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Outdoors Jackrabbit Trails at Lake Chatuge drawing bikers and hikers

The Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails are the North Carolina National Forest’s newest mecca for mountain bikers and hikers.

Tracing the edges of Lake Chatuge peninsulas, this trail system features 14 miles of trail and offers nearby camping at Jackrabbit Mountain Campground. People travel from Asheville, Atlanta and beyond to experience this biking and hiking hot spot in the Nantahala National Forest.

In an average month, during Spring through Fall, more than 1,000 hikers and bikers visit the 14-mile-loop trail system located in the Tusquitee Ranger District and near Hayesville.

“These fast flowing, hard packed trails are built on a stacked loop design,” said Joanna Atkisson, who conceived the dream to create the trail system. “All eight trails are connected to a core trail, which gives the option of just traveling 3.1 miles or adding other trails to build more mileage.”

Atkisson became interested in creating a trail system while introducing mountain biking to children in Clay County School’s Pathways After School and Summer Program in 2001. “When I realized there were no bike trails in the county, that’s what sparked the idea to build a system,” said the president of Southern Appalachian Bicycle Association. SABA, the Forest Service, Clay County Community Revitalization Association and Mike Riter of Trail Design Specialists collaborated to create this recreation area. As the trail system took shape, trails received names, such as Yotee’s Run, Sneaking Creek and Burnt Tree Peninsula.

Today the trails are reaping praises from Jackrabbit trail users, with comments such as “smooth packed bliss,” “family friendly fun for all skill levels” and “best signage and maintained terrain.” Many online sites have awarded the trail system a five-out-offive- star rating.

Last October, Chain Buster Productions organized and kicked off the first bike race at Jackrabbit. More than 300 mountain bikers sped along the trails as they competed in 6-to-12-hour races.

During the event, many participants said the Jackrabbit Trails were among their favorite biking trails in the Southeast, according to Southern Appalachian Bike Association members who competed in the races.

On the horizon for additions at the trail system: a connector trail to Jackrabbit Mountain Campground; a paved parking lot and a permanent restroom. Currently, the trailhead offers a gravel parking lot, a kiosk, two picnic tables and two portable restrooms.

Mountain bikers and hikers not only make tracks to this trail system, they also make reservations at the Jackrabbit Mountain Campground, just a half-mile down the road. The recreation area offers 100 sites for tent and RV camping, along with showers, swimming, picnicking and sunbathing on a sandy beach by Lake Chatuge.

Other lake activities include fishing, riding jet skis and motorboats, paddling canoes or taking walks along the beach. Don’t miss the awesome mountain views while boating on the 13-mile long Lake Chatuge.

To reserve a site at Jackrabbit Campground, call (877) 444-6777 or TDD:877-833-6777 or go online at www.recreation.gov.


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