Coastal Carolina Biking
Located in the sandhills area of the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina is a moderately strenuous mountain bike ride that is a favorite of serious cyclists. Since it is nearly 40 miles long, you might begin to think that you have crossed several time zones before you finally return, bedraggled, to your waiting vehicle. Technically challenging in sections, the trail blasts straight through sand pits that will cause your rear wheel to fishtail if you have not geared down. Catching air on the numerous whoop-de-doos is another of the many perks that draw the local hammerheads.
Wambaw Cycle Trail is actually two loops of single-track trail that can be ridden separately for shorter, easier rides. The eastern loop, approximately 12 miles long, crosses under power utility towers and then plunges through a dense pine forest, offering cyclists a fun and easy ride. The western loop meanders for about 24 miles through deciduous stands of oak, dogwood, and hickory as well as through conifer stands of loblolly and pond pine. It also skirts the shores of Round Pond, a haven for water birds and other water-loving creatures.
Mountain bikers should thank the Family Riders, a local motorcycle club that has worked with the Forest Service for the benefit of this trail for more than 20 years. Cheron Ferland, volunteer coordinator of the Francis Marion National Forest, says that this group donates hundreds of man-hours and dollars each year to maintain and improve Wambaw Cycle Trail. Local mountain bike clubs are beginning to join their efforts and, together, the groups keep the trail in excellent condition. Though motorized and non-motorized bikes do coexist harmoniously on the trail, some mountain biker's ears are a bit sensitive to the noise created by their fueled brethren. On pretty, warm weather weekends, you might want to surrender this trail to the motorcyclists and save this otherwise excellent ride for a weekday.
General location: This trail is located within the Francis Marion National Forest, about 40 miles north of Charleston and about 8 miles northwest of McClellanville. See MAP.
Elevation change: There is no appreciable change in elevation.
Season: This loop is open to mountain bikes year-round. Summers are hot and muggy; the cooler months of fall and winter are more pleasant for mountain biking. Hunting is permitted at certain times of the year in the forest, so check with the Wambaw District ranger station for specific dates. Since the opening day of hunting season is generally a zoo, you might consider planning your ride for another day.
Services: All services are available in Charleston. The ranger station can provide you with a list of campgrounds located within the forest and their amenities.
Hazards: There are poisonous snakes in the forest, but they are not often spotted on this heavily-used trail. During the hunting season, you should wear bright, unnatural colors. Mosquitoes, ticks, and red bugs are always happy to see you keep them at bay with an ample dousing of bug dope on any exposed skin.
Rescue index: The rescue index is fairly good since the trail is heavily used. Help is available in nearby McClellanville and also in Charleston.
Land status: National forest.
Maps: The Francis Marion National Forest map is available from the ranger station for a couple of bucks. The trail is also detailed on three USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles: Honey Hill, Shulerville, and Ocean Bay.
Finding the trail: From Awendaw (south of McClellanville), drive west on SC 133S for approximately 3.5 miles to the intersection with SC 98S. Drive for about 6 miles to the Round Pond trailhead, which will be on the left. Park in the large parking area.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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