G5 - From Beginning to Now
As North Carolina continues to celebrate the #YearOfTheTrail, all of us at the G5 Trail Collective are reminded of the history and importance of the trails. The footsteps that paved the way, the sweat that cleared the path, and the intention that guided communal movement–all bring value to our communities. And as we stand in that history as a community and continue the work of championing trail development, we have found all of you. Enthusiasts, caretakers, athletes, and advocates, who not only believe in what we’re doing but are willing to get dirty and help make it possible. Yet, as our community grows, it is important that we remember where we came from, why we started, and how we plan to get to where we need to go. It helps us stay grounded and brings newcomers along for the ride. So to kick off our inaugural newsletter and blog series, we’re taking a look back and how we got here and what drives us. We hope to shine a light on our work, so that you get a better understanding of what we do and why we do it!
The G5 Trail Collective is driven by Camp Grier, the U.S. Forest Service Grandfather Ranger District, local communities, and trail user groups. Since 2019, we’ve been united in creating a lasting impact on the network of trails across the five counties that encompass the Grandfather District (G5) - McDowell, Burke, Caldwell, Avery, and Watauga. This geography makes up the namesake of G5, G for Grandfather and 5 for the five counties.
The G5 started with a need. We recognized the district's immense potential and need for trail maintenance and development across the vast expanse. That potential begins in Old Fort, but that's not the end. Our journey began with trail maintenance on our existing trails of Heartbreak Ridge and Kitsuma in 2017. This led to dreaming with the USFS about new trail construction which transformed into a remarkable 42-mile trail expansion across USFS lands in our hometown of Old Fort. The Old Fort Trail Project is the largest trail expansion on public lands in WNC since the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
In the summer of 2022, the first six miles of trail and a 105-space parking area were unveiled, and we have an ongoing commitment to add approximately six new miles annually. Today, alongside our partners, over $2 million has been raised to fund Phase I and II of trail and parking lot development. Old Fort is poised to deliver unparalleled outdoor experiences, and we’re excited to be able to use the land to support the people. Bordered by public lands, this town is reshaping connectivity with its trail system.
From its inception, the G5 Trail Collective stands as a tribute to the heritage of trailblazing in these mountains. Trails have been vital for survival and connection for thousands of years. Today, they continue to bridge generations, offering access to nature and adventure for different user experiences. We are committed to ensuring accessibility for all and to offering "beginner-friendly" trails near Old Fort and ADA-accessible trailheads, ensuring that we are building upon this legacy and helping these mountains remain accessible for years to come. Additionally, we will continue to create more advanced trails for those who seek more challenging terrain. Our goal is to create a system of trails for ALL.
Our story is one of progress. With Phase I and II successfully launched, our sights are set on the future. Join us as we travel together to healthier, happier communities. From downtown Old Fort to heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway the G5 Trail Collective invites you to be a part of this transformative journey. Together, we're leaving no trail unexplored. To help realize our dream, please consider donating to our efforts.