It’s been a while since we’ve done much mountain biking, but today we decided it was a good day for a change of pace from the road. We dusted off the knobby-tired bikes and headed down to the Enterprise South Nature Park in Chattanooga to explore some of the mountain bike trails.
But first, a little history…
In the early 1940’s the Army Corps of Engineers built the original facilities for the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant. The plant was originally built to support World War II military efforts, and operated as a TNT manufacturing facility through 1977 – producing up to 30 million pounds of TNT per month during peak production years in the 1960’s.
Within the past decade, the state of Tennessee and Hamilton County turned the site into a combination of industrial property and the 2800-acre Enterprise South Nature Park, which opened to the public in 2010. The Park is adjacent to the recently opened state-of-the-art Volkswagon manufacturing facility. Along with bringing several thousand jobs to the area, the VW plant has achieved the world’s first LEED-Platinum green building certification for an automotive plant, making them a great environmentally responsible partner for the public access parklands.
Within the 2800-acre Nature Park is an extensive multi-use trail system – from pedestrian hiking paths, to both paved bike routes and single-track mountain biking trails – in a wide range of difficulty levels. There are also plans to include equestrian trails into the mix.
One of the more fascinating things to see as you ride the trails are the collection of abandoned munitions “bunkers”, big caverns with concrete walls with huge steel doors, many of them built into hillsides. I think there are close to 100 of them, some locked and sealed, but we came across at least one that was open. A little creepy, in an interesting way. Mark’s theory is that most of the trail system evolved from the bunker access roads and pathways. Definitely possible.
We rode two of the intermediate/advanced mountain biking loops – the TNT Trail and the Log-Rhythm Trail – and Mark had some fun playing on the bridge course. The trails are wonderfully maintained, and even “enhanced” in places. There are a couple of log and bridge courses, along with a number of fun (engineered) “whoop-y” sections of the hillside trail (I am sure that is a technical mountain biking term). Enough rocks and climbing to make you work, and some great descents. Yeah, fun. And a nice reminder that mountain biking uses a very different skill set of increased agility, weight-shift and balance than road biking. Actually, it often reminds me of skiing, especially through the tighter turns in the trees.
We are definitely going to do this again… And if you are in the area, it is definitely a place worth visiting – biking, hiking or however you choose to explore.