5 Best Mountain Bike Rides in Virginia

virginia mtb

One of the country’s most popular destinations for mountain biking, the Commonwealth of Virginia is located in the South Atlantic region of the United States. It is home to hundreds of monuments and other sites of historical importance, many of which can be explored along the state’s many outdoor trails.

The geography and climate of Virginia, shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and Chesapeake Bay, make it an ideal locale for mountain biking. Each year, thousands of dedicated riders flock to the state to tackle its many exciting courses and to take part in the culture that makes Virginia so unique and appealing.  To help you become more familiar with the state’s mountain biking landscape, below we have highlighted five of its most popular trails—trails located in various corners of the region—and provided a brief description of each of their characteristics.

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Angler’s Ridge

Located in the city of Danville, Virginia, the trail system at Angler’s Ridge is one of the most popular outdoor cycling venues in the southeast—a destination that offers a wide array of challenges and some of the region’s most stunning natural scenery.

Riders who visit this 33-mile (and growing), intermediate-rated course can expect to encounter a variety of obstacles and impediments along the route, including protruding roots, natural rocky outcroppings, skinny’s, side-hill berms, and creek crossings; along with a series of grueling, fitness-testing climbs and an exciting downhill section that makes all of the aforementioned challenges worth the trip.

Angler’s Ridge is comprised of stacked-loop single track that accommodates every level of rider.  The course was built—and is maintained—by IMBA-trained volunteers, who together built a series of trails that vary greatly in skill level, from the entry-level track along Riverside Drive to the more technical Crooked Stick course (650-foot elevation change) and Witchback Trail, known as the most challenging course at Angler’s Ridge with a whopping 890-foot change in elevation.  Riders of this trail system, which snakes through a beautiful hardwood forest, will find bridges, gravity drops, log pyramids, tight switchbacks, and moguls, along with plenty of local wildlife to admire.

For riders’ convenience and comfort, the facilities at Angler’s Ridge include a bike wash station and heated bathrooms.

Douthat State Park

Virginia is well known as an ideal locale for the sport of mountain biking, and the 40-mile trail system at Douthat State Park definitely reflects this reputation.  Located in the town of Millsboro, the park is a hidden gem in the Appalachian Mountains of South-Central Virginia, a place that encompasses more than 4,500 acres and is surrounded by the George Washington National Forest, offering many opportunities for mountain biking exploration.

Although definitely not the longest system of trails in Virginia, Douthat does boast some of the greatest elevation change—nearly 1,500 feet over the course of the track.  In addition to its grueling climbs and thrilling descents, the Douthat system of trails is fraught with technical challenges, including tight and twisty switchbacks; loose, gravely terrain; moguls; berms; and rocky jumps, all set against a backdrop of spectacular local flora.

Douthat State Park is in a somewhat isolated location, but it does provide a host of different lodging options, from camping to cabins with full kitchen facilities and linens provided.  Boating and fishing are also popular activities at Douthat State Park.

Northbank Trail

Located in the large city of Richmond, Virginia, the Northbank Trail is a superb challenge for mountain bikers. The trail is part of the James River Trail loop and runs east to west from the Boulevard Bridge to Oregon Hill. The course passes below historic Hollywood Cemetery and has many scenic views of the river and the Kanawha Canal. Bikers are urged to watch for hikers and stay on the trail to prevent erosion.

Built in the spring of 2005, the Northbank Trail is a two mile course that is recommended for advanced to expert riders only. The trail was once used in the Xterra Eat Championship Race, one of the sport’s most prestigious annual events.  Northbank offers flowing single track with some grueling climbs and technical turns, a few roots and rocks to negotiate, and a generally fast track of hard-packed dirt.  Additionally, the course affords some picturesque views of the river and some interesting artifacts to be found along the way.

The Northbank Trail commences and finishes at the parking area for the North Bank section of the James River Park System.

Dragon’s Back Trail

Situated roughly 13 miles north of the town of Salem, Virginia, Dragon’s Back Trail is a 12-mile course designed for intermediate to expert riders only.  The scenery here includes great views from the top of North Mountain, but because of the course’s difficulty level, rubbernecking is not recommended along the course.

Riders looking to test their full bag of mountain biking tricks will feel right at home on Dragon’s Back, as the course is loaded with technical challenges. An exclusively single track loop, the trail is definitely not for the faint of heart, particularly the sections of downhill terrain that are both rapid and obstacle-laden. Along other portions of the course, riders will need to contend with a number of impediments, including loose gravel; creek crossings; super-tight switchbacks; roots; and jagged rocks.  Collectively these obstacles will test even the most seasoned mountain bikers.

The Dragon’s Back trail system actually includes three different trails, each featuring different topographies and challenges.  Commencing along the first stretch, known as Turkey Trail, riders will make their way through flat, rocky gravel roads to the base of Deer Trail—a very steep, extremely narrow section of single track that will take them to the top of the gorgeous ridge line.  Finally, there is Grouse Trail, which boasts rocky, switchback terrain.  As riders ascend closer to the trail’s apex, the course becomes incredible rocky, making it very difficult to climb.

The Dragon’s Back Trail system, located just 20 miles from downtown Roanoke, Virginia, takes riders on a fun and challenging back country journey that is well worth the extra effort.

Bryce Mountain Bike Park

Located in the town of Basye, Virginia, the Bryce Mountain Bike Park has brought a whole new level of fun and excitement to the mountains of Virginia.  Built in partnership with Gravity Logic out of Whistler, British Columbia and Trek Bicycles, the outdoor resort offers a mountain biking experience that is sure to please riders of all ages and ability levels.

Bryce Mountain Bike Park is comprised of eight lift-accessed trails, ranging from Beginner and Learning Terrain to Advanced/Difficult terrain, some of which are over 2 miles in length.  Those looking to maximize their downhill riding experience will love the park’s new Quad Lift, which completely eliminates the need to pedal uphill. 

In addition to its many fun trails, the Bryce Mountain Bike Park also includes a learning center, where beginner riders are taught proper riding techniques and where more advanced riders are given the opportunity to upgrade their style and hone their performance.  Also included at Bryce Mountain Bike Park is a bike retail shop, as well as a rental area featuring Trek Bicycles and all the pads and gear riders will need for an exciting day on the mountain.

image credit: EVMA

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