Next up on our cross-continental tour of bike park royalty is the Southeast region. Despite a relatively short mountain bike park history, the lower right corner of the United States is seeing rapid growth in the sport of downhill mountain biking. In fact, two of the last three USA Cycling downhill national championships were hosted in the Southeast. There's no shortage of downhill in the Southeast, as the Appalachians, the longest mountain range east of the Mississippi River, form the region's western border.
For the sake of this review, we crossed north of the Mason Dixon line slightly to include Seven Springs in the Pittsburgh area. The reason was that we felt Western Pennsylvania had a greater geographic connection and proximity to resorts in the Southeast than those in the Northeast. Here are our 5 top mountain bike parks for the Dirty South(east).
RELATED: THE TOP 5 BIKE PARKS IN THE NORTHEAST
5. Timberline Four Season Resort, West Virginia
The true 'mom and pop shop' of the group, Timberline has been carving out a niche of core downhill riders for years. One creaky double lift services over 20 trails, most of them downhill in this hidden gem of loam-filled singletrack. The slow lift and relatively non-existent base area (a small ski area lodge with a bike work stand) keeps crowds low and trails empty. The 1000-plus feet of vertical is enough to get the blood pumping, and manmade features provide an additional challenge for the willing. If downhill isn't your thing, Timberline is located in the Canaan Valley, home to over 100 miles of cross country terrain. In true local mountain form, Timberline is only open on weekends and holidays, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Day Pass: $25
4. Wisp Mountain Bike Park, Maryland
Dubbed, "the mountain with a little bit of everything" by mtbr.com, Maryland's Wisp Mountain is one slow lift away from the podium in the Southeast rankings. The area boasts 22 runs, but in actuality has 5 top area trails that split into several different connectors that allow for fistfuls of trail combinations over 700 vertical feet. Expect tight, rocky singletrack on most runs, with a few freeride trails like Edgewood Park offering various jump combination lines and wooden features. There is also a dual slalom course for those looking to hone their skills, and plenty of easy to intermediate terrain for developing a base, including a new beginner's downhill run for 2013.
Day Pass: $39
3. Seven Springs Bike Park, Pennsylvania
Just an hour from Pittsburgh, Seven Springs Bike Park is a hotbed for downhill riders looking for airtime. Despite being an older riding spot, the Pennsylvania ski area refocused its energy to downhill in 2008, utilizing 800 feet of vertical accessed by a high speed lift. Much of the terrain is geared for the beginner to advanced rider, but experts can enjoy the flowy nature of these hardpack trails at speed. Some of the more technical trails feature rock gardens and moderate drops and dump riders out at the Showtime Jumps—Seven Springs' version of an under-the-lift 'Hollywood' jump line. The area also has a fun array of manmade ladder bridges, drops and boxes to spice up your line. If you're trying to make a weekend out of it, hit the Rib & Wing Festival in the last weekend of July.
Day Pass (weekday/weekend): $32/$37
2. Beech Mountain Bike Park, North Carolina
It's a big year for North Carolina's Beech Mountain. Despite supporting mountain bikers for close to 20 years and hosting two national downhill championships, Beech officially opens it doors in 2013—providing lift accessed terrain for the first time. Beech's high-speed quad shuttles riders to the top of six brand new downhill trails, but expect more to appear throughout the season, as the area is in the first of three expansion phases. Also off the lift is Emerald Outback—10 miles of intermediate and advanced trails at nearly 5,400 feet of elevation. Ride the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains on fire roads and flowy single and double-track, taking in 100-mile views. More of a cross-country location, Emerald Outback offers 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss, and is free to those that skip the lift. Official Grand Opening for Beech Mountain is on July 19 at the annual Bikes, Brews, and Views festival.
Day Pass: $30
1. Snowshoe Mountain Bike Park, West Virginia
Owned by the same company as Whistler Blackcomb, West Virginia's Snowshoe Mountain has bike park pedigree on its side. And the area doesn't disappoint, with 40 trails over 1,500 feet of vertical, the park is one of the largest in the East. Considered one of the top seven parks in the U.S. by Men's Journal, Snowshoe has two high-speed quad lifts for quick access to downhill trails ranging from berm and jump-filled expert runs to machine-groomed beginner. Expect more beginner and intermediate terrain to be added throughout the 2013 season. For the hardened rider, Snowshoe has its own race series, the Snowshoe Gravity Series, as well as the Chomolungma Challenge—a 30-lap endurance downhill race that tops 30,000 vertical feet. Also, Sunday is for the ladies, as all women ride free every Sunday throughout the season.
Day Pass: $40