Bikes Belong

Last year, Boulder, CO based Bikes Belong, an organization devoted to putting more people on bikes more often, awarded Rocky Knob Park a $5000 grant. Bikes Belong recognized the importance of legal mountain bike trails in the Boone community and their grant helped leverage additional funds that led to the creation of the park.

This past week, Watauga County’s Outdoor Recreation Planner Eric Woolridge presented Bikes Belong with a plaque of appreciation from Rocky Knob Park. Without organizations like Bikes Belong, fewer bike opportunities would exist around the country. Thank you!

A New Day in Boone: Welcome to Rocky Knob Park

Michael Thomas tests a berm.

We broke ground at Rocky Knob Park less than a year ago. Today, we ride the first legal mountain bike trails in Watauga County. This significant moment has come about only due to a monumental effort.

Our hard-working volunteers have logged over 1500 hours and worked with the professional trail builders to complete the initial 1.6 mile loop. We’ve held 18 Dirty Thursdays, 2 Community Work Days, and numerous special work days to finish trail, build crib walls, bridges, alternate lines, and causeways.

We are grateful for the work of our volunteers and trail builders, the support of Watauga County Tourism Development Authority and Boone Area Cyclists, and the generosity of Boone Area businesses such as Boone Bike and Touring, Magic Cycles, Stick Boy, Ray’s Weather, Black Cat, Mast Store, Bald Guy Brew, Chick Fil’A, Jimmy Johns, Earth Fare, and many others. These trails have been a community effort. Thank you.

Come on out and sample a beginning of a new era in Boone. Stay tuned for more: we have big plans for the rest of the park.

See you on the trail.

Opening Day

On Sunday, May 1st at 2pm, Watauga County, Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (WCTDA), and Boone Area Cyclists (BAC) will host the official opening of Rocky Knob Park’s first 1.6 mile mountain biking trail. While a grand opening is being planned for later in the year with the completion of additional trails, this event is the culmination of 18 months of intensive, collaborative work among local government officials and engaged citizens. The county has secured $515,000 in grant funding for the 185-acre facility and Boone Area Cyclists have logged more than 1,500 volunteer hours. Currently, 6.5 miles of additional trails are under construction. With the opening of this first trail, the WCTDA expects to gauge user needs for future facility management.

Vicinity map

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Dirty Green Thursday

Come celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by getting a little dirty. With the time change, we will meet at 5:00 and work until 7:00-7:30. We have marked several areas for armoring and also need to remove all stobs from the first loop as well as continue corridor clearing on the Lower Knob Trail. Come on out. Bring a friend. If you can make it earlier or have other times available to work during the day, email me directly ( and I’ll hook you up with some work.

Thanksgiving Break

Despite the best efforts of our legions of volunteers, we were not able to open the trail before Thanksgiving as hoped. While the first loop has been completed in terms of machine work and hand finishing, several special areas are still under construction:

  • The “Bridge Area” which is the north east corner close to 421 won’t yield passage quite yet. This area confounded us in the design phase due to the complex jumble of rocks and braided stream beds.  After numerous re-designs we settled on an alignment that would rely upon several boardwalks and causeways. We are about 90% complete with this 400 foot section. This might sound encouraging but it has taken over 5 weeks to get 90% done. The work has been difficult but rewarding and will result in a very memorable and enjoyable section of trail.
  • Seeps. The lower flanks of the mountain seep with springs. If you’ve walked the trail, you’ve seen these boggy area in the fresh cut trail. Yesterday, Moto Mike, Jay Womack, Bob Kariker and I began experimenting with solutions. We installed French Drains and conduit in strategic areas to see if this would solve the problem. If this works, we’ll be working on the remaining boggy areas with this technique.
  • Gravel. From the first mention of this word, hackles start to rise. Yes, we have been hauling tons of gravel. We have used a mix of crushed gravel and fines to lock in the rubble sections, the causeways, and the French Drains. The end result will be a sustainable trail that most cyclists will be able to ride.
  • Also please note that any trail work must be approved before conducted. Recently someone modified an optional feature that the trail crew had built. We had constructed the feature with a “qualifier” entrance to encourage only those with advanced skills to get on it; however, now the modified approach is much easier and could encourage someone without the appropriate skills to get in over their head. We are not against technical features at Rocky Knob. We will be creating a variety of experiences for trail users and if you have ideas for features or want to help build some, send me an email at

We do hope to be open soon after Thanksgiving Break. A special thanks is due to some folks that have put in a ton of work in the past few weeks:

  • Watauga High School’s Mountain Alliance
  • ASU’s Recreation Management Association
  • ASU’s Cycling Team
  • The Thursday Regulars
  • Bob Kariker, Michael Thomas, Andrew Mueller, Ross Landino, and Chris Curtin who practically live at Rocky Knob.


Trail work is in full swing at the Knob. Several community groups have been working on hand build sections of trail, the interns and volunteers have been making boardwalks ready, the trail is nearly 1 mile complete, and mother nature is providing a brilliant backdrop. This weekend will mark our first community build day since the opening weekend. Come out and join us on Saturday, Oct 16th from 10:00 to 2:00 for some work. We will provide tools, some food and drink after, and a raffle. This event is being sponsored by the Boone Area Cyclists, Boone Bike and Touring, Magic Cycles, Bald Guy Brew, Black Cat, Sunrise Grill, Boone Take Out Express, and many others. Hope to see you there!

The Gauntlet, The Vision, and The First Trail Day

Part of the crew heading in to work.

When Eric Woolridge began his job as Watauga County’s Outdoor Recreation Planner, there were no legal places to ride mountain bikes in the county. Not only has Eric worked to change this fact but over the past year he has created a vision that will propel Boone into the ranks of top outdoor recreation destinations in the country. Rocky Knob will be an important part of this vision.

Kick-off at the Broyhill

This past Thursday evening the vision for Rocky Knob became more clear. Woody Keen, CEO of Trail Dynamics (the company planning and building phase one of the trail system) presented his take on why Rocky Knob will be a destination mountain bike park: the proximity to town, the mature forest, the rocks, the opportunity for all levels of trail all rank high on the list. “This will be a park where families can ride great singletrack and rip cool rock lines together,” he says. Woody has traveled far and wide riding and building trails and frequently compares Rocky Knob’s potential to the world-famous Coed-y-Brenin trail system in Wales. “One possibility we have here,” he adds in his comparison to the Welsh network, “is all-weather trails.” Much of the first loop will be hardened and will drain very well. Eric Woolridge concluded the evening with a poignant reminder: “We went to the county with this idea and they came back with the cash. Now it’s time to show them they made a good investment.

Safety Briefing

This is our trail. Let’s get out there and work.”

Eric’s gauntlet is more of a work glove.

Trail Dynamics adds an educational component to its design and build commitment. Saturday, Woody led a sustainable trail workshop indoors then the attendees gathered at the park to get a first hand look at the construction process and swing some tools. Classroom knowledge provides a good foundation for trailwork, but it’s the experiential element that provides the paydirt. By the end of the day, 23 volunteers including a handful of eager youngsters hand-finished close to 800 feet of trail complete with the first optional berm-drop (courtesy the Marland boys). Check out the work:

The crew checks out the trail

Breaking rocks is hard to do...unless you have a 500 pound rock hammer attachment on your mini-exc.

Hand-finishing. The team works the back slope behind the machine.

Bob in the second mini-exc. The machines work on opposite legs of the trail to maximize productivity.

Stone Masons: building trail the Roman way.

Much of the first trail through the boulderfield will look like this.

Join us for “Dirty Thursdays” to get involved in the park. We will be meeting each Thursday for the next several weeks at 6:00 PM at the Knob. Tools will be provided.


Bob checks the grade with his clinometer.

Designing a trail at Rocky Knob is one part science, one part dodging Volkswagon-sized rocks, and one part hunch. The other half is thrashing through rhododendron. Woody Keen, CEO of Trail Dynamics, calls it art and science. Crawling on your belly through rhodo, you might be tempted to call something else.

The science represents the easy part. Green trails should be no more than 5% grade with short runs up to 15%. Allow water to exit the trail without running down it. Follow the twists and turns of the land. Keep the tread smooth. Translating that to the ground tests one’s fortitude. Following the specifications may take the trail into a dead end. Big rocks seem to loom through every rhodo patch like guardians of the hillside. We’ve already discovered we’ll need to invent new ways to blaze a Green trail through a boulderfield, but scattered all over Rocky Knob are gigantic boulders that keep interfering with the flag line. For blue trails, we might incorporate these into the design, but the Green trail must go either above or below. Each time we decide a micro route above or below, a multitude of more decisions unfold for the next 100 feet of trail. And so on.

Chuck calls on the satellites to confirm our location.

We’re attempting to connect two ends of the flag line where we’ve added about another mile to the existing trail. We’ve spent hours aligning these legs, questioning our judgment, shooting grade with a clinometer, re-aligning, thrashing through rhodo, and placing new flags. Once we connected the ends in a satisfying way, we came to realize we could spend days attempting to perfect the line only to make it a tad better. It feels good now. We gone on. Besides, Bob will make judgment calls every foot as the machines crawl along giving the trail it’s final “flow.”

The Rocky Branch Trail has taken on another mile to bring it’s mileage to 2.6. We’ve added a spiral-like upper extension to the original trail which will provide, in effect, a second green trail options. Riders can complete the Rocky Branch Loop (1.6 miles) or can add the Lower Knob Trail for another mile. Also, the upper trail connects to the saddle between the knobs where a “flow-jump” trail will depart down the power line corridor. However riders choose to navigate this first phase, they will be treated to a beautiful and exciting trail to rival any “easy” trail east of the Practice Loop in Moab.

Flag line for Rocky Branch Trail and Lower Knob Trail (the connection is not shown for the complete Rocky Branch Trail. It will be where the inside loops are at their closest, roughly in the midle of the picture.)

Dirt Beneath the Rock

Bob Karriker finds the rock in Rocky Knob

There is dirt beneath the rock. Attempting to place pin flags in the soil at Rocky Knob while establishing the trail led us to believe Rocky Knob to be all rock. Everywhere, beneath the leaves: rock. Elsewhere, under the tangle of wild grape vines: rock. Once Bob walked the mini-excavator  into the corridor and began pulling rocks from the tread he hit it: dirt. Good dirt. Bob, an expert in Piedmont trails (he’s one of the lead volunteers at Lake Norman State Park), says, “man, when we hit a rock in the Piedmont, we covet it. We save that thing to use for something special. We just need to find dirt here.”

Bob, at the controls of the mini-ex.

The abundance of rock here will make for slow work but when the trail gets to the first boulderfield we will have plenty of material for crib walls and other structures.

As the tread moves forward, the Boone community will be able to get involved in the development at Rocky Knob:

Thursday, July 29th, 6:00 PM at the Broyhill Inn (ASU): Kick-off presentation by Trail Dynamics and Watauga TDA

Saturday, July 31st, 9:00 AM at the Best Western in Boone: Sustainable Trail Building Workshop led by Woody Keen of Trail Dynamics. 2:00 PM: public work day at Rocky Knob.