The first new Tiger Mountain trail open to mountain bikers in two decades has been announced by Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, which continues to make advocacy gains for mtbers in the Puget Sound region.
The route, a connector between the East Summit fire road and the popular Preston Railroad Grade trail, will open to mountain bikers “possibly by spring,” the Alliance announced on its Web site:
The re-route will provide mountain bikers with additional mileage, 500′ more vertical, and a single-track connection from the actual summit of East Tiger to the west (upper) end of the Preston RR Grade Trail.
The trail opening represents a huge stride forward for mountain biking on Tiger, the Seattle area’s most popular classic cross-country riding area. Only three trails are officially open to mountain bikers — Preston, Iverson and Northwest Timber. Despite year-round trail maintenance, they suffer from over-riding due to lack of enough overall trail access to carry demand.
The last trail opened to mtbers was NW Timber, in the early 1990s. [We’re going from memory here; if we’re mistaken please give a shout.]
“If all goes well, there’s even more to come,” said Glenn Glover, Evergreen’s executive director.
The addition of the new trail sets up a challenging loop — riding the fire road up from the east summit parking lot off Highway 18, taking the connector down to near the trailhead onto Preston and then completing the Preston-Northwest Timber Trail loop back to the parking lot. Riders will reach 3000 feet elevation (an additional 500 feet) and add about a mile of singletrack to their ride.
Parts of the existing East Tiger Mountain Trail connector, a short but steep and technical descent, will be rerouted in sections to ameliorate erosion and improve rideability. The rest of the existing trail will remain closed to bikes.
The new stretch is a testament to Evergreen’s outreach efforts to trail organizations and land-management agencies, in this case the state Department of Natural Resources and Washington Trails Association (WTA). Opposition to mountain biking from one hiking group, the Issaquah Alps, has kept new trails from being added for years. But management agencies are increasingly considering mountain biking to be part of any trail-use equation.
There’s also growing political support to make Issaquah a mountain-biking destination akin to Whistler, B.C. and Oakridge, OR. The proximity of Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park and Grand Ridge have focused regional attention on Issaquah’s mountain-biking prowess.
Evergreen, as part of the agreement, will maintain the new connector as well as step up its stewardship of Preston, one of the best downhill runs around but subject to severe erosion. The Alliance will hold a series of winter work parties starting Nov. 7. DNR is supplying an excavator and $7,000 worth of materials towards the effort, Glover said.
Further enhancements may be in the offing on Tiger, including trail connectors between Preston and Northwest Timber, alleviating the need to ride fire road sections. Such a connector — informally referred to as the Silent Swamp reroute — would create a monster singletrack ride from the East Summit all the way back to the parking lot via Preston and NWTT.
A project to install two bridges and connector trails in the Silent Swamp corridor — a lush but underused hiking trail over the years — has won rave reviews, Glover said: “If WWRP (Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program) funding gets approved, this will be a funded project. We’re tremendously excited about the possibilities.”