Rocky Knob Mountain Biking Park offers you and your family a nationally significant outdoor experience.
After $2 million, four thousand hours of volunteer labor by Boone Area locals, and an ongoing roll-out of the park's eight miles of trails, this once rough jewel of a mountain bike park has really been polished.
The park has five trails-1.6-mile Rocky Branch Trail loop, the 1-mile Middle Earth Trail, nearly 4-mile Boat Rock Loop, the downhill PBJ Trail, Ol' Hoss-and four separate skills areas. All are quickly gaining converts, and gaining media attention too -- Boone and Rocky Knob were named "Ultimate Ride Hotspots" by Velo magazine.
The park also includes a "natural playground" that's become an instant favorite with parents and kids. Check out the Park's Facebook page.
Safety should be paramount for riders at Rocky Knob. Please pause at the start to thoroughly read the safety rules. Bikers should be on the lookout for hikers and walkers. All dogs must be on a leash. Helmets are required. Use caution to be aware of ice in cold weather.
Heading east out of Boone toward Wilkesboro on US 421, Rocky Knob's entrance is on the right, two miles from the NC 194 junction in Boone. Coming from the east, pass the light at the crossing of Old US 421, and 1.4 miles later, make a safe U-turn back beyond the median and turn right into the park 0.2-mile later.
Rocky Knob Park was built by the Watauga County in collaboration with the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (WCTDA) and nonprofit Boone Area Cyclists, with professional trail contractors funded by more than a half million dollars in grant money.
Woody Keen, former president of Trail Dynamics, the contractor who built the first phase of Rocky Knob Park, said, "Years ago there weren't many mountain biking options in the Boone area. Boy has that changed!" Keen is a recent president of the Professional Trail Builders Association, the country's premier trail construction organization. "Rocky Knob is a world-class resource for the Boone area," he says.
Watauga TDA Executive Director Wright Tilley attended an early "soft-opening" of the park's first phase and walked the trail while his 6-year-old son Ward rode a bike. "Rocky Knob is pretty close to as good as trails can get," Tilley said. "My son's reaction was, 'Can we come here every day?'"
"It sends a very positive message," said Tilley, "when the Boone area can go from an outdoor recreation summit in 2010, to purchasing, designing, developing and opening a new mountain bike park in 2011. Rocky Knob shows that we're serious about enhancing outdoor recreation infrastructure for visitors and locals."
The park includes paved parking areas and bathroom facilities. A large picnic pavilion and playground with most playground equipment constructed from natural wood and ropes rounds out the fun for all ages. The picnic pavilion is available for rent by calling the Watauga County Parks & Recreation office at (828) 264-9511.
In addition to the mountain trails, the Sunset Skills Area pump track, on the right as you drive into the facility, provides a scenic area to warm up. Please drive slowly and look for cyclists.
Mountain bikers and hikers can both use these trails, so be sure to abide by the recommended direction of travel for each so the two user groups have easy visual access and make safe passage. In a number of places, the main trail splits momentarily to provide technical features for more advanced riders.
For mountain bikers, the Rocky Branch Trail leaves the parking lot and heads left at the first major signed junction (hikers go right-and the opposite of bikers on some other trails). Bikers climb over undulating dips to parallel US 421, then switchback across rough-hewn log bridges on the rise to meet gurgling Rocky Branch. The trail crosses under a power line traverse, then heads back into the woods to eventually turn away from the stream. The long gradual climb again crosses under the power line traverse as it continues its rise to a rocky high point. A more downhill trend starts past rocky outcrops and eventually, a right-hand switchback returns to the main trail junction.
If you're hiking, you'll go left in that switchback on a flight of stone steps that lets bikers blast through the berm in the turn. The trail passes through beautiful fern- and flower-filled hardwood forests and major rhododendron groves. Though the trail climbs, the overall design is so sophisticated that there's up and down all the way, making for an overall undulating ride. The 1.6-mile trail is rated moderate/intermediate. The Jump Start Skills Area is located on this trail.
The 1-mile Middle Earth Trail, rated more difficult, leaves and re-enters the upper leg of the Rocky Branch Trail. Mountain bikers ride counterclockwise just before the first crossing of the power line on Rocky Branch and re-enter on the opposite side of the power line. This is rockier terrain with exciting riding. Hikers will go right at the second access point to go clockwise. Two skills areas are directly accessed from this trail, the easier Skinny Skills Area, and Stone Binge for intermediate to advanced features.
On the Middle Earth Trail, don't miss the PBJ Skills Trail that descends all the way back to the lower reaches of the Rocky Branch Trail with access back to the parking area. It's a rousing ride, named for its pumps, berms, and jumps. Many riders use this thrill ride to end their day back to the parking area, connecting to the Rocky Branch Trail's final big turn called Bring it Home Berm.
Boat Rock Loop is an advanced 3.6-mile trail on the upper slopes of Rocky Knob. It includes a "bail-out" if you just want do part of the distance. Bikers ride counterclockwise, entering the loop at the second junction with the Middle Earth Trail past the skills areas.
Ol' Hoss is the highest elevation trail at Rocky Knob, and rated very advanced. Go left, or clockwise, on Ol' Hoss from the Boat Rock Loop.