Daniel's Ridge (Descending CW - "Bridge Side")
Summary: A great introduction to steeper trails and often overlooked, the clockwise descent consists of several flowy segments, minor rocky sections, and ends with a few slow speed technical bits and bridge crossings. A great introduction or gateway into other intermediate trails in Pisgah.
Difficulty: Pisgah Intermediate - The main difficult sections making this intermediate start just before the intersection with Lanning Ridge Road, where there is a steep, awkward S-turn. Shortly after, the trail has a few slow speed technical sections that have awkward turns, run ins to bridges, or are off camber. Comfort with loose rocks and mildly steep sections with good brake control is recommended.
Length/Elevation Change: Approx. 2 miles from peak to the bottom with 2 short, but low elevation change climbs
Notable features: Starting at the top, there is a small narrow segment that runs from the peak, but doesn't have many features of note aside from one pile of rocks and a few weird rooty sections. Once the trail opens up briefly, there is a log crossing that goes over a mud pit, it can be ridden but may be intimidating at first due to an awkward entry. Shortly after, the trail turns steeper downhill with a few flat corners, minor rock segments, and a steep S-turn leading to Lanning Bridge. After Lanning Bridge, there is a steep chute that dumps into a bridge, followed by a slow technical section with lots of roots and 3 small drops, leading to a stream crossing and right hand turn. Further down, there are several bridge crossings, most are wide, but some have awkward run-ins. On the last segment, there is an awkward off-camber root section, which follows a wide open bit of trail into a rocky switchback.
The trail starts off at the peak of Daniel's Ridge, by the connector back up to the road:
Coming down from the connector, you will want to go left, down a somewhat narrow segment of trail. Be careful not to head the wrong way and go down the considerably more difficult rocky side.
Shortly after starting, the trail should look like so:
The trail runs like this for a short period, maybe a quarter mile or so. It's not incredibly narrow, but there will be some awkward lines in a few spots. There is one small, low laying rock garden in particular, but it's less than a few feet long. Overall, they aren't much to worry about, but keep your eyes up and know that the narrow portion of this trail is very short.
Shortly after, the trail will open up briefly, doubling in size, before the first technical feature of note:
This log bridge was added to cover a section of the trail that remains pretty consistently muddy. The bridge itself is pretty chunky, but low consequence. The main concern is getting onto it, the first log is angled a bit and it's easy to slip trying to get your bike up onto the logs. It does look a bit intimidating and it is a bit awkward, but with a decent rolling speed and confidence getting onto the first log, the rest shouldn't be much of a problem unless you come off the side.
I would personally avoid the mudhole to the right, it's deep enough to stop you and get your feet wet.
Immediately after, the trail re-enters the woods and starts a mellow grade climb for a short distance, maybe 100ft:
Aside from a few low laying roots and loose rocks, this section isn't much to worry about otherwise. It is worth noting, as it's one of two climbs of any consequence before the bottom.
Once you reach the peak, you start the flowy portion of the descent:
I hesitate a bit to call this 'flowy', because it does have some small rock features and there are a few sections with small, loose rocks scattered throughout:
It remains pretty fast despite these features, faster riders will get some good speed on this and should be cautioned that hikers often come up this way, while newer riders will want to be careful to keep their speed under control to avoid taking a bad line. None of the features on this section are high consequence, but you can get a bit awkward if you hit a rock wrong or get too fast through the loose rock.
The trail will weave around for a bit until you reach a left hand turn, with a mildly steep straightaway section that has several rollers:
Immediately at the bottom of this section is a steep, slightly off camber S-turn:
There isn't any real feature here, but it S-turns back straight ahead and if you come flying into it too quickly, it has a tendency to pick up your back wheel. I'd recommend slowing down way before it.
From here, the trail runs a short distance before rolling off a water bar onto Lanning Ridge Rd:
This is notable, because you can climb Lanning Ridge Rd from the parking lot and reach just the section from here, for a short add on to other trails in the area.
The nature of the trail also changes a bit. The first drop in from here will remain a bit loose, but have a few small root drops and features, followed by cutting right into a roto tunnel:
At the end of this roto tunnel used to be a fairly eroded, sizable drop, however it was patched up in 2017. I mention it, because it's partially beginning to reform, but probably won't be anything of consequence for several more years. What is notable is that, from time to time, water runoff down the steep section that follows this can create wheel width ruts.
While the photos wouldn't really show it, immediately after this section is a right hand turn into a short, but steep chute where it's possible to get a lot of speed if you aren't careful. It's short, but leads into this bridge, which makes speed control before you reach the bridge very important:
Following this bridge, the trail turns flat and pedally for a while, then opens into a meadow, before dropping back into the trees again:
This section can be a bit awkward, it cuts left around that tree in the center of the left hand side and tends to be wet. It's easy to slide out or, if you aren't paying attention, end up off the trail straight ahead. What is more notable is what follows it:
This section, shown above looking back up the trail, has 2 small, but slippery drops before leading into a right hand turn into a bridge:
The right hand turn after the roots is somewhat awkward, as lining up the bike to make the turn can be difficult. The bridge is also loose and moving around currently, so the safer bet is to just go through the creek or walk.
As for the rootball itself, it can be ridden slow, either trail right or trail left. If you go trail left, to the left side of the small tree, it has a tendency to push your bike to the right due to one off camber root, so be on your guard. If you go trail right, it's a cleaner shot down the roots and can be done slower, but it it doesn't set you up as well for the right hand turn near the bottom. They both have their downsides, but trail right is the easiest way even if you can't make the turn, as it's less likely to push your bike in another direction.
From here, the trail turns briefly into a technical climb that tends to be wet:
This section is slick and difficult on it's own, but especially if you can't run into it with some momentum from the root ball previously and crossing the bridge. It's also real tricky when it's wet, so no shame in walking it if you can't quite get up it.
The next notable section is this little rootball on the right:
The roots lead into an immediate right hand turn to this bridge:
The trick here is lining up for the bridge. If you go too far right, you have to swing left and cut right before crossing the bridge, but if you go too far left, the entry is tricky due to the tree on the left side of the entry. I typically cut right over top of the roots, then swing left, before lining up to get over the bridge, it gives you a bit more room and you are less likely to snag the tree, but it is a trickier crossing.
Shortly after, you'll run under some roto tunnels before coming up on the next bridge:
The bridge itself is wide and covered in mesh, so it grips well, but the entry to it can be tricky, as it's usually wet and the roots really want to toss you to the left. IMO the best way to hit this is to line up as straight as possible to the right, expecting you'll get kicked left slightly, positioning you for the bridge. A bit of momentum is real helpful here, but it can be difficult to stay on your line and get onto the bridge.
From here, the trail speeds up a bit. You'll ride through a muddy rootball that's flat and of low consequence, followed by a bridge that slopes up on the left for jumpers and rolls down slightly on the right for those wanting to keep it planted. Immediately after that bridge, the trail will cut right and you'll come up on the final bridge of the trail:
While this bridge isn't much to note (it recently replaced an older, more difficult one), the section immediately after it is. I'll break it into four sections.
First, you'll climb up a brief climb that cuts left down some roots:
These may not look significant, but at a slow speed, they can be awkward especially when they are wet, which they often are. I usually try to go as far right as I can, but the slow speed of this section definitely makes it a bit trickier.
Immediately after is the second portion, a mild rootball you can take low or high, which lines up to the trickiest part:
What's shown above is fairly benign, but the line choice you take will make a difference on the more difficult part that follows immediately after it:
These roots are not that big, but that's sortof the problem. They are off camber, but small and numerous, which means they really want to slide you down into the creek. What's worse, this section tends to stay really wet.
I typically find that, when I slide, it doesn't really start until the very end when I'm almost out, but how you line up for this will make a big difference. I used to go high on the previous segment, then try to stay high, but as the roots have exposed a bit more, I find going low to be a more consistently good option. There is a bit of dirt at the bottom of the roots that will catch you, but don't be surprised if your bike starts moving on this bit.
Immediately following is the fourth and final portion of note on this short segment:
This narrow segment has a few small, but tangible roots that you'll run over. It's particularly awkward if you are skidding from the small rootball just before it, but with a small amount of speed or a good pedal stroke, going to the right will line you up perfectly and you should be in a good position to roll through. That said, it can be intimidating especially if you run into it a bit squirrelly after the previous rootball and aren't lined up correctly
You'll ride on top of Daniel's Ridge falls, which you can't see from up here, but will hear if you stop to listen. The trial then opens up and picks up speed considerably, until a rocky switchback turning you left, down the final segment of the trail:
The trick to this one is to get as far right as possible before entering, to give yourself room to make it around. There aren't any major features of consequence, but the edge of the trail leads to a bit of an exposed section trail right, which you don't want to come off of.
The trail will then open up a fair bit and speed up, with a few small root drops that lead up to the final runout to the road:
The thing to be careful of with the final runout is an off camber root that wants to push you off the trail, along with the smooth section being on the narrower side. The sight lines are good, but be careful not to get shoved off the trail.
From here, you can go left and pedal up briefly (less than 100ft) to Daniel's Ridge falls:
While not visible from the trail, the stream near the upper root ball is what feeds into this waterfall and you can hear it while on the trail.
From here, you can go back down the road to the Daniel's Ridge parking lot, where it finishes off.
There are a few ways to access this segment of Daniel's Ridge:
Climb the rocky side and do the loop - I do not recommend this, as the rocky side is a popular downhill and fairly technical, making it a difficult climb. This is the fastest route but will require some pushing by most riders and has some very narrow sections.
Lanning Ridge + Out/back - If you climb Lanning Ridge Rd from the Daniel's Ridge lot, it will intersect Daniel's Ridge, where you can push/ride to the top, then ride the full length of the trail or just ride the lower section from Lanning Ridge intersection down
Cove -> Daniels - By far the most popular route, you climb Cove Creek trail, then after the creek crossing/hike a bike near the top, take a left at the 3 way intersection, which leads you back up to Cove Creek Rd. Go left onto the road, then pass behind the gate on the right, which leads you to a large open area after a while (it is a bit of a slog). There is a connecting trail on the left, descend that trail and go left, which puts you on this segment of Daniel's Ridge. At the conclusion, head out to the Daniel's Ridge lot and go left to head back to Cove Creek, or go right to connect with other trails in the area (Butter, mainly)