The History

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Many of you probably don’t realize that the bike trails at Lebanon Hills have been changing and growing for years. Unlike other trail systems that are built in a short timeframe, Lebanon Hills has evolved slowly over the past many years into what it is today. With a bit of history you will start to realize why there is a different feel to each section of trail. Over time we have learned things the hard way, done things different, and have had to go so far as to completely re-do sections of trail. Lebanon Hills has been a real learning experience for MORC. It is undeniable, however, that the very history and partnership between MORC and Dakota County has been a model for many trails that have followed. One could even argue trails like Murphy Hanrehan, Elm Creek, Salem Hills, and Carver Lake would not have existed were it not for the history behind Lebanon Hills. It is well worth taking a stroll through time and seeing how the trails have evolved.

Before Y2K

Remember Y2K? (2000) Well, Lebanon Hills was just an unofficial gravel double track trail shared with the skiers and hikers back then. There were no obstacles. There was no singletrack. It was short, fast and somewhat dangerous. Some still look back on this version of the trail with fondness, but its tough to argue against what the trail has become today. Here is the original and the current trail maps next to each other. Can you believe the difference?

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Slide the line above right and left to see the difference between then and now.
 

Pre-Singletrack

For years, Lebanon Hills had no singletrack. The few riders that went there rode a couple miles of doubletrack gravel trail that became winter skate ski trails. The only real fun section was called “The Luge” which began where the expert loop begins today and ran downhill all the way down to the lake where our “Lake Loop” trail exists. It was common back then for ambulances to haul people out of this fast downhill section of trail. These days parking was also easy to find, as you may be lucky to see one other vehicle in the lot besides your own.

2002

This is Lebanon Hills in 2002. There was some initial Intermediate singletrack over on the west side of the park, and the black “Expert Loop” was completed. There was still a lot of doubletrack ski trail riding in 2002, including the crazy climb out of the parking lot and the two big climbs after you exited the Intermediate trail (Curly and Mo).

 
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2003

Here is 2003. The “XX Loop” was opened on June 11th of that year, bringing Lebanon Hills to around 7.2 miles of riding (still mostly doubletrack). The XX Loop featured the trails first wooden bridges, as well as a significant amount of rock gardens and steeper climbs. Dakota County actually came out for the ribbon cutting of the XX Loop.

 
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2004

Here is 2004. A lot happened in this year as we opened two significant trails. The first was called “Dream Trail” and bypassed all the ski trail exiting the park. The other surfed along the northern most edge of the park and was called “Dream II” and replaced the ski trail leaving the parking lot. Building these two sections allowed the ski trail to be closed down during summer months, which in turn required a lot less maintenance as summer growth stopped the erosion that became a real issue in those areas. This was a big achievement for MORC and for Dakota County.

 
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2005

2005 was a fairly quiet year for the trails. We kicked into maintenance mode and did a lot of trail repairs, including deberming, rebuilding log piles, and “fixing” some log piles. No new trail sections were built at this time.

2006

Here is 2006. Again, a big year for MORC and the crew. We added the Intermediate Out trail, bypassing the small section of ski trail that we used to have to take to get from the X Entrance down to the Dream Trail. This re-aligned the exit of the Expert trail, and we added that big monster log pile. Later in the year we added “Stooges Run” which removed a very small shared section of ski trail before what we called the “Bypass Climb”. These two sections were done not just to remove doubletrack, but to avoid conflicts during winter riding (which became official in 2006). That fall we also added “Tedman’s Curve” which is the very small XX level section in the Expert Loop.

 
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2007

Here is 2007. The only real addition this year was the XX log ladder extension, which opened up as part of an REI National Trails Day project. This section gave us the signature steps along with some additional elevation up on top of a ridge. A gnome found its way onto the gnome log at the exit of the XX trail, but someone stole it during the 24 Hours of Afton weekend. (eventually returned) The signature gnome never did make it back to its place on the trail… well… as far as we know. You should know that he is alive and well. This was also a very social year for MORC – a lot of group rides and events were scheduled. People have since gone their own way and there are way less social gatherings and “official” group rides these days.

 
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2008

Here is 2008. Another fairly significant year as far as trail additions go. First, the Lake Loop opened. This trail added some nice flowing downhills with berms and some major bridge work. This trail is in the same area the old Luge downhill used to be (for those that remember back that far). Going around the lake brought the trail its first real water views, and the ice riding in winter is always a great time. We also built the Rocky Top addition. At this time it was all Intermediate trail. This also brought riders to the highest point of Lebanon Hills. Lastly, a female gnome showed up on a branch in that area, once again returning a gnome to the trail.

 
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2009-2010

2009 and 2010 were also fairly quiet years for the trails. It was another time of maintenance and tweaking to existing trails and features. Even though no new trails were build, it didn’t mean the volunteers weren’t out every week as usual fixing the trail and upgrading various obstacles here and there to keep things interesting. You can’t have new trail every year, and this was two solid years building up to another couple of busy years.

 
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2011

Here is 2011. After a couple of years without new trails, we once again had a defining year. First, the “X Return” trail opened up. This often requested trail allowed riders to continue uninterrupted loops on Expert/Black loop. Next was the new Upper Beginner trail with its bridges, berms, jumps and fast flowing trail that is fun for all skill levels. Later in the year we opened up “Rockin’ Sally” toward the end of the Intermediate/Blue trail. This trail allows riders to skip the last climb, which was becoming very eroded from all the traffic. By opening this new Intermediate section we were able to re-brand the last climb Expert/Black and have since seen less use and the erosion issues are coming under control. We also re-aligned where the Intermediate trail meets the Beginner trail to keep riders away from the new skills park area.

 
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2012

This brings us to 2012, the year the new West Trailhead opened up, along with the skills park and re-aligned entrance and exit. This is the year the new signs went out replacing the old carsonite signposts. The completely re-done signage is noted by the new numbering system, which helps you find your way along the trail. (see our trail review for more details). The skills area opened at the same time the new facilities opened (see our facilities and skills park reviews). One very small detail was the addition of “Super Short” which is at #220 and allows riders to completely skip the last part of the trail and enter the upper beginner, cutting off miles of trail in the process. This is the most current view of the trails as they are today. What a huge change over the years. Stay tuned, because we’re not done yet.

 
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2013

This year has been a strange one for weather. The latest spring opening we have ever had, combined with rains that have kept the trail closed almost as much as its been opened. Still, the volunteers are out fixing up the trail and making sure its well maintained and the features are ever evolving. We will be renting a machine this year to go around fixing damaged areas of trail, and some of the obstacles and berms have already been re-shaped and enhanced. No major new trails this year, but we do have plans for some exciting additions in the years to come. We’d love for you to become a part of what has brought us to this point. Check out our volunteer page for more details.
 
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