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The Wild Oak Trail is a 25.6 mile trail located within the North River Ranger District of the George Washington National Forest. This National Recreation Trail is very popular for various recreational activities, including: hiking, biking, horseback riding, and trail running. Due to the steep and rugged nature of the trail most trail users only access a portion of the trail at a time. Some brave souls do backpack the entire loop at once but with over 8,000 feet of climbing it is no easy feat. Some truly crazy folks run the entire loop in one day while the craziest turn the trail into an Ultra-distance run by completing four laps for a 100 mile run!
The Trail parking lot is near the edge of the George Washington National Forest, very near Stokesville. The trail provides phenomenal viewpoints looking out at the vast George Washington National Forest. The beauty of this trail is that it takes you from the “front range” mountains that border the Shenandoah Valley all the way into the depths of the back country, specifically, Little and Big Bald Knobs. Over the course of the trail a trail user goes through maintained wildlife clearings, Forest administrative roads, remote roadless areas, and the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness.
Two of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition Grants involved work on the Wild Oak Trail. The first was to create an all weather crossing as the trail drops down Horse Trough Hollow and crosses Forest Road 95. Previously, trail users were forced into fording the North River which is often knee deep or higher, very wide and very cold. The new spur trail depicted in an earlier (Camp Todd) post allows users to choose whether or not they want to Ford the North River or use the spur trail combined with a bridge over the North River on Forest Road 95.
The second project involved fixing a switchback on the west side of the North River Suspension Bridge. The Forest Service did a bit of work to the area several years back but the location under a steep cliff is a recipe for erosion and requires a substantial amount of work to build a sustainable trail. The below pictures depict the work completed by Trail Dynamics to fix the switchback and the area above the switchback which was experiencing chronic drainage problems.

Rehabilitated tread above the switchback, at the top of the photo is the old location of the stone steps depicted below.

Christian Canary of the U.S. Forest Service, Thomas Jenkins of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, Synthia Waymack from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Ethan Jenkins the next generation of trail users! They are all standing at the new and improved switchback on the Wild Oak Trail

Another view of the rehabilitated Switchback. As you can see from pictures below, the switchback was previously unridable for trail users on bikes and experienced chronic shortcutting by trail users on foot.

Looking down the trail with the switchback in the distance. This rehabilitated section of trail was regraded and the precarious stone steps were removed. This area should no longer experience the erosion problems that it once had. This is a result of the large rock armored rolling grade dip that was placed above this section to prevent an especially active underground spring from bypassing an existing culvert, subsequently sending water down the trail bed.

Rock steps with evident erosion before the regrading and installation of armored grade reversal to address this problem.

Old trail bed that was experiencing terrible erosion from the spring above. In the background you can see the stone steps and the erosion to their right where water was getting onto the trail.

Old Switchback experienced chronic shortcutting and was unridable for cyclists. The new switchback involved the construction of a large rock retaining wall to support a much larger platform for the turn.

Looking down the stone steps at the eroded trail bed before any work was completed

U.S. Forest Service staff checking out the condition of the trail prior to the SVBC grant work

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