Prestonsburg is a relatively new hub for hikers, bikers and paddlers and there is plenty to explore. One of the things that makes Prestonsburg worth the drive is the Sugarcamp Mountain Trail system. About 20 total miles of trails begin on reclaimed mountaintop and descend into Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.
If you’re looking for a challenge, here’s why the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails will be your new favorite place to explore.
Sugarcamp Mountain Trails
The Sugarcamp trails officially opened to the public in July 2017. The project was more than three years in the making — a collaboration between a team of dedicated volunteers, the city of Prestonsburg and Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. It is a multi-use network that includes intermediate trails for bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
The project began as a labor of love, stemming from already existing, unofficial bike trails in the state park.
“We were just a bunch of guys out there riding,” said Josh Turner, chairman of the Sugarcamp Trail committee, and they decided to improve what was already there. “There’s 12 to 13 miles of single-track trail that we did ourselves.”
Prestonsburg Councilwoman and mountain biker Brittainy Branham, added, “It’s well worth it. You feel such a sense of accomplishment once you see these trails done and get to ride on them and see other people enjoy them. It’s totally worth it.”
What to Expect
The main trailhead is located at the top of Sugarcamp Mountain Road near Stonecrest Golf Course, and provides access to the upper portion of the trail system. It is a good starting place for bikers looking for an intense and challenging downhill track with technical areas to navigate. Arrowhead Point Trailhead is located in the state park near the campground and connects to the other trails, depending on how intense you want your trek to be.
The main trail artery is a six-mile multi-use track that connects to the infamous Jenny Wiley trail and is criss-crossed by various bike paths. It’s recommended that riders are at least up to an intermediate skill level to tackle most trails on the mountain, though there are several hiking and biking routes accessible to all ages and skill levels. The Sugarcamp Trails website provides a map of the trail system with links to detailed descriptions, technical features and current trail conditions. Be sure to do some research before you go so you’re prepared.
If you’re looking for an initiation into the trail system, begin with Reclamation Loop or the Briar Pit, both of which have easier inclines and easily navigable trail features including a jump, bridge and a berm. Both also connect to the multi-use trail, which is helpful when finding your way around and provides an outlet to other, more challenging trail options.
Fern Gully is the only way to reach the upper trail system if you began your journey at the lower trailhead. It’s a route that runs through a hollow which tends to hold water, making the trail surface slippery and causing you to trudge up the steep, climbing turns.
The Bluff’s location lends it a backwoods feel and has spectacular views of Dewey Lake. The single track trail requires bikers and hikers to navigate some demanding terrain and climb steep slopes. It contains several segments, the most well-known being the Rainbow Connection. It’s a popular spot for photos because of the Native American bent tree marker that you can walk or ride underneath.
It’s hard to say which Sugarcamp trail is the most complex, but 9 Toe is definitely one of the more difficult. It is accessed through the easier Switchback Trail, which makes for a good warm-up ride. With a labyrinth of rock gardens and tree roots around which to maneuver, it barely allows bikers to catch their breath before the next set of challenges.
The Escalator gets its name for the crazy zig-zag singletrack that contains a series of switchbacks down the mountainside. It’s the one that a lot of bikers talk about because it’s can be deceptive at times. The grassy trail goes down the side of Sugarcamp Mountain — but don’t get sidetracked by the incredible views. The turns on the trail can be tricky and will require some presence of mind.
Prestonsburg local Chace Caudill regularly makes videos of his Sugarcamp adventures and biking tips on his YouTube page. Tag along for the ride:
If all these trails are child’s play, then it’s time for a spirit journey on Feathered Indian. This all-downhill trail has earned a double black diamond difficulty rating because of the intricate, technical features that challenge even the most daring, experienced bikers. Feathered Indian begins at the top of the mountain right past the Sugarcamp Trailhead and immediately confronts bikers with rock features and abrupt drops. It continues downhill and eventually flattens out, but don’t let that fool you. There are still rock gardens to steer through and plenty of obstacles that require attention. The trail courses through one of the most scenic areas on the mountain, past caves and stunning rock cliffs. During this time of year, brave bikers get an extra payoff because native plants will be blooming.
The volunteer trail committee is dedicated to constantly checking trail conditions and working on each track to make it an even better experience for visitors.They recently received a grant to build a training course, so that novice bikers have the access to a practice space that will test their skills before hitting the complicated tracks that wait on the mountain.
- 361° Adventures will host the first of its 2018 Unbridled Adventure Race Series Saturday, May 5, 2018, on the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails. The series is a partnership between Kentucky State Parks and the Kentucky State Parks Foundation. For the past four years, the competitive adventure race offers cash and awards to participants who bike, hike and paddle their way through the Kentucky wilderness, with only a compass, map and instructions. Participants can be solo or compete in teams of up to four people. For more information, visit the event page here.
- Guided hikes with Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton. Meet the mayor at the Sugarcamp Mountain Trailhead for a guided hike each Sunday during the summer. Visit the Sugarcamp Trails Facebook page for announcements about 2018 dates and times.
- Sugarcamp Shuttle Service: On selected weekends during the summer and fall, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park offers shuttle services from their campground to the Sugarcamp Mountain Trailhead. A city truck transports the bikes up the mountain, and participants meet up with their wheels on the mountaintop. Again, check their Facebook page for announcements.