JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – You may have taken a quick spin on an ATV before, but you’ve probably never had the chance to ride 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 driver’s license fees, was founded in 2012 and manages more than 8,600 acres of beautiful Doe Mountain near Mountain City.
After touring the property, it’s easy to see why Executive Director Shawn Lindsey and his team have worked so hard to cut and maintain the nearly 100 miles of trails that crisscross the mountain.
“Right now we’re mapping, we’re taking inventory, we’re looking for areas that we can expand and have more trails,” Lindsey said. “So if you look at this mountain around us, you’ll see that we’re hoping to expand the full width of the mountain with different trails and access.”
Conquering the wilderness with a cut-off trail and a motor might feel a bit like cheating, but the fun you’ll have roaming the ragged ridges is well worth the mud the tires kick up. In fact, that’s half the fun.
Currently, Lindsey said the DMRA is pursuing consistent public funding, but the funds they have already secured have created great vantage points and maintained access to the Doe Mountain Fire Tower, which sits at an elevation of 3,889 feet above sea level.
If mud tracks, ATVs, or motorcycles aren’t your thing, there are plenty of multi-use trails from Chimney Rock in the west to the Pioneer Village shopping center in the east.
“You just have to take a look to see the incredible beauty we have here; it’s wonderful for four seasons of the year,” Lindsey said. “There is always something to enjoy.”
Lindsey said her background in public works has translated surprisingly well into the rugged world of outdoor recreation and ultimately they both aim to ensure that people who want to get from point A to point B can do it as easily as possible.
In the case of Doe Mountain, however, fun is a big part of the equation. And so far, Doe Mountain has covered that well. Lindsey said the park runs a long list of activities for visitors of all ages, including mock game drives for young naturalists to spot local wildlife lures 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 better access to the outside, and we have that here.”
Lindsey’s background as a Boy Scouts of America scout leader shines through in activities like these, and there’s no shortage of high-adventure opportunities for groups to try.
The scientific community is also closely involved with the site, with biodiversity scientists visiting regularly to document the number of species that inhabit Doe Mountain. Lindsey said plans are underway to hold a naturalist event to see who can document the most species in a day, like a real Pokemon hunt.
“There are different ways to enjoy the mountain – you can bring both feet and hike, you can bike, you can horseback ride, you can bring an ATV or a dirt bike. We’re actually looking at starting a new e-bike rental program that could possibly start this summer that we’d be doing here ourselves,” Lindsey said.
On the way to the Fire Tower, you will see freshly cut and maintained trails just waiting for new tire treads and a particularly deep mud pit. Typically, when you see a pond-sized pothole you think it was there from neglect, but Lindsey and Co. have a careful design in mind for the spot. Trail drainage is a big part of maintaining a mountain, and the roundabout about halfway up the Fire Tower is the drainage basin for all nearby slopes, creating a nice pool of collection not so neat.
Of course, with great thrills come great responsibilities. The Doe Mountain Recreation Authority has a set of rules for each guest to ensure that they return home happy and healthy after a day in the mountains:
- Adult supervision is required for all minors.
- No alcohol is permitted on the property.
- Motorized vehicles give way 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 follow Department of Transportation and Tennessee law guidelines regarding the wearing of seat belts and helmets.
- Single track motorcycle trails are for experienced riders only. Helmets are mandatory and full protective gear is encouraged.
The project isn’t just adventure-oriented either; the economic impact of the DMRA is felt throughout the surrounding community.
“We have an economic goal, we have a preservation goal, and we also have other goals just to improve the quality of life for people in Tennessee and bring tourism dollars to the state,” Lindsey said.
Since the authority does not arrange off-road or ATV rentals locally, nearby rental businesses and other supporting industries stand to benefit from traffic to the area. An important goal of the project is to create sustainable jobs for locals who know the area and have a passion for work.
On top of that, Lindsey says the DMRA is far from over.
“We’re using about half the mountain right now,” he said. “So we’re hoping to open another 3,000 acres for public use with the help of MTN Dew that they’re going to give us.”
The “MTN Dew” aid he is talking about is the upcoming adventure center makeover that will turn the building into an MTN Dew outpost at Doe Mountain. Along with the bright green exterior, nearby is the all-new MTN Dew Outpost Ranger, outfitted in full ranger gear and mounted to an all-new Ranger XP 1000 ATV.
Once on the trail, you may encounter MTN Dew lookouts and all-new trails thanks to the partnership with the brand born in Tennessee over 80 years ago.
Applications are still open for anyone interested in service and outdoor experiences, and Lindsey said he’s more than happy to accommodate other volunteers who may not be up to snuff.
“If you don’t get the ranger job, there’s always a trail ambassador job available here. They are our volunteers, and our volunteers do so much for us,” Lindsey said. “They come from this Johnson County community, but they also come from northeast Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia. Many people come to volunteer on the mountain, and we rely on volunteers to help build and maintain the trails on a regular basis.
To book your own tickets or view offers on Doe Mountain, click here.