KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Bays Mountain is one of the most well-known outdoor activity spots in our region. From mountain biking to hiking, to visiting the museum and the animals, there is something for everyone.
To help make sure everyone can see some of the best views in the region, Bays Mountain is making some improvements. On their list of to-do’s is both improving the lookout tower and adding a whole new trail.
The lookout tower that will be getting the facelift can be found off of the Chestnut Trail. Once you get to the top, you’ll notice that it appears there could be a great view, but the trees are in the way. Megan Krager, the senior naturalist at Bays Mountain says the tower is, “going to look like this for a little while. Once we start making the improvements to this particular structure, it will have what we call a roof on it of sorts. We will also have interpreter panels so people will get a look at what the mountain structures are that they’re looking at and also which direction we’re looking at as well.”
Once some of the trees in the way are cleared, Krager says it’s going to be a, “really interesting view of the area across from 26, and you won’t hear a lot of the traffic on 26, but you can see the wonderful views of the mountains and also you get a pan into Johnson City as well.”
Then, after checking out the soon-to-be improvements happening at the lookout tower, you can head on over to the new trail, which begins right above the Lookout Tower and connects into Chestnut. It will then run right along River Mountain Road, intercepting with Fire Mountain Trail. It will also intercept River Mountain Road and will connect on over to Indian Pipes.
Before you hit the trails though, you have to make sure you understand the blazes, because at Bays Mountain, the trails are color-coded. Purple blaze trail means advanced, white means easy, blue means moderate, and the black diamond means expert.
Soon, you’ll start to notice some pink ribbon on the trails. “We have a pink ribbon right here off of Chestnut, and this is where we’re going to tie in the new trail in with Chestnut itself,” said Krager. “It’s going to make a snake-like effect in this little corridor here, back-and-forth until it comes up to Azalea. And then it will cross Azalea, and the trail will go on below River Mountain Road and then it will intersect with Fire Tower Trail again, following the contour line of the area there, and then it will cross River Mountain Road on into Indian Pipes.”
Putting it into perspective, it can be very difficult to create big trails like this.
“So when we put in a trail, or when a company puts in a trail, they do it two different ways. Either by hand or with specific tools and they are kind of like micro-machine size tools to fit the width of the trails that we’re putting in,” Krager said. “And what they’re going to do is they’re going to have a great big tool that they walk behind that will pull up the duff from the ground we’re standing on, then place it off to the side. They will then move out that thickness of duff so they can actually get to soil so that it can be used and turning it into a trail itself.”
So if you’re headed out to Bays Mountain anytime soon, there will be plenty of new features for you to see.
“If anybody is hiking or mountain biking near Chestnut or Azalea, near Fire Tower Trail and out towards Indian Pipes, just be on the lookout for some of our trail crew coming in and working on this particular trail,” Krager said.