What's New in Old Fort?
Updated: May 5
There's a lot of buzz about Old Fort these days.
Old Fort is home to a newly proposed 42 mile trail expansion between Curtis Creek, Mill Creek, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is an exciting prospect for the Town of Old Fort and the region. However, it's important to remember where we are in the process, understand the projected timeline, and keep in mind that small changes are probable as we work to understand all the environmental and cultural assets that impact trail alignments. The purpose of this post is to clear up what trails are existing, what trails are in development, and what trails are proposed.
On the Old Fort Trail Project Map existing trails are in blue and black. These trails include classics like Kitsuma, Heartbreak Ridge, Snook's Nose, Newberry Creek, among others. The G5 Trail Collective in coordination with the USFS and other user groups is organizing work days to maintain these existing trails and bring other trials that have been neglected back into use in the complex. If you're interested in getting involved in volunteer days you can check the G5 site here: https://www.g5trailcollective.org/events
Trails in Development- Camp Grier and Fonta Flora State Trail
There are two trails currently in development in Old Fort. The Fonta Flora State Trail (FFST), represented in yellow on the Old Fort Trail Project Map, has two sections in Old Fort. The first section, also known as Point Lookout Trail, is a paved greenway that was converted from the old Hwy 70 auto route. This section of the FFST begins at a gate just passed the Old Fort Kitsuma Picnic Area and winds its way up to the Ridgecrest Community. This section is popular with families, mountain bikers riding the Kitsuma loop, and commuters working and living between Old Fort and Black Mountain. Be on the lookout for riders coming down at speed and riders be courteous of hikers by slowing down and announcing your presence before passing. Remember, "say hi, be nice"!
There is a new section of the FFST that is almost complete thanks to Foothills Conservancy. This section has been completed but is awaiting final approval from the State of NC Property Office before it can be opened to the public. This section is also in yellow on the Old Fort Trail Project Map. This section connects the entrance at Camp Grier to the bridge just before the Old Fort Picnic Area parking lot and can be hiked or ridden in either direction. Mountain bikers may find this section more fun to ride west to east as the switchback near the Old Fort Picnic area look rough but can be cleaned by intermediate riders and leads to fun downhill sections as the trail meanders toward Camp Grier.
The final trail that is under development is a Camp Grier Connector Trail that will ultimately link Salt Gap to the FFST. Camp Grier understands the need for connectivity in the Old Fort Trail Complex and wants to be accommodating to hikers and bikers. This 3 miles connector is about 75% compete and should be ready to ride by early fall 2021. This connector, once open, will be the only trail on Camp Grier property open to public use. Please stay on the yellow blazed trail and respect the signs, rules, and requests of the land owner to maintain this connection. This section will be open to the public from Labor Day to Memorial Day and closed for the summer season for summer camp programming. Important rules to follow:
Only use this trail during the Labor Day to Memorial Day window. Trail is closed in June, July, and August
Keep pets on leash at ALL times. Unleashed dogs can pose a risk to the camp horses and other users.
Stay on the yellow blazed connector trail. All other trails are for Camp Grier registered guests.
Proposed trails are represented by pink and purple lines on the Old Fort Trail Project Map. These trails have been designed with hundreds of public comments, many online meetings with the community stakeholders, and feedback from multiple user groups.
These proposed trails are being facilitated through a formal partnership agreement between the USFS and the G5 Trail Collective. Currently the G5 Collective has raised over $200,000 for planning, design, and permitting. IMBA awarded the G5 a Trail Accelerator Grant for design and flagging.
Currently, the G5 is contracting with environmental, archaeology, and botany firms to complete the NEPA process necessary whenever building trail on federal public lands. A final decision by the USFS is expected by late fall 2021 and our goal is to begin building new trail in late 2021/early 2022.
If you'd like to contribute to this trail development you can donate on the G5 website and volunteer for G5 workdays. You can learn more at www.g5trailcollective.org