The first state to enter the union now known as the United States of America, Delaware is situated in the U.S.’s Mid-Atlantic region, in the northeast megalopolis that includes several nearby states. Delaware is bordered by the state of Maryland to the south and west; New Jersey to the northeast; and Pennsylvania to the north.
Delaware is located in the northeastern portion of the Delmarva Peninsula and is the second-smallest state in the union by total area (after Rhode Island), and the sixth-least populous state. However, due to its small size Delaware is also the sixth-most densely populated state in America.
Some 96 miles long and ranging from 9 miles to 35 miles across, Delaware offers mountain bikers a variety of terrains to choose from. The northernmost part of the state, for example, is part of the Piedmont Plateau, an area with an abundance of hills and rolling surfaces. There are also a number of trails that closely follow the Atlantic Seaboard fall line—trails that are mostly flat in nature that offer scenic views that have to be witnessed firsthand to fully appreciate.
In the following article we will highlight five of Delaware’s most popular and well-ridden trails, and provide a brief description that will detail the various characteristics of each of these courses.
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White Clay Creek Trail
Located in the town of Newark, Delaware, the White Clay Creek Trail offers a little bit of everything, and while rated “intermediate,” this 24-mile out-and-back route is perfect for riders of all ages and ability levels.
Declared a “National Wild and Scenic Rivers System” in 1991, the White Clay Creek watershed is one of the area’s few unspoiled and ecologically-functioning river systems. This oft-visited and very popular river and state park includes four linked areas that visitors can take advantage of: the Carpenter Recreation Area; the White Clay Creek Preserve; Possum Hill; and the Judge Morris Estate, each offering many recreational activities, most importantly mountain biking.
The White Clay Creek Mountain Biking Trail features gentle rolling hills; hardwood forests; and rushing streams that take riders through the Mid-Atlantic flood plain near Delaware’s northwest border. In total, there are approximately 25 miles of well-groomed, expertly-maintained, multi-use trails here, all of which wind throughout the four aforementioned areas of this very well-liked park.
The course’s entertaining Middle Run Natural Area is situated between the main parkland and the eastern part of the park (Judge Morris Estate). Here riders can travel some two miles over gentle rolling hills and through the county-owned Middle Run Valley Natural Area to Possum Hill.
Although the White Clay Creek Trail includes a series of well-placed obstacles, both natural and manmade, the course is still easy enough to accommodate beginners and family groups seeking some pleasurable recreational fun amid the park’s beautiful scenery. The dirt trail is virtually smooth and hard-packed and includes a few gentle climbs and a series of exhilarating downhill sections that will keep riders coming back for more.
Due to nesting birds along the perimeter of the White Clay Creek Trail, riders are urged not to venture from the well-marked track, as doing so could potentially harm this local form of wildlife.
Brandywine State Park Trail
Situated in the town of Wilmington, Delaware, the Brandywine State Park Trail is an intermediate-rated course that offers a fun mix of wide, rolling double track, some exciting single track and forest roads with breathtaking scenery.
A diverse and vast trail measuring approximately 33 miles in total distance, the Brandywine State Park Trail straddles the Delaware/Pennsylvania state line. The area in which this trail is located is divided into two halves by Thompson’s Bridge Road. To the south of the road riders will discover the extremely technical portion of the course, an area loaded with spine-tingling obstacles and impediments, exciting descents and plenty of drops and natural features.
The north side of Thompson’s Bridge Road features a rapid track of hard-packed dirt and loam. This portion of the trail flows much easier than its southern counterpart and offers riders plenty of great views of the park’s amazing scenery.
Parking is abundant at Brandywine State Park and the adjoining Woodlawn Nature Preserve, where riders will find the trailhead and a number of conveniences, including full restrooms and bike wash and repair stations.
Beaver Dam Loop Trail
The Beaver Dam Loop Trail, which is actually a series of loops, is located in the city of Rehoboth, Delaware, in the Beaver Dam State Recreation Area on the shores of Falls Lake.
There are four loops at Beaver Dam that are rated beginner to intermediate. They include the 2.6 mile outer loop trail (beginner); the 1.6 mile inner loop (beginner); the 2.4 mile western loop (beginner); and the much more advanced 8.5 mile loop known simply as the “South Loop.”
The first three of these four loops are designed to accommodate riders of all ability levels. Collectively, they feature a mix of double and single track, with minor obstacles that include small rocks and roots, a few gentle climbs and a collection of pleasing drops and descents that allow riders to take a pedaling break as gravity takes over.
The longer, South Loop is much more difficult than its three Beaver Dam cousins. It features a few grueling climbs, exhilarating descents, and an abundance of natural and manmade obstacles, ranging from high berms to rushing river crossings.
In addition to the trails at the Beaver Dam State Recreation Area, the park includes two very large parking lots, full restrooms, picnic shelters, grills and a scenic lakefront beach area for catching some rays. Riders can also engage in a myriad of other recreational pursuits at the park, such as fishing, kayaking, or just grilling burgers in the shade of the picnic shelter.
Parking at Beaver Dam State Recreation Area costs $6 per vehicle. At certain times of the year, mostly during the winter, the trails may be closed, so it’s important you call ahead regarding trail conditions before heading out to this beautiful state park.
Bethany Bay Resort
Located in the beautiful town of Ocean View, Delaware, the Bethany Bay Resort offers a number of opportunities for healthy recreation, including an incredibly popular system of mountain biking trails.
Rated intermediate in terms of its difficulty level and spanning a total of three miles, the out-and-back trail at Bethany Bay Resort features an abundance of the obstacles and characteristics that riders adore, including some great log jumps, a few scattered manmade bridges, rocks, roots and a flowing course with a gorgeous ocean view.
The Bethany Bay Resort is well-known for its peaceful, quiet and off-the-beaten-path locale, but the resort is still close enough for riders and their families to enjoy the beach and the boardwalk, home to a number of tasty restaurants, trendy shops and fun local festivals.
At Bethany Bay Resort, some 420 acres of lush, untouched land provides the ideal setting for a relaxing mountain bike ride. Best of all, thanks to a number of forward-thinking policies more than half of this terrain will remain unspoiled for future generations—allowing the ponds and wetlands to be enjoyed for many, many years to come.
Blackbird State Forest
Located in the town of Smyrna, Delaware, the Blackbird State Forest features a diverse blend of lush hardwood forests, rolling farm fields, gushing streams and tidal marshes, giving riders a great opportunity to utilize a full range of skills to negotiate the park’s mountain biking courses. The park spans the Delmarva Peninsula, stretching from the Delaware Bay to the Cypress Branch headwaters of the Chester River, one of the most beautiful expanses of land in the entire state.
Mountain biking is both permitted and encouraged on the 20-plus miles of trails within the Blackbird State Forest, which is popular for its unique terrain and gorgeous natural flora. The trail system here is comprised mostly of single track fire road, with some additional double track mileage that is perfect for beginners and family groups. All of the park’s well-maintained trails feature a variety of obstacles, such as roots, berms and log jumps, affording riders a unique opportunity to practice and master a variety of bike handling skills.
The shady trails of the Blackbird State Forest add a measure of serenity to every ride, as riders gently make their way through the picturesque oak, beech and hickory trees. Most of the park’s trails intersect with each other at various points, allowing cyclists to create a new and different route with each successive ride.
image credit:Seth W Gehman