It’s been just over a month since the official grand opening, and we’ve survived the 2014 Raccoon Mountain “Super D” race, but if you STILL haven’t heard: the brand-new High Voltage trail and phase 2 of the Live Wire trail are complete, and officially open on Raccoon Mountain.
These trails are the culmination of over 2 years and 2500 man-hours of work by SORBA-Chattanooga volunteers. In fact, one might argue that this 8-mile addition to the trail system is the most ambitious trail project in Chattanooga in many years, if not ever.
The uppermost half-mile of High Voltage conquers a very steep grade, and sustainable construction required extensive machine work.. Likewise, Live Wire’s second phase weaves its way through the incredibly lush north slope of the mountain, requiring plenty of wooden bridges and significant rock armoring to prevent erosion.
“Our goal was to build a challenging trail that met both the needs of our members and land manager,” says SORBA-Chattanooga president Erik Rippon. “This required major efforts to avoid sensitive plants, streams, and several archaeological sites while adhering to specific design constraints related to grade and sediment runoff.”
Rock/Creek volunteers joined SORBA-Chattanooga for one work date this spring, moving lumber and building a small bridge near the bottom of High Voltage, and came away incredibly impressed with both the work ethic and level of organization we witnessed. We hope to contribute much more to future SORBA projects!
If you’re looking to ride on Raccoon Mountain, with or without including the new trails, check out my Raccoon Mountain MTB Guide on RootsRated. This trail system is truly the jewel of Chattanooga mountain biking.
Trail conditions, rules and an up-to-date map are at SORBA-Chattanooga’s Raccoon Mountain trail map page, as well as any future map updates.
Forget all that, though; what you want to know is how these trails ride, right? Live Wire phase 1 has been open for some time now, a berm-happy blitz from the top of the mountain down to the Massengale Point parking area that came to be known as one of Chattanooga’s most fun rides. Continue onto the brand new phase 2, though, and the trail’s character changes immediately despite the relatively constant grade.
Here, it’s much less of a bobsled run, with loose rock and loamy soil twisting through a deep, dark forest. Halfway down, rock gardens sprout around every corner like weeds, offering the most challenging and rocky singletrack in Chattanooga this side of White Oak Ridge.
While Live Wire drops off the east side of the mountain, losing 1200 feet of elevation in its meandering route to the boat ramp on the Tennessee River, High Voltage does the same on the west side. The latter “only” loses 800 feet, but it does so in 3 miles instead of 5; ten switchbacks near the top provide the trickiest, steepest climbing in the area.
Below the switchbacks, High Voltage is non-technical singletrack, but several expert local riders have proclaimed it the “best downhill run in Chattanooga.” Go ride it, marvel at the amount of work it took to build a sustainable trail on this terrain, then decide for yourself.
“Before the two-year construction effort came several years of planning meetings, flagging, and assessment efforts to gain approval. That’s when the real challenge began,” Rippon adds. “To our knowledge, no volunteer organization has undertaken such a challenging project. The finished product speaks to the hard work and dedication of the scores of volunteers that made this a reality.”
Kudos from Rock/Creek on the successful completion of such an ambitious project. These are truly some of the best multi-use singletrack trails in the Chattanooga area! To view race photos taken along the new phase 2 of Live Wire, check out our very own Rina Handwerker’s Raccoon Mountain Super D photo album.