10 new miles of trail to open in Old Fort

Press release the G5 Trail Collective:

The G5 Trail Collective in partnership with the National Forests in North Carolina, announced 10 additional miles of new trail construction in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest surrounding Old Fort, North Carolina. Construction will begin immediately on this next phase of the 42-mile trail expansion planned for the Old Fort area.
The construction announced today will create six new trails set to open by the end of 2024. The increase in trail construction this year was made possible by a significant investment from the State of North Carolina General Assembly Budget, which funded Camp Grier’s G5 Trail Collective. Trail construction is supporting continued economic growth in the town of Old Fort.

The majority of the trails to be constructed this year expand on the popular Gateway Trail
System, adding more options for visitors to connect to the backcountry. Three trails will be constructed from the “B-Block” on the planning map and will be open to multi-use from equestrians, mountain bikers, and hikers. The new 3-mile Deep Cove Trail (B1) will take users from the Gateway Trailhead to Jarrett Creek Road near Jerdon Mountain, following a cross country trail through wild creeks and rhododendron forests. The Deep Cove trail will be constructed by professional trail builders from Nature Trails, a North Carolina-based organization.

The new half-mile Jerdon Mountain Connector Trail (B2), will extend the Jerdon Mountain
Road (FS Road 4030A) to create a loop with Jarett Creek Road. The new 2.2 mile Camp Rock
Trail (B3), will provide an additional loop opportunity, climbing to near the top of Jerdon Mountain, where a rock overlook gives visitors a sweeping view into the protected watershed above Camp Grier. Both the Jerdon Mountain Connector and Camp Rock trails will be constructed by South Carolina based Southern Taproot trail builders. Closer to the Gateway Trailhead, the new Catawba View trail (E5), will extend the Pisgah-easy experience of the Gateway Trails with a 1.5 mile loop that includes views down into the Catawba River Valley and the eastern edge of Old Fort. The Catawba View Trail will be constructed by Western NC based TerraTek Trails and will be a fun, flowing trail open to mountain bikes and hikers.

This year’s build also includes new hike-only options closer to town. The Stagecoach Trail (A5), will connect the Old Fort Picnic Area to the Point Lookout Trail, following a route near the old stagecoach road along the Swannanoa River. The Stagecoach Trail build is led by the US Forest Service Grandfather District Trail Crew, who is building the trail by hand in the style of the Civilian Conservation Crew. Across town, the 2.2 mile Catawba Falls Loop Trail (D1), will extend the hiking experience at the popular Catawba Falls and provide much needed emergency access to the upper falls for first responders. The Catawba Falls loop trail will be constructed by Old Fort based TAG Contracting.

The vision of the Old Fort Trails Project is to improve the health and wellness of residents, to
grow the local economy through outdoor recreation, and to build community through shared
spaces on public lands. Since breaking ground on the Old Fort Trails project in early 2022, the US Forest Service and G5 Trail Collective have partnered to complete 10 miles of trails and 2 new parking areas. 3 miles of trail are currently under construction on Lower Heartbreak Ridge. This next phase of construction will result in a total of 23 miles of new trail completed and open for the enjoyment of all users by the end of 2024.

These developments have brought an average of 250 users per day to Old Fort trails. The growth in visitation and improved experiences for local residents is supporting an economic revitalization in the rural community. Since the Old Fort Trails project was announced, 14 new businesses have started in town. These businesses not only support the tourism economy but have brought manufacturing and commerce jobs back to the community. Old Fort and the trails project are providing a model for building resilient communities through rural economic development.

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