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Dont lose Bike Trails in the Southern Sierras!

posted Nov 21, 2015, 6:17 PM by Kern River Mountain Bike Association


In the Sequoia National Forest, there are recommendations for 7 potential additions to 2 existing wilderness areas:    

  • 2 potential additions to the west side of the Domeland Wilderness  

  • 1 potential addition to the north side (Fish Creek area) of the Domeland Wilderness  

  • 4 potential additions to the western and southern sides of the South Sierra Wilderness

This would result in the loss of several mountain biking opportunities.

South Sierra Wilderness Western Addition

This area has become very popular with mountain bikers from the Eastern Sierra, Big Bear, Kern River Valley and Central Valley, etc.  It provides a rare opportunity to ride mountain bikes on alpine singletrack above the heat of the summer.

This Wilderness Addition would close the recently cleared and reopened Bitter Creek Trail (34E03) to mountain bikes near the popular Kennedy Meadows area.  The changes would move the Wilderness Boundary only a very small distance up to the paved Sherman Pass Road (22S05), which seems hardly worth the hassle and expense.

Dropping 1500 ft+ from Rodeo Flat, Bitter Creek Trail is one of the only non-motorized options in the entire region, and is a very suitable and sustainable mountain bike trail.  It can be biked as an ‘out and back,’ or be ridden as a loop (or shuttled) with Sherman Pass Road.  It is also the closest legal singletrack to the Eastern Sierra in this region.  With a significant increase in the number of mountain bikers riding this trail this year, we can't lose this precious trail!

The proposed addition also moves the boundary to within 70 feet of the Jackass National Scenic Trail (35313), which leaves very little room for re-routes or improvements to this very popular motorized trail.  It also closes off the opportunity to loop this trail with the lower Hooker Meadow Trail (35E05), which would be lost with the new Wilderness addition. (A short connector would make a great loop here. Also Stewards of the Sequoia is proposing to move back the existing Wilderness boundary, to bring back the original loop).  Hooker Meadow Trail also currently makes a beautiful ‘out and back’ ride in the midst of a giant stand of Aspen trees. Mountain bikers would lose this ride.

To the north, the new Wilderness would include the non-motorized trail through Broder Meadow.  It links to the Jackass Peak Trail and Granite-Broder Trail, a popular mountain bike and moto loop.

Fish Creek Wilderness Addition

The Fish Creek Wilderness Addition does not seem to affect any trails directly, but it would extend Wilderness right up to Sherman Pass Road (22S05) across from the Bitter Creek.  This may further encourage the USFS to extend the Wilderness across Bitter Creek on the north side of Sherman Pass Road, which would result in the loss of the Bitter Creek ride.

Domelands Wilderness Addition

The area and trails affected by the Domeland Wilderness Addition are on the southern Kern Plateau, and link to the Cannell Trail IMBA Epic.  Directly ‘above’ Kernville, this area is seeing a massive increase in mountain bike use.  This land offers a rare and increasingly limited area for epic cross-country riding and bikepacking at higher elevations.  

The Domelands Wilderness Addition extends the existing Wilderness right up to the motorized Sirretta Trail (34E12). This trail is in mountainous terrain and climbs to over 9500 feet in elevation. It is the main trail section of a large alpine backcountry loop that connects to Cannell Meadow Trail.  It currently is being considered for a re-route (with sustainable grades), which would improve the mountain biking quality. However the Wilderness proposal seeks to move the boundary to within feet of this trail, which would eliminate most of the possible re-route area.  There is simply no reason to move the Wilderness boundary so close to this important trail.  

Just south near Taylor Meadow, there is another excellent area for various mountain biking options. The proposed Wilderness addition would completely eliminate the Big Meadow Trail (34E15) to mountain bikes. Currently, only a small section of the trail is in the Domeland Wilderness.  Mountain bikers have been wanting to propose a contouring re-route that would skirt the edge of the existing Wilderness and connect to the other trails in the area.  All mountain bikers would lose this amazing opportunity with the new Wilderness addition.

This same section of proposed Wilderness, also extends up to Upper Dry Lake Trail (34E17), leaving no room for re-routes or changes to the trail in the future.  This excellent trail creates an important link in several mountain bike loop options.

Another major problem with this addition is that it moves the Wilderness Boundary down the ridge on the Woodpecker Trail (34E08). Currently mountain bikers can ride up to the existing Domelands Wilderness Boundary and enjoy the views of Domelands at the base of Church Dome.  It is a unique ‘out and back’ ride that links to the other trails in the area. The new Wilderness Proposal would forever take this experience away from mountain bikers.

South Sierra Wilderness Eastern Addition

The proposed section of Wilderness near Haiwee Pass eliminates a huge section of the Southern and Eastern Sierra’s mountain bike potential. In a time when recreation is increasing, the opportunity for new trails should not be destroyed in such a huge area of higher elevation land.  Mountain bikers should not be limited to riding the desert floor in the southern Eastern Sierra.  There is excellent potential for high quality mountain bike rides in the area, and they should be proposed.

Additional thoughts on Wilderness:

  • We believe that Wilderness is an outdated solution for land management as it completely restricts the fastest growing user group on public land, mountain biking.  In a time where mountain biking is growing exponentially in the Sequoia National Forest, this makes no sense and concentrates bikers on the highest use trails and forces them into hot, dry, lower elevation climates.

  • The Sequoia NF’s tag line is “The Land of Many Uses,” yet 41% of the Sequoia NF ALREADY is Wilderness. (322,314 acres of Wilderness in the 772,231 acre Sequoia National Forest). Only 1.4% of Sequoia NF visitors even enter Wilderness lands according to the Sequoia NVUM.   The 99% of Forest visitors would be limited to even less land and recreational opportunities.  (See Stewards of the Sequoia for more detail.)

  • Wilderness destroys all future options for new and properly designed trails.  “Cherry Stemming” does not work in this area; burnt forest , trees, steep terrain, flash flooding are common here, and trails often need major re-routes and improvements to be passable.  Moving Wilderness boundaries so close to existing trails shows a misunderstanding of how land and trails change, and how modern trail building has evolved.

  • Since wilderness destroys and closes off recreational opportunity for future generations, it should be retracted in places where it is inappropriately designated. (Stewards of the Sequoia is proposing 3 boundary adjustments that would restore loops.)