Whether you dream of rolling your fat tires along rocky Appalachian ridges and down mountain hollows, dashing through the alluring pinewoods of the Piedmont, or simply cutting loose at a trail-laden local park, the state of Virginia has a mountain biking destination for you.
For Virginia is rich with mountain bike resources – we have plenty of places to ride. Remote trails lace the state’s national forests where you can get back to nature while charging though picturesque mountains, places such as Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, where mountain biking trails are found in elevations exceeding 5,000 feet. Other national forest areas such as Pandapas Pond feature networks of wooded trails rich in scenery. Perhaps you prefer a mix of more developed trails and non-bicycling facilities such as those found at Virginia state parks. Still other areas boast conveniently located mountain bike trails located in and around major urban centers, like Fountainhead Regional Park.
Or maybe you want to get straight to the action at a mountain bike park, where ski lifts and integrated obstacles such as jumps raise the mountain biking action to a completely new level.
And there’s more. Imagine extended mountain biking trails and networks where you can go for miles and miles and not repeat the same path, destinations like the Coal Canyon trails and Douthat State Park.
Looking for the ultimate extended mountain biking experience? Try the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, a whopping 480 mile ride — mostly on natural surface – where you make a run through Virginia’s Appalachians from Strasburg down to Damascus, an epic adventure where you pedal and camp, also known as bikepacking. Or you can break up this adventure into sections, cobbling together an undertaking to remember.
The variety of mountain biking destinations is reflected not only in the incredible Virginia scenery, but also in the different level of mountain biking trails suitable to your expertise, from beginner to pro.
Explore the list of 10 Virginia mountain biking havens, and find your trail destination. Do you like to mountain bike and camp, also? Following the first 10 mountain biking options are 6 additional mountain biking destinations with camping possibilities. Read on to find your Virginia mountain biking getaway.
Nearest Town: Lynchburg
The Skinny: Students and locals swear by the ever-improving massive trail system
Quick Fact: Park trails are part of Liberty University
The Ride: This park includes over 50 miles of singletrack and doubletrack trails. Used by mountain bikers, hikers and runners, the web of exciting pathways stretch out on 5,000 acres of mountainside. Elevation changes range over 1,300 feet. The trail map displays a dizzying array of pedaling possibilities.
After the Ride: Grab a bite at locally owned Johnny’s Grill, fresh and tasty food near the trailhead.
Nearest Town: Williamsburg
The Skinny: Mountain biker only trail network is highlighted by the 12-mile John Blair Trail
Quick Fact: Mountain bike network is linked to trailhead and visitor center by multi-use Backbone Trail.
The Ride: York River State Park has responded to the growing demand for mountain biker only trails with a series of paths for pedalers including over 20 miles of tracks to trace. Laid out with varying degrees of difficulty in mind, the trail system is another example of well-planned and thought out and constructed mountain biking trails, rather than throwing them in as an afterthought or being haphazardly constructed without regard to mountain bikers desires for features and long term sustainability.
After the Ride: Alewerks Brewing Company is located in Williamsburg, close to York River State Park. They feature locally themed microbrews. Maybe they’ll have a beer named for the state park when you are there!
Nearest Town: Woodbridge
The Skinny: Tackle a set of singletrack trails exclusively for mountain bikers
Quick Fact: Park offers an excellent mountain biker trail map
The Ride: Three sets of one way only loops make tortuous – and exciting – circuits along the shore of Occoquan Reservoir, adding up to over 14 miles of trailway. Each of the three loops offers varied degrees of difficulty while dancing and diving amid ridges and hollows above the lake. Traverse unrailed bridges and navigate unavoidable obstacles. The most difficult circuit includes rock gardens that will shake your inner mountain biker to the core.
After the Ride: Grab a pint or a growler at Water’s End Brewery in nearby Lake Ridge. All the brews are made in-house, and the tap list changes regularly. The place is family and kid friendly, too.
Nearest Town: Massanutten
The Skinny: Two lifts takes bikers up the mountain to then ride downhill
Quick Fact: Park has a whopping 30 plus miles of mountain biking trails, in addition trails accessed by ski lifts.
The Ride: Ski resorts are now becoming all season destinations where mountain bikers are lifted up to then enjoy exciting rides on downhill trails. Massanutten Mountain Bike Park is one such venue. They offer two lifts taking mountain bikers to various sections of Massanutten Mountain. The trails here range from beginner through intermediate all the way to expert, giving everyone a shot at tackling Massanutten Mountain Bike Park.
In addition to the ski lift trails, the park’s Western Slope Trails comprise bonus mountain biking opportunities without the lift. A mixed network of well-marked and maintained paths course along Massanutten Mountain, allowing you alter the difficulty of your ride on the fly. The network connects to additional trails on the George Washington National Forest.
After the ride: Dine and relax at the Virginia BBQ & Pizza Company, located on site at Massanutten Resort. Savor the down home barbeque and wash it down with a cold beverage.
Nearest Town: Bayse
The Skinny: Lift takes bikers and their bikes up the mountain for heart-pounding downhill action
Quick Fact: An on-site bike shop will help you with flats or repairs.
The Ride: This ski resort has also developed mountain biking trails for warm season use. They feature 8 lift-accessible trails for mountain bikers of all skills. Jump trails and advanced trails will keep the best pedalers busy while more moderate trails will entertain novices and mountain biking families. Additionally, you can rent bikes from the resort as well as purchase packages that include not only your bike lift ticket, but also mountain bike rental and mountain biking lessons from a pro.
After the Ride: Bryce Mountain Resort features an array of dining options. Enjoy the resort restaurant and bar, or hit the Fireside Grill for a burger, or a most casual meal and beer at the Express Grill.
Nearest Town: Grundy
The Skinny: Mountain biker only trail network is highlighted by the 12-mile John Blair Trail
Quick Fact: The Coal Canyon Trail system is open to OHVs and mountain bikers and hikers.
The Ride: Part of the legendary Spearhead Trails of Southwest Virginia, the Coal Canyon trail system features an interconnected network of paths heading to highlights such as overlooks and hollows, traversing mountain lands of meadows and woods. These doubletrack Coal Canyon trails are a little more family-friendly than some other Spearhead Trails, therefore, are more suited for mountain bikers wanting to get their feet wet here in rugged Southwest Virginia.
Additionally, the 30-mile network of Stone Mountain Trails, also part of the greater Spearhead Trail system, offers more technical riding. It is also open to OHVs. Located near Pennington Gap, the tougher terrain includes overlooks, caves and river accesses, as well as challenging ascents and descents.
After the Ride: Check out Serendipity Café & Catering in Grundy. The original diner is situated in a former house and delivers not only good food but also a slice of Southwest Virginia to your palette.
Nearest Town: Salem
The Skinny: Gorgeous setting augments the first rate trail network
Quick Fact: The 12,000-acre preserve is the 2nd largest municipal park in the country.
The Ride: Carvins Cove — the stuff of legend in Virginia mountain biking circles — originally came into being to protect Roanoke’s reservoir and over time has emerged as one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the Southeast. Veined with 30 miles of mountain bike trails ranging from beginner to expert, it is the scenery that sets this destination apart. Picturesque Carvins Cove Reservoir forms the centerpiece while wildlife rich mountains rise on all sides to form a bowl of all-natural eye candy. The well-kept trail network is known to drain fast, keeping the trails in good shape Experience fast downhills, stream crossings and technical sections, but also a few flats and easier segments.
After the Ride: If you like music, craft beer and an appealing atmosphere, head to the Parkway Brewing Company, east of Carvins Cove. They live up to their self-described “relaxed atmosphere”.
Nearest Town: Blacksburg
The Skinny: National forest trail network centered in Poverty Creek valley
Quick Fact: The classic trail system is frequented by loyal users from nearby Virginia Tech.
The Ride: The U.S. Forest Service realizes the popularity of this deserving trail system and keeps it in good shape, well signed and maintained, saving you the time and trouble of trying to figure out where you are rather than just getting in the groove with the trail. Over 34 miles of trails can be ridden, including mostly singletrack. A few rock gardens and creek crossings add excitement, as do tight turns. Good mountain scenery beefs up the adventure, whether you are on the easier, flatter paths at the bottom of Poverty Creek valley or the steeper, technical stuff up on the hillsides.
After the Ride: Head to Blacksburg and hit the Rising Silo Brewery, with a fine variety of beer and non-alcoholic beverages, located out on a farm, Southwest Virginia’s only farm brewery.
Nearest Town: Danville
The Skinny: Anglers Ridge presents a Piedmont slice of Virginia mountain biking
Quick Fact: Some trails are shared with hikers and equestrians.
The Ride: The Anglers Ridge trail system along the Danville River offers vertical variation (over 600 foot elevation changes) as well as obstacle type challenges, yet the 35-mile network has something for mountain bikers of all levels. An interconnected series of trails run up the watery hollows feeding the Dan River and along the hillsides rising from the aforementioned hollows. Anglers Ridge gives mountain bikers a chance to experience Piedmont mountain biking on a series of well-signed paths. Expect less trail flow than newer tracks but Southside Virginia’s beauty shines through while you explore. The trailhead and quality picnic facilities here add a user-friendly touch to the experience.
After the Ride: Head to Two Witches Brewery and Winery. They lay claim to being Virginia’s only combo vintner and brewer.
Want to Extend Your Adventure? Check out these Mountain Biking Destinations with Camping:
The Skinny: The mapped out 480-mile route traverses Virginia’s Appalachians from north to south
Quick Fact: Download the route on Bikepacking.com and camp your way through national forest lands.
The Ride: Adventures like this are what mountain bikers fantasize about, the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail runs remote ridges and valleys using tons of singletrack as well as doubletrack and by necessity some roads to cobble together an unbelievable journey where you can use pedal power to lead through gorgeous scenery, discovering Virginia’s Appalachians in one fell swoop. Enjoy scenery from farm country to rocky ridgetops and forests galore. Stretching a full 480 miles, mountain bikers can tackle the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail in segments or bring their camping gear and tackle the whole shebang. Be prepared for ascents and descents that will tax your muscles. However, you will ultimately be rewarded with the sight of Damascus, a fitting end point, being that Damascus is America’s #1 trail town.
After the Ride: Relax in a hot spring, you earned it.
Nearest Town: Richmond
The Skinny: First rate constructed mountain bike trail system located in Richmond’s backyard
Quick Fact: Machine built flow trails uses the latest trail construction technology.
The Camping: The clean and well-kept campground is set in rolling woods. All sites have electricity. Water and hot showers are conveniently located among the three loops upon which the campsites are situated. A convenient campground camp store is open during the warm season.
The Ride: Part of Pocahontas State Park, a Virginia icon, has been repurposed and contains an incredible, well-planned 25-mile mountain biking trail network using the latest trail technology with an eye for everyone on two wheels, including hand cyclists. Rollers, berms, jumps and skinnies are integrated into the trail system, increasing the challenge the faster you go. Some of the tougher features have built-in, get-around options. Some of the shorter loops are great for budding young mountain bikers, with wide treads and narrow stretches built in at ground level, allowing lesser cyclists to practice crossing a skinny without getting skinned up. Be watchful as the interconnected mountain biking loops do cross hiker trails. The future of mountain bike trails keeps getting better as trails as Pocahontas State Park will be extending into greater Richmond.
After the Ride: Visit Steam Bell Beer Works in Midlothian near Pocahontas State Park. Check out their seasonal brews and take a tour to see how it is made.
The Skinny: Challenging but beautiful trails
Quick Fact: The camping matches the highly rated scenery.
The Camping: This quiet campground astride 25-acre Sherando Lake is nestled deep in mountains of the George Washington National Forest. The camp offers large wooded sites and hot showers. Creeks and another lake as well as attractive day use areas add to the campground.
The Ride: Bordered on two sides by the heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sherando Lake and its trails, as well as quiet national forest roads, offer mountain bikers a cornucopia of opportunity. However, be aware that most singletrack trails immediately around the campground are hiker only. That being said, mountain bikers use connecting forest roads to travel to the Mills Creek Trail, a fun and not-too-tough ride up a mountain stream with several watery crossings. The Torry Ridge Trail is very rocky in places and is tackled by experts. However, the Bald Mountain Jeep Trail is an excellent choice and connects to the Kennedy Ridge Trail, both of which traverse remote national forest terrain. A national forest map comes in handy here.
–TRAILS NEAR STOKESVILLE LODGE CAMPGROUND–
Nearest Town: Harrisonburg
The Skinny: Stokesville Lodge Campground is a fine base camp for exploring sweeping trails on Shenandoah Mountain and nearby Rocktown Trails in Harrisonburg
Quick Fact: The Shenandoah Mountain trails are in the George Washington National Forest, located west of the Shenandoah River, across the Shenandoah Valley from Shenandoah National Park.
The Camping: Stokesville Campground is a private facility spread out on 143 acres at the base of Shenandoah Mountain, with easy access to miles of trails.
The Ride: Mountain biking trails are easily accessible from Stokesville Lodge Campground. You can warm up at Hillandale Park in nearby Harrisonburg, home of the Rocktown Trails, with multi-level tight circuits and manmade obstacles. Next, hit the legendary tracks in the George Washington National Forest, just west of Stokesville. They offer long rides in wild lands down sweeping ridges and extended vales, true mountain biking, with the emphasis on mountain. Make the 13 mile Lookout Mountain Loop, using part of the Wild Oak Trail, where elevation change and plenty of rock keep the action going, including some prolonged downhills where you’ll charge down trail on singletrack. About half the loop is singletrack. Others like to be shuttled to the top of Shenandoah Mountain, then take a fun, frolicking ride down the east slope of the mountain on Timber Ridge, Wolf Ridge or Hearthstone Ridge. Of course, Stokesville Lodge has its own set of mountain biking trails, adding to the experience.
After the Ride: Hit Pale Fire Brewing Company in nearby downtown Harrisonburg. Local entrepreneurs making local beer.
Nearest Town: Norton
The Skinny: Pedal directly from your campsite to tackle the Flag Rock mountain bike trail network
Quick Fact: The mountain bike trail system skirts along the shores of two reservoirs.
The Camping: Located on a mountainside, the scenic, leveled campsites each feature full hookups. Hot showers, flush toilets and water fountains make camping a breeze and allow you to focus your energies on mountain biking. Norton is conveniently close, yet not too close.
The Ride: The city of Norton takes good care of the 8-mile network stretched over 1,000-acre Flag Rock Recreation Area. Cruise along rhododendron-bordered clifflines, past massive boulders amid everywhere-you-look beauty. Enjoy views of the Upper and Lower Reservoirs, yet some trails like Lost Creek allow nothing but hanging on and navigating your way through technical terrain. The trail network not only holds its own but also connects to adjacent Jefferson National Forest roads and trails, including famed High Knob.
After the Ride: Head to the Woodbooger Grill, named for the local “bigfoot” purportedly terrorizing area woods. The grill is a delight, however. Have a super “woodburger” while you are here.
Nearest Town: Clifton Forge
The Skinny: The park is not only a great place to ride but also to camp. Enjoy the waterfalls and other aquatic features, camp and escape to the mountains that we desire.
Quick Fact: Over 40 miles of trails highlight the park, almost all of which are open to mountain bikes.
The Camping: Douthat’s campgrounds are a Virginia favorite, and trailheads are located so close you can jump on your bike from camp and pedal your heart out. Some camps have views of Douthat Lake. Hot showers are available for those post-ride clean-ups. Three non-equestrian campgrounds give you plenty of sites from which to choose, most of which have water and electricity.
The Ride: The park is mountain bike friendly. The staff will help steer you toward trails to suit your ability and desires. So many trails you don’t have to ride the same thing twice over a weekend visit. The Middle Mountain Trail is a perennial favorite and connects to additional pathways coursing through the adjacent Jefferson National Forest. Some trails are steep and challenging — the climbs can be a grind. However, if you are going downhill that means fast-paced fun. Be careful on the rocky downhills or you will take flight over the handlebars. Plenty of singletrack for those desirous of tight pathways.
After the Ride: Enjoy food with a view at the state park restaurant. Eat outside and gaze up at the trail-laced mountains.
Nearest Town: Troutdale
The Skinny: Experience Virginia’s loftiest mountain biking.
Quick Fact: Some trails are shared with hikers and equestrians.
The Camping: Grindstone Campground, a bucolic and relaxing national forest facility, is located at the base of the Mount Rogers High Country and makes a great summertime camping destination to complement your highland riding. At 3,800 feet, the camp has hot showers, flush toilets and reservable campsites.
The Ride: Virginia’s highest mountains are centered here, amid the legendary Mount Rogers High Country, where spruce and fir clad rock ridges meld with windswept meadows where ponies roam. The Scales trailhead is ground zero for biking the High Country. Great for summertime, as the high elevations keep things cool. The Scales Trail is a mountain biker favorite, as it roams among grasses and woods with panoramic views that will pull your eyes away from your pedals. Mountain bikers have to be careful to avoid adjacent wildernesses and the Appalachian Trail. However, mountain biker friendly paths lead into adjacent Grayson Highlands State Park. The Mount Rogers High Country mountain biking experience is less of a technical trail challenge and more of an opportunity to experience mountain biking in an inspiring and unusual landscape.
After the ride: Dine at Casey’s in nearby Marion. Enjoy a classic home-style dining in a friendly atmosphere, good ol’ Southern cooking and hospitality.
© johnnymolloy for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2017. |