Lower Heartbreak Ridge Trail opens in Old Fort, N.C.

Published 10:25 am Monday, May 6, 2024

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OLD FORT, N.C. – The U.S. Forest Service’s Grandfather Ranger District, along with its community partners, opened the three-mile Lower Heartbreak Ridge Trail on Friday for mountain biking and hiking. 


The Lower Heartbreak Ridge Trail is part of the 42-mile trail expansion planned in the Old Fort area that received $2.5 million in funding by the State of North Carolina. The new trails are the product of the U.S. Forest Service’s collaboration with Camp Grier’s G5 Trail Collective and the Catawba Vale Collaborative, which is revitalizing Old Fort through community development.

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The new trail, which provides views from Mount Mitchell to Marion,  is a key component in the plan to connect Mount Mitchell to Old Fort almost entirely on a single-track trail, linking the western end of Jarrett Creek Road to Mill Creek Road in Old Fort.


“This is the critical link that started the dream of new trails in Old Fort, and it is the one trail that literally connects the town limits to the Pisgah National Forest for hiking, biking, running, and backpacking,” said Jason McDougald, executive director of Camp Grier, in a release. “We wouldn’t be building this trail without the ongoing support from our community.”


Geosculpt Trails constructed the trail in partnership with Black Diamond Trail Designs. The hiking and biking trail integrates features that are optimized for mountain biking, and although it is rated as intermediate, it includes some technical features more characteristic of difficult trails.


“From just below Mount Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this critical link connects over 10 miles of trail dropping 3,400 feet in elevation from the highest peak in the East to the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Old Fort,” said Lisa Jennings, Recreation and Trails Manager for the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. “The ridgeline that Lower Heartbreak follows is characterized by fire-adapted pine forests with long-range views that are some of the best views on mountain bike trails in the region.”


Support for the Lower Heartbreak Ridge Trail was provided by a grant from the North Carolina State Recreation and Trails Program, the McDowell County Tourism and Development Authority, and recently awarded funding from the North Carolina State Budget.