Many of California’s most popular outdoors destinations are within a 21/2-hour drive of Merced, but it’s even better to see good recreation being developed closer to home – places where families, friends and individuals can make memories while enjoying a healthy challenge.
The Exchequer Mountain Bike Park at Lake McClure will be a one-of-a-kind place for recreationists in the state, right in our back yard. And it’s happening now.
Since work began last April, about 13 miles of single-track trail and dirt roads have been developed for riding, including two downhill routes that each have 600 feet of continuous descent over about 11/2 miles. The ultimate plan is to have 50-60 miles of trail that will include all types of terrain, making it a place where people of all ages can safely learn to ride and experienced cyclists can enjoy a true challenge.
When the network is complete, Exchequer will be the state’s largest bike-only park. Many of California’s most popular trails have conflicts among cyclists, hikers and equestrians. Making this area exclusive to bikes eliminates that problem. Trails for hiking and horseback riding are also being developed around other parts of McClure, ensuring a safer experience for everyone.
When completed, the park is expected to attract a wide range of race events that will bring excitement and contribute tourist dollars to our local economy. Its location in the center of California is ideal for statewide competitions. When I visited on Monday, a 10-mile loop designed specifically for high school mountain bike races was being marked. The sport isn’t offered at an organized level at local schools, but it has become popular in the Bay Area and Southern California.
Access to the 700-acre Exchequer Mountain Bike Park starts at the “I” loop of the Barrett Cove Campground. Directional signs will be posted, and paper trail maps will be available in about two months. When that happens, you’ll read about it here. Until that point, the best way to learn the trails is by going with someone who has been involved in their development. One of the best ways to meet those people and help advance the project is to volunteer Saturday and Sunday.
The work begins at 8 a.m. Saturday and concludes with a group trail ride at 3:30 p.m. Free camping is available to volunteers who are willing to put in additional hours on Sunday. No particular skill is necessary, just a willingness to do some hard work that pays off with immediate results. During my visit, I was impressed to see how much trail five volunteers could build in a short time. A big turnout this weekend would speed up the debut of more trails.
Volunteers should bring water, lunch, sturdy shoes or boots, work gloves, sunglasses or safety glasses, and a tool if you have one (flat shovels, rakes, pulaskis, McLeods, etc.). A small supply of extra tools is available. Those planning on camping should also bring basic camping equipment and food.
The campground has restrooms, showers and hot water. High school students can log community service hours by participating.
The work is being designed and coordinated by the Exchequer Riders Club. For more information and to get involved, check out the club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ExchequerRidersClub. To volunteer or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message the club through Facebook. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Saturday in the “I” Loop of the Barrett Cove Campground.
On all other days, the trails are open during daylight hours and there is an $8 day use charged at the gate. The recreation area is located at the end of Barrett Cove Road. You To get there, turn east (right) off of Merced Falls Road, 16 miles northeast of Snelling. A brown and white sign points the way.
Adam Blauert is Sun-Star correspondent. He’s an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at email@example.com.