Trails of all kinds: High adventure awaits at Doe Mountain Recreation Area

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – You may have taken an ATV for a quick spin before, but you’ve likely never had the chance to run trails like the ones you can find at Doe Mountain Recreation Area.

The public authority that manages the area, which relies largely on grant funding and driving permit fees, was founded in 2012 and manages over 8,600 acres of beautiful Doe Mountain near Mountain City.

After visiting the property, it’s easy to see why executive director Shawn Lindsey and his crew have worked so hard to cut and maintain the nearly 100 miles of trail that weave over the mountain.

“Right now we’re mapping, we’re doing the inventory, we’re looking for areas that we can expand and have more trails,” said Lindsey. “So if you look at this mountain around us, you’ll see that we hope to spread the entire width of the mountain with different trails and access.”

Conquering nature with a cut trail and motor may feel a bit like cheating, but the fun you will have running the ridges ragged is well worth the mud flung by the tires. In fact, it’s half the fun.

Right now, Lindsey said the DMRA is pursuing consistent state funding, but the funds they’ve already secured have created some great overlooks and maintained access to the Doe Mountain Fire Tower, which sits at an elevation of 3,889 feet above sea level.

If mud runs, ATVs or motorcycles aren’t your things, there are plenty of multi-use trails spanning from Chimney Rock in the West to Pioneer Village Shopping Center in the East.

“You only have to take a peek at it to see the amazing beauty we have here; it’s wonderful for four seasons of the year,” Lindsey said. “There’s something always to enjoy.”

Lindsey said his background in Public Works translated surprisingly well to the rugged world of outdoor recreation and that at the end of the day, they’re both about making sure people who want to get from Point A to Point B can do it as easily as possible.

For Doe Mountain’s case, however, fun is a big part of the equation. And so far, Doe Mountain has that well covered. Lindsey said the park runs a long list of activities for visitors of all ages, including simulated safaris for young naturalists to spot local wildlife decoys along the trail.

“There’s always something to do at Doe Mountain,” Lindsey said. “That’s what we want people to see, we want to have greater access to the outdoors, and we have that here.”

Lindsey’s experience as a Boy Scouts of America scoutmaster shine through in activities like these, and there are no shortage of high-adventure opportunities for groups to try out.

The science community is closely involved with the site as well, with biodiversity scientists regularly visiting to catalogue just how many species call Doe Mountain home. Lindsey said plans are in the works to organize a naturalist event to see who can document the most species in one day, like a real-life Pokémon hunt.

“There’s different ways you can enjoy the mountain — you can bring your own two feet and hike, you can bike, you can do equestrian, you can bring an ATV or dirt bike. We’re actually looking at starting a new E-bike rental program maybe that might start this summer that we would do ourselves up here,” Lindsey said.

On the way up to the Fire Tower, you’ll spot freshly-cut and maintained trails just waiting for new tire treads and one particularly deep mud pit. Typically, when you see a pothole the size of a pond you’d think it was there by neglect, but Lindsey and Co. have a careful design in mind for the spot. Trail drainage is a huge part of maintenance on a mountain, and the roundabout roughly halfway to the Fire Tower is the drain basin for all the slopes nearby, creating a nice, not-so-neat collection pool.

Of course, with great thrills comes great responsibility. The Doe Mountain Recreation Authority has a set of rules for every guest to make sure they return home happy and healthy from a day on the mountain:

  • Adult supervision is required for all minors.
  • No alcohol is allowed on the property.
  • Motorized vehicles yield to non-motorized traffic on multi-use trails.
  • A trail speed limit of 16 mph is mandatory for off-road vehicles.
  • Vehicle operators are required to abide by Department of Transportation and Tennessee law guidelines for seatbelts and helmet use.
  • Single-track motorcycle trails are restricted to experienced drivers only. Helmets are required, and full protective gear is encouraged.

The project isn’t only geared for adventure either; the economic impact of DMRA is felt throughout the surrounding community.

“We have an economic focus, we have a preservation focus, and we have other focuses as well just to improve the quality of life for Tennesseans and bring tourism dollars to the state,” Lindsey said.

Since the authority doesn’t run Off-Highway Vehicle or ATV rentals on-site, nearby rental businesses and other support industries stand to benefit from the traffic to the area. A large focus of the project is to create sustainable jobs for locals that know the area and have a passion for the work.

On top of that, Lindsey says the DMRA is far from finished.

“We’re using just about half of the mountain right now,” he said. “So another 3,000 acres we’re hoping to open up to public use through the MTN Dew help that they’re going to give us.”

The “MTN Dew” help he’s talking about is the upcoming Adventure Center makeover which will turn the building into the MTN Dew Outpost at Doe Mountain. Alongside the bright green exterior, nearby you’ll find the newly-hired MTN Dew Outpost Ranger decked out in full ranger gear and riding on a brand-new Ranger XP 1000 ATV.

Once you’re on the trail, you may run into MTN Dew overlooks and brand-new trailheads thanks to the partnership with the brand born in Tennessee more than 80 years ago.

Applications are still open for anyone interested in outdoor service and experiences, and Lindsey said he’s more than happy to welcome other volunteers who may not make the cut.

“If you don’t get the ranger position, there’s always a Trail Ambassador position available here. That’s our volunteers, and our volunteers do so much for us,” Lindsey said. “They come from this community of Johnson County, but they also come from Northeast Tennessee, Carolinas, Virginia. Lots of people come and volunteer on the mountain, and we count on volunteers to help with building and maintaining trails on a regular basis.”

To reserve your own tickets or check out the offerings on Doe Mountain, click here.

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