Rip It & Grip It! Epic Mountain Biking Trails

by Stefanie Hatcher | Posted on August 28th, 2014

Rotor Meltdown at Carvins Cove

Rotor Meltdown at Carvins Cove

Experiencing the great outdoors is one of the best things to do in Virginia. How about experiencing the great outdoors on a mountain bike? We’re not talking about a leisurely stroll through the woods. We’re talking about rampin’ tree stumps, mud in your face, rocky terrain mountain biking. There’s epic mountain biking trails all over, so if you’re a mountain biker looking for some new tracks, check out some of these!

Virginia Mountain Biking Trail
After a decade of exploring, preparing and linking sections of trail together, guides with Shenandoah Mountain Touring, with encouragement from the IMBA, have made Virginia’s first permanent long distance backcountry trail a reality. The continuous off-road Virginia Mountain Biking Trail spans the length of Virginia’s Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains from Strasburg to Damascus. It links eight major trail systems in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, consists of primarily singletrack trails, covering 480 miles and climbing 65,000 feet. Hard-core mountain bikers can be one of the first to tackle this new epic trail that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine recently said is “poised to be the South’s sweetest stretch of singletrack.”

Southern Traverse Trail – Harrisonburg
Ride into history on the Southern Traverse Epic trail located in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest. The trailhead is near the Confederate Breastworks, an army camp created to stop Union troops from reaching Shenandoah Mountain. With 3,000 feet of climbing over 32 epic miles, this ride promises to test your courage and endurance. The backbone of the Southern Traverse is the south end of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, an 11-mile singletrack ridge-ride. The ridge is accessed by a doubletrack climb that ascends 1,800 feet through a picturesque hardwood hollow. The snaking trail follows the ridge south and is an amazing melody of smooth and fast downhills, and technical rock gardens.

Carvins Cove Natural Preserve – Roanoke
Carvins Cove has a wide variety of single track trails, ranging from fast, smooth flowing trails to technical, rocky terrain. The Appalachian Trail follows the park boundary along the northern half of the park. The short, but difficult singletrack trail features bench-cut areas that run along the steep hillsides, which require special attention. There are two double black diamond trails and 5 black diamond tracks throughout the Natural Preserve.

Fountainhead Regional Park Mountain Bike Train – Fairfax Station
Often described as a rollercoaster for mountain bikes, the Fountainhead Regional Park Mountain Bike Trail System offers mountain bikers one of the most popular trails in the region. For an advanced mountain biker, the abundance of fast single track, banked turns, bridges, ledges, steep climbs, and fast descents will keep your eyes locked on the trail ahead of you. Once you have completed one loop, or all three loops, you will be hooked and begging to do it again.

Freedom Park – Williamsburg
Choose “Trail C” of the six mountain biking trails at Freedom Park and experience the premiere Freeride Trail, boasting dozens of TTFs (Technical Trail Features), including dirt rollers, berms, log skinnies, teeter totters, A-frames, table-tops, gap jumps, gravity pits and more. “Trail D” is the park’s most difficult trail at five miles long and is the most overall technical cross-country terrain. Be prepared for sudden changes through hardwood and pine forests, several sets of switchbacks, and many short but twisty (and rooty) uphill sections with sharp turns.

George Washington National Forest
There’s certainly no shortage of epic biking in the George Washington National Forest. Offering 24 black diamond and two double-black diamonds, this place is a mountain biker’s mecca. Try out the short, painful ascent to the Blue Ridge line with the 0.9-mile Blue Loop Trail or the 1,2-mile Upper Torry Ridge Trail, a Rocky Ridge Ride with stunning views. Both are going to give you the double-black diamond experience on a short track. BE CAREFUL! Of the 24 single black diamond trails, riding the Virginia Endurance Series is a must! This 44.3-mile epic ridge showcases three phenomenal trails, including Lookout Mountain Loop, Wolf Ridge Loop and Narrowback Mountain Loop. The series includes back country, ultra-mega, hand crafted, all day joy rides. Slightly over half of the trail is single track with heights reaching 3,287′.

Bryce Mountain Bike Park (Bryce Resort) – Basye
The fairly new Bike Park at Bryce Resort features seven lift-accessed trails. The new Quad Lift eliminated the need to paddle uphill, allowing maximum time for downhill thrills. Or take ride up and taking in the scenery of the surrounding mountains. The Park’s advanced trails reach up to two miles, with one black diamond and three double black diamond trails.

Virginia Creeper Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail – Damascus
There are several single-track trails along the Virginia Creeper Trail and if you’re looking for some epic thrills, take the Iron Mountain Trail. Along the trail is Beech Grove, also known as the “Motorcycle Trail.” This is one of the more technical trails on the mountain, starting out as a smooth, buff, single track, with a couple of nice switchbacks near the top. After about a quarter mile it turns into a gnarly rock garden, with some larger rocks and water bars, as well as a couple of creek crossings. After you cross a “French drain,” the last 100 yards is a wide open double track with some nice opportunities to catch a little air!

Dragon’s Back Trail – Salem
This 12-mile, single track, black diamond trail sounds like a mountain biker’s dream. The trail system includes three different trails, all boasting different terrains and qualities. Beginning at Turkey Trail, bikers will pedal the rocky, gravel roads to the bottom of the Deer Trail, which is a very steep, very narrow, single track grunt to the top of the ridge line. The 2.5-mile Grouse Trail features rocky to switchback terrain. As you climb closer to the top, the trail becomes extremely rocky, making it very difficult to climb. Located less than 20 minutes from downtown Roanoke, Dragon’s Back takes riders on a back country journey. This spiny ridge trail is very technical and often requires some hiking with your bike, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

York River State Park – Williamsburg
York River State Park 16 miles of designated single-track trails, as well as 15+ miles of double-track, multi-use trails. The Marle Ravine Trail is the original 6.5 mile, single-track loop at the park. This trail runs counter-clockwise and it is the most challenging trail at the park. The trail offers challenging roots, switch backs, short, steep ascents, flowing descents, and four wooden bridge crossings. The John Blair Trail is the newest trail in the YRSP trail system. This bi-directional trail traverses eastward crossing the park’s existing fire roads, allowing single-track access to some of the most beautiful areas of the park.

Upper County Park (James City Co.) – Toano
The 3.7-mile loop trail at Upper County Park is a technical one, with tight turns and off camber sections. Aerobically, this trail is one of the most challenging around, where many climbs come one after the other with few flat areas to recover. You will find it hard to take you hands off the bar to grab a water bottle or even your hydration pack hose. The trail sees little use, so expect a few sticks and branches and a narrow tread through low bush, which covers much of the forest floor along the trail.

Pocahontas State Park – Chesterfield
The Lakeview I, II & III trails in Pocahontas State Park, are nothing to approach lightly! Expect to experience a creek crossing, lots of small logs, some expose rocky shelves, some basic rock gardens and a lot of climbing and descending.  Expert offshoots add more rocky features, log skinnies, jumps and some technical, bouldered sections. Without including the red offshoots, Lakeview 1 is roughly a six mile loop from the parking lot.  Lakeview II extends this to about 8.5 miles and Lakeview III extends it to a total of 11.5 miles.

 

boasts a 13.7-mile loop. The trail is an extensive, difficult loop of connected trails with additional loops to explore. The trail incorporates portions of the Old Mill Bicycle Trail and connects to many other trails in the park. This trail circumnavigates the entire portion of the park north of State Route 655. For most of its length the Fendley Station Trail passes through mixed hardwood forest and some of the more remote park areas. Pocahontas also boasts a single and double diamond each. With the single-diamond Morel Ravine Trail, expect many rock gardens, uphill log crossings and other technical features. The double-diamong Lil’ West VA Trail is the hardest in the park, with advanced man-made features like teeters, skinnies, narrow wooden bridges and extensive rock gardens.

expect to experience a creek crossing, lots of small logs, some expose rocky shelves, some basic rock gardens and a lot of climbing and descending.  Expert offshoots add more rocky features, log skinnies, jumps and some technical, bouldered sections.  Without including the red offshoots, Lakeview 1 (blue on this map) is roughly a six mile loop from the Heritage Center parking lot.  Lakeview 2 (green on this map) extends this to about 8.5 miles and Lakeview 3 (red on this map) extends it to a total of 11.5 miles.

Douthat State Park – Clifton Forge
Douthat State Park  is pure mountain splendor. Located in a remote pocket of the Allegheny Mountains, it features a pristine lake as its centerpiece. Fat tire enthusiasts come for the 40 miles of singletrack with challenges for all levels. Experts find favor with many of the long sustained climbs and payoff screaming descents, but there is plenty of variety for everyone to make this one of the best mountain biking destinations in Virginia.

Elizabeth Furnace

Elizabeth Furnace

Elizabeth Furnace – Strasburg
This is a tough ride. If you’re new to the sport, you’ll probably hate it unless you turn around at Strasburg Reservoir and stay away from Signal Knob and the Green Mountain climb. People come here all the time to tame the steeps and conquer the rocky descents on their high-end full suspension bikes. They usually fail. So why do so many cyclists keep coming back year-round, winter, spring, summer and fall? Simply put, Elizabeth Furnace is home to some of the best all-around mountain bike trails in all of Northern Virginia. It’s steep. It’s dangerous. It’s long. It’s fast. It’s a blast. Trail Surface: Mountainous, rocky singletrack and forest roads.

 

For more trails and resources, check out these sites:

 

There’s plenty of epic mountain biking trails around the Commonwealth. What’s your favorite? Share!

 

 

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One Comment

Sam Daniel says:

Get ready Virginia! Here I come! With me lad, downhill mountain bike, we be conqurin’ yah.