September 27th saw our final volunteer push to open up the last bit of the Skyline Trail. We all worked for 3 hours, and then just about 50 people witnessed as Gary Keller (BBVTF) and Jeanette Granger (USFS) cut the dual ribbons, marking 2 years and countless hours of work to get this wonderful trail […]Read More
How long is Skyline? A little over 15 miles; we’ve GPS’d the route and walked a hand wheel over the entire thing, and the GPS actually shortens the real route by almost a mile because of all the twists and turns.
Is Skyline finished? As of 9/27/2014, the trail is complete and 100% usable. However, there are still sections that require some fine tuning and maintenance.
How was Skyline built? Upper and Western Skyline was rough cut by machines with finishing by volunteer hand crews. The 2 1/2 miles of Eastern Skyline was built by a paid hand crew with finishing by volunteers.
What is a machine rough cut? The builder of upper Skyline, Bellfree, was contracted to provide only this initial rough cut of the trail construction. When the excavators from Bellfree first finish a section, it is rough, loose, and difficult to traverse. The machines have gone over the trail twice, and a motorcycle with a weighted trailer has established an initial travel line. As people start to ride and hike upon it, the trail begins to pack down and we can see the formation of narrower lines within the 4-5 foot machine path. Once the lines have been a little established, we’ve got the opportunity to come back through each section with hand crews and finish the trail.
Hand crews transform the trail from “ridable” into “fun”. Until hand crews come through each section; narrowing the trail, adjusting corners and turns, reinforcing water drains, and in general cleaning it up; the trail will not be finished. So, while it’s possible to ride or hike the opened sections of the Skyline Trail right now, it’s far from complete and you should adjust your expectations accordingly.
How does moisture and use help the trail? Another area of trail building to consider is the necessity of moisture for proper trail compaction. While we’re getting more compaction on each segment of the Skyline Trail, it’s easy to tell a difference between the recently completed sections and the older sections. The first sections had all winter to sit under a light bed of snow, and our spring travels upon it helped to compact the trail. Our newer sections desperately need water and use to firmly solidify into a trail.
Compounding this moisture and compaction dilemma is the slippery and unstable decomposed granite that we’ve unearthed in several recent trail sections. Until we get this moisture, the new sections of trail will be loose and often difficult to ride.
What were the design limitations? Unlike a lot of other trails, we have had some very specific limitations as we build the Skyline Trail. We’re building within a firebreak that ranges from 20-300 feet wide. Years ago, after the Old Fire, the Forest Service came through and cleared this area of land south of 2N10 as a means to halt any future fire progress. By staying within this firebreak, the Skyline Trail was able to bypass quite a few environmental considerations that new trails normally must overcome. On one side of this firebreak is the road 2N10, and on the other side is virgin forest, untouched by the large masticating machines that created the firebreak.
What this means for us is that we’ve got a narrow ribbon of land in which to design a trail. If we go too far in one direction, we dip into the virgin forest and must be able to resolutely defend this action with the Forest Service as absolutely necessary. If we go too far in the other direction, we are right next to the road 2N10, which significantly detracts from the wilderness and secluded feeling that trails are designed to provide.
As such, much of the path of Skyline was chosen before we started. We can’t contour along the land as much as we would like in many places, and instead are forced to travel up and down the many short, tough hills of the ridgeline. The “glass half empty” part about this is that there are often turns and switchbacks that can potentially disturb the flow of a mountain biking trail. The “glass half full” tells us that the views from the top of the ridgeline (it is called Skyline…) are incredible, and that because of this firebreak and environmental exclusions, we’re actually building this trail instead of waiting for the years of paperwork that a project like this traditionally requires. For hikers, another added bonus is that we’ve found that this up and down landscape slows down the overall speed of a mountain bike, which greatly reduces the likelihood of user conflict. Skyline is not a fire road climb and singletrack descent; it’s a cross country ride on a high mountain ridge with few sustained up or downhill grades.
We’ve also worked hard to keep the overall grade of the trail at a low, 7-8% grade. This low grade will help in overall erosion control and aid in making most of the trail usable for riders of all fitness levels. Skyline is designed to be ridden in both directions, so that twisty turn that seems unnecessary on the downhill may be your saving grace on the return trip as it becomes an uphill climb. Of course, right now even slight grades are difficult when the terrain is loose, uncompacted, and full of decomposed granite. Time, moisture, compaction and hand work will address these issues and make the entire trail both ridable and fun.
Who designed the trail? Once inside the firebreak, the design of the Skyline Trail has had quite a few different contributors. Siri Eggebraten and Randall Putz were the initial driving force behind making things happen behind the scenes and getting IMBA on board. IMBA went through and flagged trees, indicating a general route for the trail. Once this was done, several members of the Trails Foundation board of directors (and friends) walked the line and placed flags along a proposed route.
As we started to firm things up, three different people worked the trail. Our goal has been to design a fun, multi-use trail, with a lot of variety and a little something for everyone, that takes full advantage of the terrain and views of the Skyline Ridge. Driz Cook (Trails Foundation volunteer/board member/mountain biker) walked and scouted the firebreak extensively, and using the initial proposed route as a base, reworked the trail line with a solid string of pin flags. Jeanette Granger, our US Forest Service liaison, walked the line next and adjusted the trail route based upon her 23 years of experience building trails with the Forest Service. The final step of upper Skyline involved Hans Kiefer, trail builder and owner of Bellfree Contractors, reviewing the line and making adjustments based upon his experience. Western Skyline was built inhouse with both machine and volunteer labor from the Trails Foundation.
Eastern Skyline was the brainchild of USFS employee Dave Kotlarski, who designed the 2 1/2 mile section and oversaw the handcrews. Gavin Burke (Southern California Mountains Foundation) and Jeanette Granger (USFS) aided greatly in this section.
While there is always room for reinterpretation of the landscape after the trail has been cut, a large amount of time was spent, by individuals with a wide variety of experience, in the design of the Skyline Trail.
How can I help? Join the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation. Your money helps. Pay attention to our facebook page and this website for Skyline Build Days. Without volunteer labor this trail won’t ever be finished…
Where can I get more information? Scroll down to the bottom of this page and you can see all the posts we’ve made over the past couple of years on the Skyline Trail. Tons of information if you dig down deep.
After more than 2 years of work, we’re within sight of finally finishing the Skyline Trail! Please come join us and help finish off this trail: September 10: Evening session 5-6:30pm September 13: Morning session 9am-noon September 24: Evening session 5-6:30pm September 27: Morning session 9am-noon. These are your last chances to be involved in […]Read More
To date in 2014, the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation has invested 250 hours of volunteer labor into the trails of Big Bear. This does not include any of our administrative time, meetings, or National Trails Day (which was a huge chunk all by itself). We’re getting there. If you haven’t joined us yet this […]Read More
Two new miles of singletrack have officially been added to Big Bear’s South Shore trail system. Eastern Skyline, dubbed the Plumber’s Section because of an older non-system trail originally in the vicinity, offers a connection between Upper Skyline and Fern Trail that keeps you off Forest Road 2N10. Right now the trail is rough, with […]Read More
Here’s the official update on Skyline Trail, as of 11/17/2013: The Trails Foundation rented a mini-excavator for a week and rough cut 8/10 of a mile of fresh trail. Similar to the process on Upper Skyline, this machine rough cut still needs a good amount of hand work and compaction to be ready for use. […]Read More Skyline, South Shore Trail System
“Do you know what this is?” asked Driz Cook, as he held up in his hand something that looked like the axe Jack Nicholson wielded in The Shining. Standing in the parking lot of a campground in the hills above Big Bear Lake in late July, my friend Vince and I confessed we had no […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
Part of our South Shore project is getting good signage for all the trails on the South Shore. Last fall we recruited some local advocates and got them started. The first results are here: “I just wanted to give everyone an quick update on the signs project. Team Big Bear, Bike for Bender and the […]Read More
Hans and Jorge, master operators from Bellfree Construction, are back up on the Skyline Trail working on the section from Snow Point out to Grandview Point. We’re optimistic that by the end of May, there will be another large chunk of Skyline ready to a)finish by hand tool and then b)enjoy. Check out the pictures, […]Read More Skyline
The Trails Foundation had its monthly board meeting last night, and we went over the general progression of steps for this next spring and summer in regards to South Shore and Skyline. Here are the next steps: General Information: if you haven’t already, make sure you’ve read all of the information on this page. Talk […]Read More Skyline, South Shore Trail System, trail work, volunteer
We’re on the way to finalizing the next steps for the South Shore Trail Network, so all of our data is trying to make its way to a central location. If you’re curious, here’s what we have: 1. Skyline Decision Memo: this is the signed agreement with the Forest Service that details what Skyline is […]Read More forest service, Skyline
Finally. A bit of snow. While that’s welcome precipitation for the local Big Bear economy, it’s also a welcome relief for the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation. Snow means a brief respite from the large amounts of work that have been taking place up on Skyline and the South Shore Trail System. This winter season […]Read More Skyline, South Shore Trail System, trail work, volunteer
Last Build Day of 2012 – Come help us build the next section of the Skyline Trail! Weather permitting, this will be the last build day of 2012, and your chance to both see what our mechanized builders have done and put the finishing touches on their work. Build now and boast later…you were part […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
Mechanized Building is Underway! We’ve now got 4 days of building Skyline with Bellfree under our belts. Despite the snow and super cold temperatures from last weekend they were up here getting started, and now that things are melting it’s going even faster. Check out this video, and then get ready for the final 2012 […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
We had seven builders from the Professional Trail Builders Association respond to our bid request for the Skyline Trail. After putting everything into a confusing spreadsheet, talking to references, and confirming with board members, Hans at Bellfree Contractors was asked to come up and help us build a flowy, sinewy, undulating and fun trail for […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
While we’re off to a great start in building the Skyline Trail, the miles are going to pile up and eventually the volunteers will get tired. This is when the machines come into the picture. In an ideal world we would have professional skilled machine operators bring their dozers in and rough cut a trail, […]Read More grant money, Skyline, trail work, volunteer
Come help us build the next section of the Skyline Trail! Have fun in the forest with great people while making a difference in the world. What else could you want? No experience necessary. Check out this video if you need more convincing. RSVP’s are required. When: Sunday, October 21, 2012t. Crews start […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
Come help us build the next section of the Skyline Trail! Have fun in the forest with great people while making a difference in the world. What else could you want? No experience necessary. Check out this video if you need more convincing. RSVP’s are required. When: Sunday, October 18th, 4-6pm. Quick and […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
Despite the massive rain we’ve had in Big Bear over the last month, we’ve been in a drought; a trail building drought. The skies are opening up finally, and Sunday September 23rd will bring down the first official shovels as we hit the ground up on Skyline Corner. Come join us as we work on […]Read More Skyline, trail work, volunteer
On Tuesday, September 11th the Trails Foundation and special guests took over the upstairs of Captain’s Anchorage. Dinner, drinks, and the promise of Big Bear trail news brought together a key group of influential local trail users. Our goal: listen to their feedback and get them involved in the challenging trail based projects headed towards […]Read More city of big bear lake, forest service, grant money, IMBA, newsletter, Skyline, trail work, volunteer
Come on, come all, and help us get this thing started. It’s turned into a complete rethinking of the South Shore Trail System, and, fortunately, we have IMBA’s help! Join us on Saturday, July 14th at 1pm to get your hands dirty, learn something about trail building, and rework the worked out sections of the […]Read More
Foundation kicks off new trail & premieres documentary The Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation will celebrate the kickoff of construction on the Skyline Trail and premiere the award-winning documentary Pedal-Driven on Saturday, June 2, 2012. Skyline Trail, the first new trail in the Big Bear Lake area in almost 2 decades, is a 15 mile […]Read More fundraisers, Skyline
Join us for the Skyline Trail Kick-Off Celebration featuring the Inland Empire Premiere of Pedal Driven. download the flyer hereRead More
As many of you are aware the BBVTF has been working very hard to establish a single track trail that will roughly parallel 2N10. Lots of time and effort, that often goes un-noticed has gone into this effort. We wanted to update you on this work so you know progress continues. A public hearing […]Read More forest service, Skyline
On Saturday, August 20, 2011, a group of over 30 people attended the public meeting held by the US Forest Service for the proposed Skyline Trail. A general description of the project was provided by Deputy District Ranger Omero Torres, along with a short walking tour of existing and new trail sections under consideration for […]Read More forest service, Skyline