Fontana hosts two major mountain bike events throughout the year. The Icycle in January and the SERC sanctioned Dam Jam in August. You can ride the same trails the pros do the rest of the year. So bring your helmet and pads and get out there yourself and put the Mountain back in Mountain Biking. Many people compare these trails with Tsali, however these trails are much more technical, with many downhill features and advanced terrain. There are creek crossings, logs, rock gardens, drops, step ups and some pretty intense climbs and downhill sections. It is a blast for the experienced rider and offers a great introduction to "downhill" biking for those wanting to push their boundaries.
I want to go back and give these trails another chance, but my first impression of them wasn't great. Once you're in the village, finding the trailheads can be a challenge. I wanted to ride the Green and Payne Loops (refer to map: http://www.fontanavillage.com/hiking/map%20hike%20bike.pdf), but the map is really misleading. It looks as if there should be a trailhead for the Payne Loop right next to the General Store, but not so much. I finally drove around to the gas station, parked across the street in the picnic area, and caught the main Payne Loop trailhead there (wooden bridge across the creek.) After trying to ride the lower portion (Turkey Chute) clockwise, I can only imagine that the trail is meant to be ridden the other way, because the climb up from the gas station to the junction with Fontana Heights Road was ridiculous-- very steep and loose, and I had to get off the bike several times. I rode down Fontana Heights Road for quite a distance and apparently missed the continuation of the trail system (none of the trailheads on this road are marked.) I ended up riding back to the Turkey Chute trailhead and dropping it back to the gas station (which was an awesome downhill-- 800' over 1.5 miles, and well worth doing on its own by just riding up Fontana Heights Road and bombing down the trail.)I then parked at the Administration Building and started riding the Green Loop, but after a decent little climb, it started following some doubletrack, and since I only had one day to ride and didn't know whether the rest of the trail system was like that, I didn't want to waste any more time with it.The Green and Payne Loops are labeled as the most strenuous. Seemed to me that the "strenuous" aspect comes from climbs that are really too steep for a mountain biking trail, but they make great drops in the other direction. There were no rocks, ledges, or other technical obstacles that I could see-- just typical Smoky Mountain dirt track. Would love to have information regarding the route that they use for the pro events.
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