Singletrack trail expansion complete at Mirror Lake

Monday, November 26, 2018 - 14:03
  • Eagle River’s Heather Johnson rides on a newly completed section of trail at the Mirror Lake Singletrack Trails on Thursday, Oct. 25. The Chugach Mountain Bike Riders club recently added 2.75 miles of singletrack trails at the site, bringing the total length of trails to five miles. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Courtesy Chugach Mountain Bike Riders
  • The Chugach Mountain Bike Riders club recently added 2.75 miles of singletrack trails at the Mirror Lake Singletrack Trail system, bringing the total length to five miles. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Heather Johnson rides on a newly completed section of trail at the Mirror Lake Singletrack Trails on Thursday, Oct. 25. The Chugach Mountain Bike Riders club recently added 2.75 miles of singletrack trails at the site, bringing the total length of trails to five miles. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • A new section of the Mirror Lake Singletrack Trails. The trails — which opened last year — recently expanded by 2.75 miles. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Riders at the Mirror Lake Singletrack Trails are seeing double after a summerlong trail-building project added more than twice the distance to the existing trail system.

“Folks are welcome to go enjoy the trails,” said Will Taygan, a volunteer with the Chugach Mountain Bike Riders (CMBR). “They are ready.”

The new sections of the trail — all 2.75 miles worth — officially opened Monday to bring the total distance up to five miles. Taygan said the trails include everything from beginner routes to black diamond sections for expert riders.

“We designed them for people to get the full experience,” Taygan said.

On Thursday, Eagle River mountain bike rider Heather Johnson (and Dani, her Siberian Husky) stopped by the trails for the first time since the new sections opened.

“I’m really excited to see them,” Johnson said as she unloaded her bike from atop her car on an unseasonably warm and sunny late October afternoon.

Johnson said the location near the Glenn Highway is ideal for both locals and commuters. Other singletrack trails are either located in the Valley (Crevasse Moraine in Palmer or Government Peak near Hatcher Pass) or Anchorage (Kincaid and Hillside parks).

“It’s nice to have something in the middle,” she said.

Taygan said the new trails are open all year long, with the exception of break-up in the spring. The dedicated singletrack trails are located near the existing multiuse trail system, but Taygan said walkers and trail runners are allowed to use them “as long as folks are aware they are designed for mountain bikers.” Horses, however, are not allowed on the singletrack trails, he said.

Among the features of the new trails are a quarter-mile “jump line,” and “a series of small but rowdy loops,” as well as another mile of easier trails near the main trailhead at Mirror Lake Park. The majority of the new trails, Taygan said, are intermediate with lots of flowing lines to ride.

“So you get that kind of gliding, swooping feeling,” he said.

After spending a bit of time on one of the new trails Thursday, Eagle River’s Johnson praised the variety that’s been added to the layout.

“It’s nice to switch it up,” she said.

The completed trails are the culmination of four years of work, Taygan said. During that time, he said volunteers have racked up thousands of hours of labor and professional trail builders Ptarmigain Trails have installed safe, professional lines fit for riders of all abilities.

The cost of the two-phased project has been about $150,000 to $175,000, he said, with much of that money coming in the form of federal and local grants. The Chugiak-Eagle River Parks and Recreation Department played a big role in getting the trails completed, he said, as did hundreds of dedicated volunteers.

Phase One of the project was completed last year, opening 2.25 miles of trails to singletrack riders. This summer, Taygan estimated volunteers showed up for an estimated two dozen work sessions where crews would clear brush or smooth the trails.

“It was really neat to see the general public get involved for even a day or two,” he said. “I think that helps them feel a connection to the trails and some pride in what they made.”

Most of the work is now done, though Taygan said volunteers will continue to maintain and tweak the trails next summer. Taygan thanked the parks department and Alaska Trails for helping fund the project, as well as all the volunteers and members of the CMBR club.

The group is planning a grand opening next spring after the trails re-open following the winter thaw. But they’re open through the winter, and Taygan said there’s already a race planned: the Merry Masher fat bike race planned for Dec. 29.

Although other trails may have more miles or more gnarly terrain, Taygan said he thinks the newly completed trails are a great place for new and experienced riders to spin their wheels.

“They’re a really nice community-sized mountain bike system,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call (907) 257-4274.

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