The imporbable story behind the Gold Hill Community Forest
Back in 2017, Jake Wilson, co-owner of Quartzite Brewing in Chewelah, Wash., got tired of just wishing there were singletrack mountain biking trails nearby and instead started figuring out how to make it a reality. Wilson started meeting with other locals who shared his vision and they formed the Chewelah Valley Land Trust (CVLT) with the lofty goal of raising nearly a million dollars to buy 408 acres of timberland just five miles out of town. The land trust applied for two grants to purchase the property not long before the pandemic hit. Fortuitously, their requests for $300,000 from the Forest Service Community Forest Program and another $675,000 from the Recreation Conservation Office Community Forest Program were granted. Not long after that, the land trust purchased the property that became the Gold Hill Community Forest.
Wilson and his fellow CVLT board members soon set out to start building the biking and hiking trails that had inspired the whole enterprise in the first place. “We got a grant from Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s Give Big program for $7,000 to cover excavation rentals for trail building,” explains Wilson. “For the first trail we hired a contractor to build the climbing trail and the rest of the funding was used for renting the heavy equipment to build the new flow trail.” Wilson says CVLT was lucky to have volunteers who were experienced in running the equipment, and they were able to make the money go a long way. “We got a lot of new trails built out of that grant funding from Evergreen.”
This fall, mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers can head up to the Gold Hill Community Forest and explore 15 miles of trails that include several new singletrack trails and old, closed logging road double track. From the gravel parking lot, the Easy Upsy Daisy climbing trail gains around 400 feet of elevation and is the starting point for your choice of three great mountain bike descents: the fast and fun Balsamroot Bomber flow trail with plenty of berms; the M.U.S.T Trail, a cross-country descent with an old school feel; or the Ponderosa Trail, a memorable ride with awesome views up top and big, swooping turns through a gully near the bottom. All of the trails, with the exception of the downhill-only flow trail, are open to hikers going either direction. There’s also a short, kids’ mountain bike practice loop just below the parking lot.
It’s pretty amazing what CVLT has been able to accomplish in just five years, and board members and volunteers have even more plans to improve the property. The group has several projects in their sights, including parking lot and trailhead improvements, an eventual restroom facility, an extension of the Ponderosa Trail, a skills park near the top of the trail system, and other trails and connectors in the coming years. Learn more or get involved by visiting Chewelahvalleylandtrust.com.