Laurel Highlands River Tours in Ohiopyle and rent any gear (and maybe a local guide), which you may need for a day in the Sugarloaf Mountain Bike Area.
First step: Grab your Ohiopyle-Laurel Highlands Lizard Map and find Sugarloaf Parking Lot along Sugarloaf Road south of Ohiopyle. Second step: Get yourself and your biking gear to this parking area. This is where all the fun starts! Of course you want to bring your Lizard Map with you on this ride, but beware that trails in this area are actively being updated, rerouted, renamed, and possibly redesignated. Basically, check signs at trailheads before riding blindly into this trail system.
Once you're ready to ride, start the day with a single track warm-up on Canyons Edge Loop. This trail is flat and full of technical twists and turns. Once your legs are awake, pop off the loop and onto Upper Canyons Edge Trail. Now you'll ride along the rim of the plateau via Upper Canyons Edge Trail. This new trail is really fun when conditions are dry. Upper Canyons Edge Trail will run you into McCune Trail.
McCune Trail is definitely more difficult than the first two trails - it's suggested to ride McCune Trail counter-clockwise for better flow. There are two lizard spots on this trail, but be sure to ride the whole loop, as it is excellent! We think McCune Trail is cool enough to earn its own blog.
After McCune Trail, you'll want to head back towards the parking area. Ride Upper Canyons Edge Trail back the same way you came, or cross Sugarloaf Road and check out the easy, double track Upper Sugarloaf Trail. No matter how you get back to Sugarloaf Parking Lot, take a break at your vehicle and get ready for your next test, which is to ride Kim Trail.
Kim Trail has been around for a few years, but OBC is still constantly updating it to make it better every week. This single track trail winds area and up to Sugarloaf Knob, then winds back down the other side of the knob. It is a fantastic loop!
The trail system isn't over yet! After Kim Trail, hop on Sugarloaf Trail, which is now a nice flow trail leading through the woods alongside Sugarloaf Road. Or take one of the most difficult trails in the area, Backside Sugarloaf Trail, around the backside of the mountain until it reconnects with Sugarloaf Trail. Either way, hang a right on Sugarloaf-Baughman Connector Trail and make your way uphill to cross the road and check out the great view from Baughman's Rock.
Bikers have a few options from Baughman's Rock. You can descend Baughman Trail towards downtown Ohiopyle. This section of Baughman is a quite difficult steep and technical descent, but it does drop you out on the GAP trail basically in downtown Ohiopyle. Take a break in town, then ride back up the mountain via the less difficult Sugarloaf Trail. The second option, of course, is to ride back to your car at Sugarloaf Lot the same way you came. Option three is to ride Baughman Trail south on a narrow strip of land in between Sugarloaf Road and the canyon. This trail has several difficult and narrow rock passages. It is a great trail for those who like slow technical riding. Although it is shown as hiking trail on the Lizard Map, it was changed to shared-use shortly after the map was printed. More shared use trails that make loops with other trails is the key to designing a well built system, and Ohiopyle has great potential.
A few more mountain biking trails in this system are currently in the planning and building phase. You can help encourage development of these trails by contacting local and regional DCNR state park staff to let them know of your desires to ride in the park. Of course another great step is to contribute, however you can, to the efforts of Ohiopyle Biking Club.
I held my breath with each up and down, stopping every so often to let out some tears. The creek was rushing and beautiful this morning. The sun was bright, the sky was clear, and the temperature was perfect. Approaching the finish, I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. Before the last climb, I took one more glance at the water and smelled the pine that surrounded me. I will always belong out here. The forest took care of me this week, I will forever be thankful.