Riders praise Mirror Lake singletrack trails

Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 15:24
  • Cyclists explore the Mirror Lake singletrack on July 8, 2017. The trail — the first of its kind in Chugiak-Eagle River — opened to riders in June. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Star photo by Kirsten Swann Cyclists explore the Mirror Lake singletrack on July 8, 2017. The trail — the first of its kind in Chugiak-Eagle River — opened to riders in June.
  • A map of the new Mirror Lake singletrack on display at the trailhead on July 8, 2017. The trail — the first of its kind in Chugiak-Eagle River — opened to riders in June. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

Mirror Lake Park is shifting gears: Besides the usual summer boaters, beachgoers and picnickers, the popular local green space now lures a steady trickle of mountain bikers, too.

Chugiak’s first dedicated mountain bike course, the Mirror Lake singletrack is making a name for itself among cyclists from surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.

The riders come rain or shine: On Saturday, Anchorage residents Jenna Downs and Emma Halsey braved a downpour to explore the three-mile figure-eight cut between Mirror and Edmonds Lake. After about an hour in the woods, they rolled back down to the muddy trailhead, soaking wet and smiling.

“They did an amazing job out here,” Downs said.

“I just think it’s great that they added more of them because Kincaid is usually packed with people,” Halsey said. “It’s nice to have other options to get out and do singletrack.”

The new system, built with a combination of grant funding and volunteer labor, was pioneered and supported by the nonprofit groups Alaska Trails and the Chugach Mountain Bike Riders (CMBR). It officially opened to the public in June, kicking off the summer season with a weekly kids’ bike camp hosted by CMBR. The Tuesday night camp has about two dozen young cyclists, according to Will Taygan of CMBR.

Designed for beginner and intermediate level riders, the trail is a fast, fun course for riders of all abilities, according to local cyclists and trail builders. On Thursday, Matt Sanders of Kincaid Cyclery made the drive out to Chugiak to check it out for himself.

“This is literally the first time I’ve been able to ride out here all summer,” he said, minutes after speeding out of the woods on a sunny July afternoon. “I was pleasantly surprised – the trails have a great mix of flow and some loam dirt and roots and rocks, and so it’s different than our largest trail system at Kincaid Park.”

With views of Edmonds Lake and the Chugach Mountains, the singletrack takes riders through lush forest just minutes from the highway. It has “amazing potential,” said Sanders, who helped fundraise for the singletrack’s construction.

He said it took him and a friend nearly an hour to ride the course through twice Thursday. They didn’t see a single other rider the entire time, he said.

“You’ve got such cool, varied terrain,” Sanders said. “We need to get more community involvement so we can expand this further.”

The new system involves two-and-a-half miles of fresh singletrack stitched into an existing network of multiuse trails. Building the entire loop took months of coordination, approximately two dozen weekend work parties and legions of volunteers and donors. Volunteers cleared roots and brush and installed wayfinding markers and trail etiquette signs.

“Which they don’t have at Hillside, they don’t have at Kincaid, they don’t have at Alyeska, they don’t have in Homer,” Sanders said. “It’s really cool, they did a really good job.”

Taygan, who helped spearhead the trail’s construction, said CMBR plans on installing final permanent signage later this summer. The group is also seeking trail sponsors to help fund future maintenance and insurance, he said. So far, the project has received broad community support, Taygan said.

Chugiak’s Jann Mylet said she first learned about the trail project last winter – word was spreading via Facebook, and a neighbor was volunteering to help build. While Mylet skis at Mirror Lake in the winter, she said she was used to driving to Kincaid Park or the Mat-Su to mountain bike. Now, she said, she can bike to the new local trail system.

“We’re kind of excited to just be able to get on our bikes and go,” she said. “It’s just a great resource.”

The Mirror Lake singletrack features “a great mix of climbs, fast runs, banked corners, and rolling terrain,” Mylet said.

One problem, according to some trail users? This is the kind of singletrack that leaves you wanting more.

“It’s not enough,” Sanders said, laughing.

There are plans to expand the course in the future, according to CMBR. More information about local trails is available online at cmbralaska.org.

Contact Star reporter Kirsten Swann at kirsten.swann@alaskastar.com.

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