Officially known as the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the state of Kentucky can be found in the south-central region of the United States, a region that offers a wealth of off-road recreational opportunities for the state’s growing number of mountain bikers.
Nicknamed the Bluegrass State, Kentucky is rapidly becoming a hotbed for mountain biking — a state that features a number of different trails and terrains to challenge outdoor cyclists, including its Appalachian mountain regions, wooded forests, and scenic plateaus that overlook the state’s many rivers. Below we will highlight five of the most popular mountain biking trails in the state of Kentucky, and illustrate some of the features and technical challenges that each of these courses has to offer. So grab your hardtail bike and get ready to hit the trails.
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Brier Creek Trail
Located in the famed Mammoth Cave region of Kentucky, the Brier Creek mountain bike trail offers an astounding ride along the park’s hardwoods as riders make their way to the spectacular Omega Ridge—a two-hundred foot climb that will test the boundaries of endurance and grit.
The Brier Creek trail features an assortment of different terrains, including a beautiful, flat stretch along the Waterfall Loop, a refreshing portion of the course that showcases the region’s amazingly beautiful foliage, particularly during the spring months.
There are many technical obstacles at Brier Creek, a course that is designed for intermediate to advanced riders looking to perfect their skills in a low-risk environment. Twisting berms, rocky outcroppings, switchbacks, log bridges and some super-speedy descents are just a few of the impediments and challenges riders will need to negotiate on this very popular eight-mile loop.
The Brier Creek mountain biking trail system is made possible by a partnership between the Kentucky State Park system, the United States Corp of Engineers and the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, the latter of which is responsible for marking and maintaining the trail throughout the year.
Fort Duffield Trail
The Fort Duffield trail system is located just outside the large Kentucky city of Louisville. This challenging loop is loaded with nice downhill single track, grueling climbs, and an abundance of log and creek crossings which together add to the unique test of this advanced-rated 10 mile course.
Known throughout the Louisville area for its technical hard-cut terrain and its bevy of climbs and drop-offs, the Fort Duffield Trail also features some pulse-pounding, dedicated free-ride sections and dirt jumps, affording riders the opportunity to catch some nice air as they speed along the track. The course is situated among the training grounds of the U.S. Army’s Fort Knox, which gives the trail a very remote feel despite its close proximity to the heavily populated city of Louisville.
The Fort Duffield trail system gives riders three options: the Yellow Course, Red Course, or Blue Course, each with unique terrains and its own set of challenges. The Yellow Course is a quick downhill track, with plenty of jumps and gaps, designed to be ridden by a big travel or motocross bike. The Red Course is a cross-country loop that fully encircles the park, allowing riders to test themselves on hard climbs before descending some really fast single track. Finally, the Blue Course is intended exclusively for cross country and motocross and is similar to the Red Course only with more technical jumps and maneuvers.
Capital View Trail
As the name suggests, the Capital View Trail is located in the city of Frankfort, Kentucky—the state’s capital. This beautiful 7-mile course is designed for beginner and novice riders looking to get some exercise while improving their bike handling skills.
Capital View Trail is built within a park of the same name, a 150-acre park with picnic areas, softball and soccer fields and a two-rim basketball court. The trail system gives riders an up-close view of all the beauty the park has to offer, as they attempt to maneuver through tight single track, some easy creek crossings and plenty of flat stretches along the park’s fire road. The track also features one long and fairly rapid descent, two berms and sinkholes, and a few low jumps that are thrilling to tackle given the right amount of speed.
In total, the Capital View Trail includes a 1,000 foot elevation change; the top of the course gives riders an unobstructed view of the capital building below, as well as some other important examples of downtown Kentucky architecture.
Canal Loop Trail
Although rated moderate, the Canal Loop Trail is ideal for riders of all levels, including beginner to advanced riders. Located in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, Canal Loop Trail is a 12-mile course featuring both single and double track with two extended, heart-pumping climbs that are perfect for those looking to burn calories.
While the first six miles of the Canal Loop are fairly fast and built on flowing intermediate terrain, the second half of the course—once riders pass under the canal bridge and reappear on the Kentucky Lake side—is designed to test endurance and bike handling skills, as this portion of the trail is much faster and includes many more technical challenges. According to locals who ride the Canal Loop frequently, the highlight of the ride is the downhill section that begins at the radio tower, giving riders the opportunity to reach maximum speed as they tackle berms, jumps and other nerve-testing impediments.
The average time to complete the Canal Loop trail is just over two hours, assuming riders complete the full loop.
Ben Hawes Trail
Situated in the town of Owensboro, Kentucky, the Ben Hawes Trail offers something for every level of rider. Recently redesigned by the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association, the trail consists of both single track and purpose-built double track with more than its fair share of berms, pumps and fantastic flow.
The double track portion of the Ben Hawes Trail is a wide, flat section with non-technical aspects that make it perfect for a family ride or for beginners riding alone. Intermediate and advanced riders will want to head to the single track of the Green and Blue sections of the trail, respectively, the former being a two-mile loop and the latter spanning nearly seven miles in total distance.
Both the Blue and Green portions of the Ben Hawes Trail offer some fairly grueling ascents, fast to rapid downhill sections and some gorgeous natural scenery. The park is open year-round, but riders are urged to call ahead during the winter months to check for closures and/or course conditions.
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