Monthly Archives: August 2012

Swatara State Park Mountain Biking Trails

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Getting There
From I-81, take the exit for Route 72 (Lebanon). At the light, take a left onto 72 N. After a few miles, bear right into 443. Look out for State Park Road on your right; it’s fairly easy to miss. The parking lot is just prior to the closed gate. Around the middle of the lot, you can find the gravel singletrack trailhead. I believe there is one entry/exit point for the trails.

The Trails
The trails are “stacked” loops, lettered A-D.

Please see the following links for maps and additional information.

SAMBA

DCNR SP Site

I rode all marked loops except for loop D. In my opinion, all of the tails were rather easy. There were no steep climbs or steep drops and the trail surface is mostly beautiful hard packed dirt. The most challenging obstacles for me were a few of the larger diameter logs purposely left on the trail. Although the parking lot was full, I only passed a handful of folks in the woods. Everyone I did pass was extremely nice.

Although the trails did have elevation gains and switchbacks, most were gradual and smooth. In fact, I was rarely out of breath in any of the climbs. I think these trails would be excellent for a beginner, or for more of a relaxing, non-technical afternoon in the woods.

The smooth dirt track and gradual elevation gains were a welcome change from the ridiculously rocky logging/mining roads and steep pitches I am used to. In fact, the surface of the trails is begging me to try out my ‘cross bike in preparation for Iron Cross 2012. I have plenty of places locally to practice riding rocks and carrying the bike in unridable sections, so “Swatty” will be a great place to practice carrying speed in the woods on the ‘crosser. I am hoping it can help build confidence. An additional bonus is that I can ride the road to “Swatty” from my in-laws, and ride back; no need to use the roof rack.

Bike Setup
I rode my mostly stock 2012 Trek Wahoo 29er. I didn’t pay much of a weight penalty because of the lack of nasty climbs. The bike worked fairly well. I did have ghost shifting in the rear, but I chalking that up to poor cable tension even though the derailleur is a lower end unit. I am still amazed at the ease the wagon wheels roll over obstacles.

This was only my third ride in the woods on the Wahoo. I am thinking about swapping to one chainring on the front and a bash guard. I don’t think I shifted the front the entire ride, so why not ditch the current crappy triple? Riding “Swatty” has shown me the value of a bashguard in riding over downed logs.

I also considered going to a rigid front fork, but I am trying to talk myself into waiting to try rocky trails again before I make this step.

Swatty
Overall, I think this is a well built, well marked, and well maintained trail system. It doesn’t have huge climbs nor rocky and technical sections, but that is not a bad thing! I can’t wait to go back.

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