Dark Mountain is a series of trails laced into both sides of a rugged wooded ridge. Loop after loop of singletrack rolls through a mature hardwood forest. The trails at Dark Mountain are steep, tight and fast with good flow and lots of variety. Three wooden decks atop the ridge offer wide views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Dark Mountain is the oldest of all the trail systems at the lake, and was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2005. The trail network features loop after loop of singletrack trail rolling through a mature forest with tall poplars and pines. You’ll roll through a rhododendron tunnel, dip past an old homestead, skirt the edge of a pony pasture and cruise past a finger of the lake on the trails.
It’s only a few hundred vertical feet from the lakeshore to the top of the ridge, but you’ll get quite a workout as the trails wind up and down the ridge again and again. Expect to average about 120 feet of climbing per mile.
Dark Mountain sits atop a granite vein, so there’s very little mud, even after heavy rains. “The Dark Mountain site is made to order for mountain biking,” says R.G. Absher of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. A visit a few days after a big rain will find miles of bone-dry singletrack. The trails were designed to be durable in wet weather, employing IMBA trail building techniques.
The trails are well groomed, with just a few rooty spots…perfect for a fast spin through the woods. You’ll encounter a few steep climbs and several soaring descents along with lots of fairly level riding along the ridgetop. Members of BMCC’s trail care crew frequently tweak the trails to improve the overall flow.
Scenic and Challenging Singletrack
There are several numbered and named small loops at Dark Mountain, all intersecting with a 2-track “Core” trail which goes through the whole system. Three wooden decks atop the ridge offer wide views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.Follow the BLUE arrows for the all-encompassing route, including the “Snake” and “Lake” loops that each contain a solid climb and descent.
From the trailhead, the climb up the entrance trail takes you through the first-built trails at the lake. After about a mile, you’ll get through a very rooty section and begin a descent that winds down “The Snake” to another section of Fish Dam Creek waterway. Enjoy it, because as soon as you see the stream, you’ll be begin a sustained 1 mile climb out.
After about 3-4 miles in, the trail begins the 200 foot descent of the “Lake Loop.” A fantastic finale awaits after the climb back to the top of Dark Mountain, the exit trail. This section has hosted Downhill and Super-D events, and contains optional lines with big banked turns and jumps. If you’re not into daredevil stunts, don’t worry. The jumps are easily avoided by staying on the main trail.
Fish Dam Creek Trail
The Fish Dam Creek Trail begins at the spillway at the foot of W. Kerr Scott Dam. It crosses the spillway, follows scenic Fish Dam Creek for a short distance, then snakes its way up a wooded ridge. The left fork of the trail leads to a picnic area at the top of the dam; the right fork skirts the edge of a large field and re-enters the woods to climb to the top of the ridge at Dark Mountain. This short, scenic trail passes through a shady rhododendron tunnel and past a huge old growth hemlock. The Fish Dam Creek Trail is trail #8 in the Dark Mountain system.
Photo and content credit: Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club