Thurston County mountain bikers have access to premiere riding opportunities in nearby Capitol Forest. Friends of Capitol Forest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has taken on the task of maintaining and improving these paths. Both the Fall Creek and North Slope areas of Capitol Forest have well maintained trails for riders of varying skills and types. Some are also used by hikers, runners, and horseback riders. Board members work with land managers, legislators, and volunteers to increase the quality and quantity of mountain biking opportunities in Thurston County. Friends of Capitol Forest invite you to come out to ride, sign up for special events or attend a trail work party.

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Nearly 20 years ago, a handful of friends, all avid mountain bikers, banded together. The friends formed Friends of Capitol Forest to clean up and improve the trails. “They were sick of the garbage, poorly maintained trails and shenanigans happening at that time,” reports Kat Parks. She is on the board and works to grow the nonprofit’s membership. Kat is also a mountain bike coach and skier.

Work parties happen on the first and third Saturdays of every month. Volunteers whack weeds, fix eroded sections, clear drains, rebuild berms, and clear debris. Friends of Capitol Forest stewards over 60 miles of trails within the vast acreage. Kat assures you that you do not need to have prior experience with trail building or certain skills to participate in a work party. “We will teach you,” she says. “We have all the tools.” They’ll even provide snacks and lunch.

Mountain Bike trails are kept ride-ready by volunteers and members of Friends of Capitol Forest. The organization has work parties, events and on-going activities. Photo courtesy: Friends of Capitol Forest

Capitol Forest is Rich With Paths and Possibilities for Mountain Bikers

Capitol Forest covers 110,000 acres of land managed by the Department of Natural Resources. There are over 100 miles of trails and an equivalent number of gravel roads. It’s all part of the Black Hills.

Capitol Forest continues to be a working forest with active logging operations. Friends of Capitol Forest works to minimize impacts to trails from logging. The organization works together with the Department of Natural Resources for new trail approval and to make sure everything is ecologically appropriate. North Slope’s Slick Jimmy, an expert-level trail with steep turns and lots of roots, was completed last year. Work continues to design and approve a new beginner-level “flow” trail in the Fall Creek area.

The forest is ripe with adventures. Did you know you can find a ghost town, carved gnomes, abandoned railroad beds and animals including deer, elk and cougars? Many enjoy hunting for mushrooms, too. There are no promises you’ll spot Sasquatch but keep your eyes open. With a Discover Pass, you can camp for free on a first-come first-served basis at the official campground sites.

Mountain Biking Capitol Forest

“We have a cool variety of trails,” says Kat. The two primary mountain biking trail areas in Capitol Forest are Fall Creek and North Slope. Fall Creek offers primarily a cross-country style experience, usually loops that include climbs and descents on a variety of terrain. Its trails are multi-use, so you will see hikers and horseback riders. Remember, bikers need to yield to both and everyone yields to equestrians!

The North Slope trail system is for mountain bikes only and most of the trails are directional downhill only. The trails have many mountain bike-specific features to challenge riders, including jump lines, steep technical descents, and sweeping berms.

Members and volunteers with Friends of Capitol Forest maintain mountain bike trails and have built a shelter at the the Fall Creek trailhead. Photo courtesy: Friends of Capitol Forest

A New Olympia Park With Mountain Biking Opportunities

The City of Olympia is developing a new park between Black Lake Boulevard and Kaiser Road that will feature the City’s first dedicated mountain bike trails. After a multi-year planning process, the park is in the permitting phase with the hope of breaking ground in summer or fall 2024. Friends of Capitol Forest is partnering with the City and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to plan, build and maintain the trails. The 70-acre park will feature many skill-building features including a pump track, practice jumps, and trails with varying degrees of difficulty from beginner to expert. “It will be a great place for kids to build skills and confidence and families to gather,” says Kat.

Friends of Capitol Forest Grows Membership

Friends of Capitol Forest is growing its community support with memberships. When you become a member, monies go towards things like trail building, tools, and equipment for the ongoing maintenance. Recently the organization purchased a new trailer to haul tools for $15,000. The organization built a picnic/event shelter at the Fall Creek trailhead. Membership also helps the organization’s budget planning. Members get discounts for events and to local bike shops. People can participate in group rides, swap meets, shuttle days (that’s when you and your bike get a ride to the top via a special trailer called a Huck Wagon, which was another purchase). Annual membership fees are $35 for an individual, $60 for a family, and $250 for a business. The organization welcomes other donations too. Every cent goes back into the trails.

Explore Capitol Forest via a mountain bike. Friends of Capitol Forest maintain over 60 miles of trails that are free to use. There are rides of all levels of bikers. Photo courtesy: Friends of Capitol Forest

Trailforks App for Up-to-Date Mountain Biking Information

Be sure to download Trailforks. The app will help you choose routes and navigate while out in the forest. You can find out about current conditions, closures and which routes are one-way. Friends of Capitol Forest trail leaders post information regularly. Riders can add to the information while out.

Capitol Forest Bike Events

Capitol Forest is home to a number of events that attract riders from all over the Pacific Northwest. The premier event is the Capitol Forest Summer Classic. Friends of Capitol Forest is partnering with Race Cascadia to put on the three-day event August 9-11. It will feature different types of races, as well as fun activities like a poker run and bike limbo. Attendees will enjoy great food too.

She Rips will take place on June 22, 2024 at North Slope. It’s an event specifically for women and those who identify as femme, trans and non-binary. “It creates a space for women riders to take over the trails for an entire day,” explains Kat. The mountain biking event in Capitol Forest gets people together to ride, build community and have a blast. Find hidden prizes along the paths, play bingo, get in on awesome raffles and have fun. It is a shuttle event, meaning riders are dropped off at the top. Ride down as many times as you want or the day allows. “You don’t have to do any pedaling,” adds Kat.

Two all-gender shuttle events are scheduled for May 11, 2024, at Fall Creek and May 25 at North Slope.

Mountain bike supporters maintain over 60 miles of riding possibilities under the guidance of Friends of Capitol Forest. You can become a member. Check the calendar for events. Photo courtesy: Friends of Capitol Forest

Capitol Forest Gains Popularity With Proximity and Quality

“People drive hours to get there,” says Kat, noting people come from north of Seattle and south of Portland. “Luckily we had cool people who had a vision for North Slope to build and maintain the trails,” she adds. North Slope contains world-class riding that challenges skilled riders and offers enjoyment for everyone.

It’s always a good time to go biking! Pack your lunch and head out. For those less familiar with the area, consider helping with a work party and get to know the lay of the land for future visits. Become a member and get your bike ready. Find information at the Friends of Capitol Forest website, Facebook and Instagram.

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