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Riding the ridge





LAKE WILSON -- The accolades just don't stop for the Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail in the Hell Creek Area at Wilson State Park.

The trail offers a scenic ride, but for many it's tough enough to force them to pause long enough to catch their breath or dip their feet in the water along the rocky ledge at scenic Lake Wilson.

Switchgrass has been named one of the top mountain bike trails in the United States by Singletracks magazine, a publication for avid riders. The magazine called it the best in the state.

Riders on the track can go the entire distance of 22 miles, or pick one of the smaller loops. Elevation on the track ranges from 2,700 feet to 3,700 feet.

While he's delighted with the accolades from Singletracks, Hays resident Bob Nicholson especially is thrilled with an earlier call naming Switchgrass an IMBA Epic trail.

"This destination has something for everyone, from beginners to hammerheads," the International Mountain Bicycling Association announced when the recognition was awarded.

"That was a pretty big deal," Nicholson said, one of the caretakers of the trail.

Indeed it is, considering only approximately 50 trails in the world are considered to be Epic trails by IMBA, he said.

But switchgrass isn't just for the hardcore rider.

There's a blend of trails to be ridden, including a 2-mile beginners loop.

"It's really, really fun to ride," Nicholson said of the trail.

And it's all contained within Wilson State Park.

The trail had its genesis approximately 20 years ago when a small group of people decided to start putting together a biking trail.

"I got involved with it right about 10 years ago," Nicholson said.

A recent mountain bike racing event at Switchgrass attracted 85 people, most of them from Wichita and Kansas City. But there also were five riders from Colorado.

"It's only 5 miles from Interstate 70," he said.