One of the types of trails you’ll encounter as you visit more and more mountain bike trails is what’s called a stacked loop system. Some people get confused by this type trail setup, but it’s actually very simple to comprehend.
To understand stacked loops, you must first understand looped trails. A looped trail is a circuit that has a common beginning and ending point, and typically has traffic flowing in one direction. This means, if you begin your ride on a trail loop and stay on that loop, you’ll end up back where you began.
A stacked looped is where successive trail loops are “stacked” upon each other, connecting in such a way as to give users options for extended distance or varied routes. Trail systems are often constructed this way so that one or two loops can be opened to the public while successive loops are constructed and added over time.
Rowlett Creek Preserve in Garland is a great example of a stacked loop system constructed in this manner. Riders new to RCP are often confused by the numbering system they find there, assuming the loops are meant to be ridden in a specific order. In reality, the loops are simply numbered in the order in which they were constructed, so the numbers have little to do with how a rider should approach the trail system.
Progressive Stacked Loops
Other stacked loop systems are built in such a manner that the level of difficulty increases as you move through the trail system. This is another great approach to trail building since it provides opportunities for differing trail difficulties to be readily available for riders at varying skill levels.
One might say that the only disadvantage to a progressive stacked loop system is that a rider must start at the main trailhead and has no choice but to ride through the easier loops to access the harder loops. We can understand this viewpoint, however, keep in mind that even the most skilled rider can use a good warmup before hitting the really gnarly stuff.
That’s it! That’s all there is to using and enjoying stacked loop systems. Now get out there and shred one near you.
Have fun, ride smart, and keep shredding!