McCauley Mountain trail network keeps growing
By Jamie Organski
Eagle Bay resident Ben Cohen has ridden bikes off-road in Utah and Colorado, and now he ventures around his home territory at McCauley Mountain.
“It’s been a blast to see the growth and development of the system; can’t wait to see what else is in store,” Cohen said. “It’s near impossible to compare riding out West to our location, but the machine-built trails that McCauley offers are like nothing I’ve ridden on the East Coast.”
Cohen, who rides near his family’s businesses, Nutty Putty Miniature Golf and Benny’s Ice Cream, in Old Forge, is among a growing group mountain biking in a growing trail system in the western Adirondacks.
The network is getting a boost, thanks to a $250,000 state grant to expand the trail system at the McCauley Mountain Ski/Recreation Area in Old Forge.
The funds will be used to construct about seven machine-built and hand-built biking options, including climbing, downhill flow and single-track trails. Altogether, the plan is to build 6 to 8 miles of trails with a mixture of beginner, intermediate and expert terrain.
Webb Councilman Kurt Gardner said the project is a $320,000 overall investment. After the $250,000 grant awarded from New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the remainder will be contributed by the town, the Central Adirondack Association (CAA) and the Adirondack Foothills Trails Alliance (AFTA).
“We now have over 30 miles of trails for riding, and can appeal to a lot of different skill sets and abilities,” Gardner said. The system has come a long way since starting in 2018, he said. AFTA personnel have undertaken all of the mountain bike trail construction and maintenance in the past five years.
Chuck Schweitzer, of AFTA, said he expects to reach 35 miles of trails when the work is completed in the months ahead.
“This is a huge win for the community as a whole as it helps to maintain visitors here during the shoulder seasons and gives locals, including families and kids, another reason to get outdoors and enjoy the Adirondacks,” Gardner said. “None of this would have been possible without AFTA. They are the best thing since sliced bread, and have been phenomenal to work with. The amount of volunteer hours they put in is astounding.”
“We are now a mountain biking destination with plenty of miles of trails, and a lot of space for riders to explore the beauty of McCauley Mountain without the feeling of crowded and congested trails,” Gardner said, a hiker who walks the trails.
He said the trail system has attracted “tons of” people in the spring, summer, and fall, with increased numbers each year. “I can’t wait to see it get even better this year,” he said.
Locals are providing rave reviews. Old Forge resident, Devlin Hennessy, who operates Great Pines Resort alongside his wife, Britta, said he is a frequent mountain biker at McCauley Mountain, adding that his two young sons share in his passion for the sport.
“From the machine-built flow trails to the hand-built technical trials, I never find myself getting bored,” he said. “The skills parks give me and my 5- and 4-year-old boys a great opportunity to hone their skills.”
Town of Webb Publicity Director Mike Farmer said the state grant boosted the region’s off-road biking bonafides.
“Getting that grant was not only a transfusion of lifeblood for the mountain biking program here, but also affirmation that the well-placed efforts of people at all levels can move the needle for tourism,” Farmer said. “The grant put a turbo boost on our development here, and everyone, from the AFTA personnel and volunteers building the trails to town officials and local organizations supporting the program want to prove the value of that investment to the legislators who went to bat for us.”
McCauley Mountain is owned and operated by the Town of Webb. Farmer said town officials recognize the potential of McCauley to provide great recreational experiences not only for visitors, but also for local residents, including himself.
“The cross country trails are designed for easy, open cruising, mostly on double-track. Those trails loop and crisscross with several small hills, and can eat up 10 to 25 minutes. They are also great as an appetizer before feasting on McCauley. Across the road from the MTB parking lot, a medium workout climbing trail winds to the top of Big Mack’s Back open slope. There, the adventure of McCauley is served up with single-track forest trails and energizing downhill flow trails. Adrenaline junkies get their fix, and intermediate riders also have a trail to hone their skills.”-Mike Farmer, Town of Webb Publicity Director
Both flow trails lead back to the parking area, and both have slight uphill sections for automatic speed control, Farmer continued.
“They are well designed for excitement and control, with banked corners and bypass routes around jumps and obstacles,” Farmer said. “There are also trails winding from the cross country trails up and over Maple Ridge, and a flow trail leading down into the village. The kids’ skills park (adjacent to the MTB parking area) [allows] the next generation of McCauley bikers [to] find adventures in their own terrain park.”
Gardner said the grant money was released by the government in recent months. Webb has submitted letters to the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Conservation outlining that there isn’t a need for further permits and to show that the project will not disturb wetlands.
“We have a short trail-building window, but riders will be glad to know that construction will not interfere with their enjoyment of the trail system this season. I’m hopeful to be able to debut the new trails in time for the 3rd annual Adirondack Mountain Bike Festival,” Gardner said. The event is Sept. 23-24 in Old Forge.
Last year, AFTA took the lead in building a new skills course located near the parking lot of the trail system and finished Road Trip, a 3-mile trail that goes all the way around the mountain.
“The Road Trip trail is a full-on experience in itself,” Farmer said. “It’s 2.5 miles of backcountry touring, exploring all of McCauley’s multi-faceted character. The trail completely encircles McCauley’s mass, offering fun terrain and spectacular views few have ever seen. I think it’s best enjoyed from the top of Mac’s Back, up near McCauley’s summit from the west side, and then circling down the east side to the Challenger and Rambler trails area to finish at the base of chairlift. It feels like one has been transported back 100 years in the Adirondack wilderness.”
Two new trails were also completed last year, a downhill single track called Louie Louie, and a machine-built trail called Delta House. Both are about a mile in length and are suitable for intermediate to advanced level riders, Schweitzer said. As far as noteworthy maintenance and repair work, Schweitzer said AFTA resurfaced a couple machine-built flow trails built a few years ago.
Farmer credited AFTA volunteers with creating a core of professionally built trails for every skill and interest level.
“The cross country trails were easily improved to accommodate double tracks, and AFTA volunteers cleared many single-track connectors there,” Farmer said. “Up on McCauley Mountain, they built about three miles of single-track trails, and have since added over 15 miles of flow trails, climbing trails, and backcountry touring trails. They then connected to the Maple Ridge trails, creating great climbing trails, fun touring trails, and exciting flow trails there. Every few months, there is something new adding dimension to McCauley’s MTB network.”
Dan Kiefer-Bach, community development specialist for the nonprofit LivingADK, said the grant will help sustain tourism in an area “increasingly grappling with the effects of shorter winters and longer mud-seasons.”
“I don’t think that too many people would disagree that there is underutilized potential at McCauley Mountain and this just means we can better tap into it,” he said. “We immediately become more attractive to a new type of visitor and resident that highly values outdoor adventure.”