By Mike Rutter, BMA Trails Program Director
I wanted to give an update on the work I’ve been doing on the Bitterbrush Trail at Hall Ranch. I am primarily focused on drainage, but also looking at adding new features or improving old ones.
I’ve been maintaining and improving the Rock Garden for more than 15 years and it has seen a lot of changes in that time. This trail was built to be multi-use, but it lacked any kind of bike-friendly design when first built. My goal has always been to improve the flow of the trail, find interesting alternate lines, and try to provide an appropriate mix of fun, challenge and “do-ability.”
The challenge riders were experiencing back in 2008 is not the same as 2023. Erosion wreaks havoc on this trail due to the bedrock being so close to the surface. What little dirt lies on top is easily saturated by rain and melting snow which results in rapid erosion — this is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes cool lines and features are exposed while other times the flushed-out soil creates holes and weird off-camber lines in a trail corridor that was built more for feet rather than bikes.
I try to keep an eye on how people are riding the trail and look for trends showing when people are riding around features instead of over them. My intent is to eliminate ride arounds to keep the singletrack from becoming a wide path AND offer do-able optional lines for those that find the trail fun and challenging, yet lack the skills to ride some of these features that have been steadily increasing in size and difficulty over the years. That said, I want to maintain the difficulty of these harder features and try to stabilize them in place before they get unrideable or unsustainable — at least within the main trail corridor — and add new fun optional hucks and rolls where possible.
Trying to appease every rider is all but impossible, but my long term goal (since 2006!) has been to make the riding experience on Bitterbrush as good as it can be while keeping options open for the greatest majority of riders. Also, by rock armoring as much as possible and adding or improving drainage, the trail stays open longer during the winter/spring season when so many trails in the area are closed.
Photo below: Ridearound removed (red), easier line added (blue), hard black line options kept (black)