Photo: Visit Athens County

Columbus Mountain Biking: Baileys Trail System

Ride 31 miles (+) of singletrack in the Wayne National Forest.

If you want to shred one of the longest contiguous mountain biking trail systems east of the Mississippi, head down to the Wayne National Forest, where 31 miles of the planned 88-mile Baileys Trail System are already complete. Another 25 miles will be built in 2022. 

Before you clip into your pedals, you’ll notice some things in addition to the deeply forested ridges and hollows that surround you. Just past the trailhead kiosk, you’ll cross over a small run and see the unnatural orange hue of the water. This is due to acid mine drainage, a holdover from the area’s coal mining history. On the map, you’ll see trail names that reflect this history: Tipple Top, Knights Labor and so on. The Baileys is a perfect example of how outdoor recreation is replacing extraction as a more sustainable economic engine of rural Appalachian communities. 

Recommended Route: Coal Train to Salt Fork Trails 

Begin at the Chauncey-Dover Trailhead Park (pronounce it “chancy” if you want to sound like a local) and start out on the easy Chauncey Depot and Gob Pile trails, which combined are just more than 1 mile in length. Connecting from here, head gently up the hollow along the moderate Coal Train Trail, then return down the other side of the hollow on the flowy Salt Works Trail for a 5.5-mile loop. If you’re looking for more mileage and more challenging terrain, the 4-mile (one way) Tipple Top Trail connects from Salt Works.  

The singletrack trails are mechanically purpose-built for mountain biking, so they are in great shape. They generally remain dry, but give them a break and don’t ride directly after rain. All junctions are well-signed, so you shouldn’t get lost, whether you’re focusing on your front wheel or the forest that turns from maple and buckeye in the hollows to oak and hickory on the ridges. Wildflowers are excellent, spring through fall. 

Photo: Visit Athens County

Plan Ahead for Trail Closures

The Wayne is generally open 24/7/365, but call ahead or check the website before planning your trip. The trails are temporarily closed in late fall during deer hunting season, and then closed to bicycles—but open to hiking—Dec. 15 through March 15. More Info: baileystrailsystem.org

Getting There

From Columbus, take U.S. 33 southeast an hour to Chauncey. 

Where To Eat

Bailey Mae’s Trailhead Café is a 5-minute spin from the trailhead. For an alternate option, drive a few miles to Athens and try the extensive beer menu and food at bike-friendly Little Fish Brewing Company.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.