Make no mistake about it: Russ Manning can shred. He’s been an avid mountain biker for more than 20 years, and is a member of the Appalachian Mountain Biking Club. He’s biked all over East Tennessee, and he’s never met an exposed root, rock bed or 90-degree turn he didn’t like. He likes to jump; he likes to fly. He embraces all the adrenaline-pumping thrills his chosen sport has to offer.
Come the weekend, you’re likely to find Manning, director of programming for Knoxville’s PBS station WKOP, setting out on his favorite trail—one that’s not as banging; one that doesn’t require all the skills in the book to stay in the saddle: The Loyston Loop Trail on Norris Lake in Andersonville, Tennessee.
“I love the Loyston Loop for its nice, flowy ride,” Manning says. “It’s not very technical, but it is a ton of fun. It’s got a lot of little up and down hills, and berms built into every turn to make the ride very smooth. If I want a more challenging ride, I add speed, I turn those little hills into jumps. The trail is always what I need it to be. It’s just awesome.”
That flowy, engaging ride is by design, explains Clay Guerry, senior specialist for TVA Natural Resources and himself a mountain biking enthusiast. “When we built 5.5 mile Loyston Loop four years ago, we were purposely creating a trail that we knew could be friendly to beginners and even children,” he remembers. “We wanted to get more people into this growing sport.”
“Last year, we added the 7-mile Mill Creek loop trail, a more moderate-level ride,” he says. “There’s a little more challenge there—such as tougher turns and steeper climbs—but it, too, is designed to be accessible and flowy,” Guerry says. “By that I mean it’s a long, uninterrupted, undulating ride with moderate grades of only about five or six percent and berms on the turns that let you take them with ease.”
Manning notes something special about the two trails: “They handle water very well. True mountain bikers pledge to stay off muddy trails because we don’t want to ruin them, but the trails up at Loyston will be good to go almost immediately after a big rain. Everyone in Knoxville heads up there to ride after a rain.”
According to Guerry , that’s because sustainability was woven into their design. “In the case of trails, sustainability means draining water—water is the enemy of trails,” he says. “In designing any biking trail you have to do your due diligence on the front end and make sure you’re equipped to handle water run-off. And we’ve been amazingly successful at Loyston. Those trails are known regionally for handling water due to design and suitable soil type.”
All those little undulating hills that make the trails so fun are also serving a purpose, Guerry says. “Kids can get out there and roll up and down on them; more experienced bikers can jump off the lip. But the truth is, they’re performing a very important function: keeping water from rolling down the hill.”
Under any conditions, the two trails are adjacent and can be linked together to create a 13-mile ride through old forest and along the shoreline of Norris Lake for spectacular views year-round. “I’ll ride them in one direction, then in the other if I’m looking for a long ride,” Manning says. “They don’t get monotonous.”
To keep thing interesting, he can vary his intensity. Any biker on one of the Loyston trails can keep things mellow and go with the flow—or put the pedal to the metal and turn up the intensity. Otherwise, the loops are simple and there are few decision points to deal with. “All you need to do is show up and go,” Guerry says.
Manning notes that after a particularly sweaty ride, he loves to jump in the water. And Guerry loves to hear that.
“One thing that makes Loyston so neat is its proximity to other recreational opportunities,” he says. “You’re adjacent to the water; there’s a boat ramp. You can kayak, paddleboard or canoe. There’s a campground across the street from the trailhead. That’s another reason we decided to build the trail there—you turn your mountain biking adventure into a real vacation.”
It’s always a good time for fun on the Tennessee Valley’s lands and waters. Not sure where to start? We have you covered! Check out some of the best recreational activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your own stories and photos on Instagram using #TVAfun.
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Ride these trails with a true expert! TVA employee Spencer Whittier, a national champion, takes you along for a brisk ride on the Loyston Point trail in this segment of Tennessee Valley Uncharted.