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See the Scenery from the Saddle: Bike the Shenandoah Valley

May 6, 2021

The Shenandoah Valley is an incredible place to pedal. From its scenic back roads rolling through pastoral farmland to adrenaline-inducing single track through the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, there’s something to please every biker among us. Where will your next ride take you? Read on for your guide to some of the best places to bike in the Valley.

Frederick County: 

With miles of pleasant rural roads, dotted with wineries and farm markets, Frederick County is an ideal destination for road bikers. Middletown’s annual Farm to Fork Fondo is an organized ride and food event that allows participants to choose their best distances and replenish with delicious farm-to-table foods.

Frederick County also has a wealth of undeveloped areas that are great for mountain biking. To have your hard work rewarded with great views, check out a leg of the 250-mile Tuscarora Trail, especially the moderately difficult sections near the Eagle Rock and Pinnacle overlooks. Frederick County’s portion of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is threaded with trails and old fire roads. If you’re seeking seclusion, you’ll find it on the 14.6-mile forested Vances Cove loop.

Riders wanting to find trails closer to Winchester will love the Sherando Mountain Bike Trails at Sherando Park. Here, riders of various skill levels can find miles of relatively flat, single track that’s marked and well built and maintained. There’s also a bike skills park where you can perfect your technique over various obstacles.

Winchester’s Green Circle Trail connects historical, recreational, educational, and natural areas like Old Town Winchester, Shenandoah University, the Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve, and Jim Barnett Park, which includes a BMX Bike Track. The main route circles the city in 6.3 miles.

Gear up at Element Sports or Blue Ridge Bicycles.

Shenandoah County

Shenandoah County has miles and miles of scenic roads with views of rolling farmland and distant mountains. You can cruise past charming towns, vineyards, the Meems Bottom Covered Bridge, horse farms and Civil War sites. Try a scenic ride along the Shenandoah River or along Swover Creek and check out Shenandoah County’s bike page for a number of mapped road routes.

You’ll never get bored while you’re mountain biking here since Shenandoah County has enough single track to keep even the most avid bikers busy for months. Favorites include the 9.9-mile, expert-level ride up Signal Knob . Most people need to walk at least part of the way, but the views and the long, dramatic descent that’s punctuated with rock gardens will thrill you. An easier ride that still offers the views is the 4-mile Buzzard Rock North trail. Another difficult and popular ride is the 9.6-mile Big Schloss Loop, that requires a big climb, but rewards with a panoramic view and a steep downhill session with both technical and speed sections.

Want to rocket down a slope without working the hills? The Bryce Mountain Bike Park uses ski lifts to take you and your ride to the top of the mountain where eight await beginner to advanced riders. Nervous riders can sign up for a lesson with a certified TakeAim Cycling instructor at the learning center. And if you don’t care to transport your own bike, you can rent one at the park. Season lift tickets are available. Bryce and Rev3Endurance also host annual mountain bike races including the 2021 Conquer the Mountain Oktoberfest – MTB or Gravel Grind Race. If you’re interested in adventure racing, they offer those, too, ranging from 24-hour challenges to family-friendly sprints.

Check with Shenandoah Mountain Touring for a range of guided rides for various abilities in George Washington National Forest. Multi-day adventure seekers should consider staging in an area bike and bed like Hopewell House Bike & Bed. You’ll get a comfortable room, a hearty and locally sourced breakfast, secure bike storage and access to basic tools, and lots of expert advice on nearby routes.

Warren & Page Counties

Looking for a quick spin with the family? Check out the Royal Shenandoah Greenway, which winds for five miles through downtown Front Royal, along the river through Eastham Park, and through the Happy Creek Arboretum. There’s even a book box for those who need a reading break! 

Shenandoah River/Andy Guest State Park is located on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River between Front Royal and Luray. Cyclists will find 24 miles of trails weaving through more than 1600 mountain and riverfront acres. Visitors can also camp and access the river from the park.

Warren County boasts several trails heading up the mountain and connecting to the monumental and punishing 70-mile Massanutten Ring.

Front Royal and Luray are close to entrances to Shenandoah National Park, and bikers can ride for 105 miles soaking up unspoiled views and from the road and the overlooks. Bikes are allowed on the park’s paved roads, but not permitted on the trails and open areas.

Bikers with kids will enjoy pedaling along Luray’s Hawksbill Greenway. The paved trail extends for two miles along Hawksbill Creek and provides a natural corridor through an urban area. The trail offers visitors chances to experience nature and watch for the wildlife living in the area and painted on murals. Families will also like the 1-mile bike loop in Shenandoah’s Big Gem Park. There’s a fishing pond and playground for after the ride.

Over a thousand athletes come to Luray each year for Racine Multisports’s international-level and sprint triathlons and duathlons. The races are in August, so you still have time to train. Sign up now! 

Rockingham County

Grab a Massanutten trail pass to explore the 30+ miles of mountain bikeable trails on the Massanutten Western Slope. Built and maintained by the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, the well marked trails wind through the woods and work their way up and down the slope. Revenue from trail passes supports the SVBC. Want a real thrill? Sign up for June 25th’s 5-mile Moonlight Rendezvous Race, which takes place on the full moon on a course marked with reflective tape. First, you’ll climb 1000 feet of single track in four miles. Then you’ll navigate to the Massanutten ski slope overlook before rocketing down a gravel forest road to the finish. If that’s not enough excitement, you’ll also appreciate Massanutten Bike Park, which gives riders access to lift-served trails for various ability levels. It’s all downhill with none of the work! You can buy day or 4-hour lift passes and the Bike Park offers bike rentals and a stocked bike shop.

Buy bikes and gear at Dayton’s Mole Hill Bikes.

Harrisonburg

Families hoping to spend outdoor time together in Harrisonburg can park in Purcell Park to access the Bluestone Trail. The hard-surfaced trail connects the park to nearby neighborhoods, businesses, and James Madison University.

More seasoned bikers can hit the mountain bike trails at Rocktown Trails at Hillandale Park. Three stacked-loop single track trails maintained by volunteers and the International Mountain Bicycling Association offer manmade and natural obstacles and various levels of difficulty, all within Harrisonburg city limits.  

Harrisonburg-area bikers can take advantage of several events this year. The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo has scenic courses ranging from 36-107 miles where participants race the clock to finish before the cutoff time. Aid stations have a festival atmosphere and riders are encouraged to hang out for food and drink. The Shenandoah Valley Century Ride is a 100-mile exploration of the Valley with a specially designed clover-shaped course along quiet back roads with lovely scenery. The Harris-Roubaix is a 22-mile loop on gravel roads (some are steep) near Singers Glen. Each spring, riders come together to ride as many times as they like, but the loop remains a popular route at any time of the year. Finally, the 25th annual Bike Shenandoah (September 18, 2021) will support six local causes with a selection of rides ranging from family-friendly 5-milers to 100K.

Gear up at Bluestone Bike & Run, Shenandoah Bicycle Company, or Rocktown Bicycles.

Augusta County

Pastoral views abound on the 13-mile Middlebrook Loop through Augusta County. You’ll gain (and lose) 787 feet on the rolling rural hills and you’ll cruise through the tiny, historic village of Middlebrook. Riders who hope to avoid strenuous climbing should try the 30-mile Waynesboro to Grottoes Loop, which follows the South River and boasts some of the flattest roads in Augusta County.

Mountain bikers who tackle the 18-mile Braley Pond and Confederate Breastworks Loop will encounter dirt forest roads, paved roads, and what many consider to be “one of the best single track downhills in the George Washington National Forest.” A similarly popular option is the Southern Traverse, an epic 36-mile trip through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. The ride includes a steep climb up Shenandoah Mountain, an 11-mile section of single track on the ridge, and a thrilling five-mile descent. 

Plan your trip on October 15-17, 2021 for the annual Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival.  Bikers of all abilities will choose from 11 mapped and supported riding opportunities. In addition to awesome rides and sightseeing, food and entertainment also take center stage at this popular Staunton-area biking festival.The festival has been lauded by both mapmyride.com and U.S. News and World Report’s Travel.

Click here for more loops and routes. Also check out Bike the Valley for more cycling resources.

TransVirginia Bike Route (www.transvirginia.org)

Staunton

Staunton riders can get a quick mountain bike workout within city limits at Montgomery Hall Park. You’ll find 4.1 miles of single track laid out in three blazed loops that are kept in good condition by Staunton Parks and Recreation. The trails twist in numerous switchbacks with steep drops and climbs. Roots are the main obstacle shere, but you can still get plenty dirty here. 

Beautiful Gypsy Hill Park is a nice place to bike with kids. Its paved 1.3-mile loop is just a mile from downtown and suitable for all ages, though you will need to watch for slow-moving car traffic. After your ride, you can have a picnic,  feed the ducks, and burn off any remaining energy on the playgrounds.

The Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival is back this year just in time to celebrate its 30th anniversary on October 15 – 17, 2021! This cherished event offers a full weekend of cycling in some of the most beautiful parts of Virginia. Constant vistas of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains enhance your enjoyment of the scenic countryside of the Shenandoah Valley.

Gear up at Black Dog Bikes 

Waynesboro

The South River Greenway stretches for 1.2 miles along the South River and connects Constitution Park with the YMCA. It will eventually connect Waynesboro’s Constitution Park with Ridgeview Park and the Blue Ridge Crozet Tunnel. The short ride is flat and paved, and perfect for even the youngest riders. You’ll like stopping to look at (or wade in) the river. You can also see some of the cool downtown murals from the trail. You can park at either end of the Greenway. Waynesboro Walk & Wheel will be staffing a table at the first Groovin’ on the Greenway (May 20th, 6-8 p.m.) They’ll lead people on a walk and bike ride on the Greenway from 6-7 p.m. 

The 2.25-mile Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel trail is open for hikers and bikers, but may be steep for beginners. The mile-long section that goes through the tunnel has no lights, so you’ll need your own light source to navigate it. 

There’s lots of wonderful biking on the back roads around Waynesboro. The annual Tour de Valley explores the area in all its fall glory with supported 100K and 100-mile routes as well as short, family-friendly options. At any time of the year, riders who wish to take advantage of the views, hill climbs, and relatively slow-moving traffic along the ridge line of the Blue Ridge can head either north or south by hopping on the Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway. These roads are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the country. Watch for fog and wild animals!

For a mountain biking challenge, try the trails in Sherando Lake Recreation Area, which range from intermediate to difficult and are packed with natural scenery, hills, rock gardens and exciting downhill sweeps. 

Gear up at Rockfish Gap Outfitters

Rockbridge County

The flat Chessie Trail stretches for 7.2 miles between Lexington and Buena Vista along what was originally a railroad bed for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. This easy ride follows the Maury River and is great for all ages and abilities. There’s parking at both ends and it can be completed as a longer out-and-back ride. 

At the other end of the spectrum is the challenging Buena Vista – Blue Ridge Parkway ride. This route is considered difficult due to its relentless hills and 45-mile length. Start in Buena Vista and climb four miles up to the crest of the Blue Ridge where you can rest and enjoy the view. The Blue Ridge Parkway section includes lots of hills and there’s a brake-burning downhill section before you can finally relax on the final few miles back to town. Another scenic ride that’s considered difficult due to length (45 miles) and a tough climb up North Mountain is the Lexington-Goshen Loop. There’s a nice descent and an exciting ride along the river through Goshen Pass before a section of rolling hills on the way back to town.

Gear up at Red Newt Bikes. See https://lexingtonvirginia.com/outdoors/activities/bike for more awesome rides through Rockbridge County.

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