Underexposed is a series dedicated to showcasing trails around North America that fly under the proverbial radar for most riders. PEARL iZUMi athlete Brice Shirbach has seen firsthand what sweat equity can mean among mountain bikers and its impact on the places we call home, and this series will look to help open eyes and shift our attention to some of the brilliant riding that exists in places both unexpected and unheard of.
Texas is big. Dare I say, too big? The Lonestar State is mostly regarded as a part of the American Desert Southwest, but the truth is that only 10% of the state’s landmass is technically desert. A drive across the second largest state in the country from east to west reveals a litany of landscapes, from the coastline to grassy wetlands and forests, to open prairies and plains, canyons, mountains, and eventually desert. I know because I’ve done it. In both directions, no less.
The City of Dallas is the 3rd most populous city in Texas, and combined with neighboring Fort Worth, makes for the 4th most populous metropolitan region in all of the United States. Located in the northeastern corner of the state, it sits in the transition zone between the green and forested parts of the state and the dusty plains, with signs of both playing heavily into area aesthetics. While most of Dallas is generally flat in terms of topography, with an elevation between 450-550 feet above sea level, there is a north-south running limestone escarpment that rises close to 300 feet above the rest of the area. And that’s where we find ourselves today: The Big Cedar Wilderness Trails.
Built on the property of Mountain Creek Community Church in Dallas, Big Cedar is a spaghetti bowl network of trails totaling 19 miles of singletrack and a surprisingly diverse selection of trails. Built and managed by the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association, and specifically looked after by trail stewards Jeff Ramesy and Jason Barton, Big Cedar offers riders a glimpse of the area before the massive urban sprawl that now dominates the region. The majority of the trails are XC-centric, with plenty of jagged limestone formations and roots to keep things interesting. In addition to the undulating trails weaving their way through the property, there are also two freeride options that make the most of the somewhat limited topography, a la Big Creek in Georgia and Chewacla State Park in Alabama. Builders have incorporated clay and lumber to create a short and sweet downhill playground, particularly the trail “Pitbull,” which drops 140 vertical feet over the course of a quarter-mile, with plenty of combinations to choose from on your way down. Both “Pitbull” and “Crazy Stain” are recommended for experts only, so when in doubt, scout it out.
Dallas is a vibrant city, and for most visitors, I’m guessing mountain bikes aren’t too high up on the list of things to do while in town. Places like Big Cedar are exciting for me personally, because it’s a reflection of the creative nature of mountain bikers and their desire to build for community first, tourists second. Texas might be a massive state, but it’s the decidedly little gems like this that have me keen to explore more of it.