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Biking the Southeast: 10 Biking Destinations Across the Blue Ridge

Arrowhead Bike Trails

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Flowy singletrack, scenic greenways, heart racing downhill, rolling countryside roads—the Blue Ridge has it all. It’s time to pump up your tires, snap on your helmet, and head out for a beautiful fall bike ride. Please check with locations prior to travel for local guidelines or use this guide for future trips!

Bike Hip and Historic Frederick County, Md.

No matter your style of riding, Frederick County has a route for you. From scenic rides through the city and countryside to a taste of mountain biking and multi-day trips, you can’t go wrong in this slice of Maryland. 

Road cyclists will love the North County Bridge Sampler, a 40-mile excursion through the county as you cross three covered bridges, and the Campaign Ride, a tour of the area’s Civil War history that cuts through through Frederick, a Bicycle Friendly City. When you’re done in the saddle, Downtown Frederick is full of restaurants and shops to try. Kick back with a cold beer and sandwich from Brewer’s Alley Restaurant & Brewery or go for an upscale cocktail and dinner from Hootch & Banter. North Market Pop Shop is the place to stop for all kinds of treats, including over 400 varieties of glass bottle soda pop. Creme de la Creme carries a variety of home decor and art while Retro Metro is a one-stop shop for quirky gift items. 

c&o canal
Cycling the C&O Canal Towpath

Running along the county’s southern border, the C&O Canal Towpath offers endless opportunities for day trippers, bikepackers, and families alike. You can expect a flat stretch of gravel riding with a shaded tree canopy. Stop into Brunswick, a Canal Town, to rest your legs and grab a bite to eat. Beans in the Belfry, a delightful cafe housed in an old church, features a menu filled with comfort foods like breakfast sandwiches served on flaky croissants and an assortment of desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth. While in town, check out the mountain biking trails at River’s Edge for a variety of flowy and downhill rides. 

Need something while you’re in town? River & Trail Outfitters can hook you up with gear rentals and shuttles, plus guided tours along the canal. For all of your tune-up and spare parts needs while on the road, Wheel Base has you covered. Reserve a road, adventure, or mountain bike and learn about the best places to ride through Bicycle Escape. 

Plan your trip for the end of October when Frederick County will host the 2021 USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships. With events taking place at Gambrill State Park and the Frederick City Watershed, you can see some of the best riders in action while enjoying two world-class mountain biking locations. Book a room at one of the hotels in Frederick to stay close to the action. 

Bike the Mountains of Allegany County, Md.

Situated among the Appalachian Plateau and Allegheny Mountains and bordered by the Potomac River, Allegany County is a scenic biking destination in the ‘Mountain Side of Maryland.’ A convenient drive from major regional cities, including Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, you will find plenty to do in your saddle and off. 

A quarter of Allegany County is preserved as public land, giving riders plenty of options to choose from. Bike the trails around Lake Habeeb, known for some of the bluest water in the state, at Rocky Gap State Park. Hang out on the park’s beaches or take a boat out on the water for a change of scenery. Green Ridge State Forest offers more than 80 miles of trail for hikers and bikers to discover. More experienced riders will enjoy the Green Ridge Mountain Biking Trail, a 12.5-mile circuit made up of mostly singletrack.

A group of women cycle the Fifteen Mile Creek portion of the C&O Canal Towpath in Allegany County, MD. 

Additionally, two internationally-recognized trail systems meet in Allegany County to give you countless riding options. Head north from Cumberland, Md., on The Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile rail trail that finishes in Pittsburgh, Pa., or take the C&O Canal Towpath 184.5 miles south to Washington, D.C., on one of the most visited national parks in the country.  The historic C&O Canal is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a national park in 2021. With so many miles available on these off-road gravel paths, it’s easy to go for a day ride or string together a multi-day bikepacking trip.

road cyclers in fall in allegany county
Cyclists crossing Lake Gordon along one of Allegany County’s many road cycling routes. 

Road cyclists will love the routes available in Allegany County. Traffic is light, which makes travel faster and safer. The region is geographically central to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and neighboring Maryland counties, which means more routes for you and more scenic beauty, which isn’t too shabby either! While there are hundreds of miles worth exploring, Mountain Maryland has worked with its local trail groups to develop eight distinct road routes. The routes range in distance from 15 miles to an 80-mile ride that will take you from downtown Cumberland to the Flight 93 Memorial in nearby Shanksville, Pa.

If you are looking to rent a bike or need a quick tune up, Allegany County is home to multiple outfitters, including its newest business, Wheelzup Adventures. Wheelzup started as a shuttle-service business that provided passenger and bike transportation to and from trail towns along the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage. Now that business has expanded to a retail storefront in downtown Cumberland. The store offers trail, road, and kid bike rentals, apparel and gear retail, and the outfitting connection for a variety of tours and guided experiences.

When you are done on your bike, check out some of the other trails in the area for a refreshing taste of the mountains. The Ice Cream Trail features nine stops with menus full of sweet treats, including seasonal, homemade ice cream flavors and specialty sundaes. Drive the Mountain Maryland Tap and Pour Craft Beverage Tour for a roundup of the area’s best wineries, breweries, and distilleries. After a long day outside, grab a glass of your favorite drink while you enjoy the scenery. 

Get away and ride all day in Allegany County, the ‘Mountain Side of Maryland.’

Trails for Every Rider at Bryce Resort, Va.

Whether you’re new to mountain biking or have been shredding the trails for years, Bryce Resort’s Bike Park features 12 lift-accessed trails—covering everything from flowy beginner singletrack to Hooch, a new double black jump line—to satisfy every kind of rider. With one of the longest bike park seasons in the country, running from May to November, there’s still plenty of time to get in a visit this year. 

bryce resort bike park
Bryce Resort Bike Park

Beyond the resort’s boundaries, discover miles of gravel, road, and singletrack to ride in George Washington National Forest and the surrounding area, all of which is accessible right out of the Bryce parking lot. 

Want to work on your skills and tighten up your technique? Bryce is now partnering with TakeAim Cycling to provide professional learning experiences on the mountain. With private and group lessons, skills clinics, and gravity camps taught by PMBIA-certified instructors, there’s never been a better time to learn from some of the best. 

This is a destination you’ll want to visit again and again as the park has plans to add additional trails in the spring of 2022. Set in the beautiful mountains of the northern Shenandoah Valley, Bryce Resort is the place to be for all things mountain biking this fall.

Hit the Trails in Bedford, Va.

Bedford County’s prime location in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia makes it a top destination for outdoor lovers near and far. Whether it’s biking a section of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway or the smooth singletrack of the local parks, there are countless ways to get outside on two wheels. 

Falling Creek Park
Falling Creek Park

Get started on the 10-mile trail network and skills park at Falling Creek Park, featuring a variety of trail difficulties built to challenge every kind of rider, or the seven miles of riding at the New London Tech Trails, providing a beginner-friendly space across rolling terrain. Tack on even more riding time at Montvale and Moneta Park, two of the area’s top secrets, especially as additional trails are built. Still need more places to ride? Pedal around to the scenic overlooks at Smith Mountain Lake State Park where you can catch a glimpse of the picturesque lake. 

But there’s more to Bedford than just bikes. Save some time for shopping in historic downtown Bedford, a hike at the Peaks of Otter, and a drink or two from Beale’s Brewery and Apocalypse Ale Works. Check out a number of lodging options, from cottages to campgrounds, to get the most out of your visit.

Top Virginia State Parks for Bikers of All Ages

When it comes to planning your next biking adventure, look no further than the hundreds of miles of trails snaking through the Virginia State Parks. Home to some of the best views and waterways in Virginia, there’s no better way to take it all in than from your saddle. 

High Bridge Trail State Park
High Bridge Trail State Park

Want to try an all-day or multi-day excursion? New River Trail State Park is a 57-mile linear park in southwest Virginia running from Galax to Pulaski. Between the rail trail’s gentle slope and the beautiful views of the New River, this is a great option for riders of all abilities. With three primitive campsites, plus several parking lots, picnic shelters, and restrooms, along the way, you can design your trip to fit your style. Just off the main trail, the Hoover Mountain Biking Area offers additional space for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers looking to loop together some more miles. If you’re in the mood for a shorter day trip, traverse 31 miles on High Bridge Trail State Park. Take in the views from High Bridge, a historic landmark, as you bike 2,400 feet across the Appomattox River flowing 125 feet below. 

Pocahontas State Park
Pocahontas State Park

Looking to ride some sweet singletrack and scenic routes? Pocahontas State Park has more than 70 miles of directional mountain bike and multi-use trails. As part of the IMBA Bronze Level Richmond Regional Ride Center, this park has all the flow and obstacles you could want out of a challenging course, including hand cycle-friendly trails. Douthat State Park features an additional 35+ miles of excellent riding, especially for intermediate and experienced riders. A waterfall, view of the lake, and switchbacks abound in this mountainous destination. Reserve a cabin or campsite to more fully enjoy all of the hiking, fishing, and paddling opportunities this park provides. In eastern Virginia, the trails at York River State Park allow you to explore a variety of coastal habitats by bike. This rare estuarine environment where freshwater and saltwater meet is home to marshes and forests with views from the riverbank. Although it is a day-use park, there is some excellent fishing and kayaking available when you’re done in the saddle. 

With dozens of state parks dotting the Virginia landscape from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains, you’re sure to find one that fits your sense of adventure. Pump up your tires, grab your helmet, and head out to a Virginia State Park today.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Va. Are Built for Bikes

Surrounded by the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Va., are designated a “Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists and a “Bronze Level Ride Center” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association for its mix of family-friendly road riding and challenging mountain biking. The area boasts a diverse mix of peaceful county trails, bike-friendly city streets, winding singletracks, and challenging mountain bike courses, offering something for all types and levels of cyclists.

George Washington National Forest is the crown jewel of the region with several hundred miles of backcountry trails and trail projects that have been built and optimized for mountain biking, including Narrowback Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and Wolf Ridge. Some of the best backcountry riding can be found on the TransVirginia Bike Route, 550 miles on a new gravel bikepacking and touring route focused on rideable, non-technical, unpaved terrain. From D.C. to Harrisonburg, it runs 215 miles.

Cycling in Fulks Run
Cycling in Fulks Run, photo by Scott Brown

In Harrisonburg, the Rocktown Trails at Hillandale Park were developed as a system of natural surface, stacked loop trails that offer a wide range of difficulties for novice to expert riders while the paved Bluestone Trail is an excellent choice for families as it cuts through Purcell Park.

A biking trip to the area wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Massanutten Resort. As one of only two lift-accessible mountain bike parks in the state, the lower and upper lifts take riders up the mountain so they can enjoy the rocky terrain on the way down. The Western Slope Trails offer an additional 30 miles that make up a dense network of trails. 

Several bike shops and outfitters in the area offer a variety of services while you’re in town. Swing by Mole Hill Bikes in Dayton or Rocktown Bicycles in Harrisonburg for all of your gear and repair needs. When you stop into Shenandoah Bicycle Company, make sure you also grab an organic açaí bowl or smoothie from the in-house Pulp Cafe. If you’re looking to improve your skills out on the road or the trail, the fine folks at East Coast Bicycle Academy and TakeAim Cycling can help make biking a more enjoyable and safe experience for everyone. Want to ride like a local? Book a tour of the area, including George Washington National Forest, with Bluestone Bike & Run and Shenandoah Mountain Touring. With all of this concentrated local knowledge, plus weekly group rides and events throughout the year, it’s easy to see why cyclists of all types are attracted to the area. 

photo by Jess Daddio

This fall is the perfect time to connect with the local biking community for some of the area’s best bike-focused events. Join September 26 for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. Bishop, an internationally recognized cross-country mountain biker and pan-American gold medalist, designed a course that covers approximately 107 miles and features 11,000 feet of climbing. If road is not your style, make plans to visit October 8 to 10 for the Shenandoah Mountain Bike Fest for a weekend of friends, bikes, and trail work. Other popular cycling events throughout the year include Bike Shenandoah, Shenandoah Valley Century Ride, and the Harris-Roubaix.

At the end of the day, take a walk through town, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy a view of the area. With five breweries in downtown Harrisonburg, all within walking and biking distance of each other, and an additional three craft breweries in the county, it’s easy to find a spot where you can kick back and relax with a cold beer. Settle in for a cozy night as you prepare for another day of riding the world-class trails of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Va. | 

Take the Scenic Route Through Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County, Va.

Get an early start on two wheels as you breeze past pastoral landscapes, quaint villages and towns, and historic, natural, and cultural resources with a Rockbridge County cycling route.

Road cyclists have endless options along the region’s low-traffic backroads and scenic loops. A ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a bucket list activity for cyclists from around the world, offering miles of breathtaking views and some challenging rides. When you’re done admiring the vistas from the scenic overlooks, grab some scrumptious barbecue or wood-fired pizza at JJ’s Meat Shak in Buena Vista.

Cycling Blue Ridge Parkway
Cycling Blue Ridge Parkway, photo by Steve Shires

Those looking for an epic cross county experience can cycle a segment of the TransAmerica Bike Trail as it swoops across the parkway on Scenic Byway 56, then takes a tire-burning plunge into the town of Vesuvius and pushes through Lexington. The four-mile climb (or descent), reaching a grade of 24 percent, is not for the timid and is considered the toughest leg of the trail. Refuel and restock at Gertie’s Country Store in Vesuvius with downhome cooking like fried bologna sandwiches and scratch-made desserts. 

The area’s greenways, paths, and trails allow for a different perspective. The Chessie Nature Trail is a seven-mile rail trail between Lexington and Buena Vista, meandering alongside the Maury River. Its level path, shady stretches, and lovely scenery make the Chessie an ideal outing for families, birders, geologists, and wildflower lovers. Other mountain bike trails can be enjoyed at Glen Maury Park and Lake Robertson. For those into unrelenting climbs, endless mountain views, and gravel, the Little North Mountain Loop is 27 miles of nearly all-gravel roads with views of Lake Merriweather. Gravel racers should save the date for GraVista 2022. Sip a craft brew, grab a bite from the kitchen or food truck, and enjoy some live music at breweries along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.

Biking Rockbridge
Biking Rockbridge, photo by Steve Shires

Lexington is the perfect hub for your cycling adventure. Stop into Red Newt Bikes for bikes, gear, service and repairs, route planning, and group rides. Book a stay at one of the downtown hotels or B&Bs within walking distance to shops and eateries. Those looking for a more rural setting will find many cabin and vacation home rentals specializing in outdoor recreation such as Sugar Tree Inn, Fox Hill B&B, Steeles Manor Tavern B&B/Cabins and Hummingbird Inn. And for the most down to earth lodging options, eight campgrounds offer primitive tent sites, full RV hookups, and everything in between. |

World Cup Caliber Trails, Athletes, and Bike Culture at Snowshoe Resort, W. Va.

It’s no secret that the loam of Snowshoe’s Bike Park has been in a league of its own for a while now. But this year feels like another giant leap forward for West Virginia’s mountain bike culture.

photo courtesy of Snowshoe

For one, Snowshoe is bringing back world-class racing, athletes, shenanigans, and champagne showers with the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in September. The UCI folks have selected Snowshoe as the only location in the United States, and are putting on a “Downhill Doubleheader.” Yup, that’s two world cup downhills in addition to world cup cross country and short track races all in one week. Better start looking into lodging yesterday.

What else? While many people were enjoying re-runs of The Office during the pandemic, Snowshoe’s trail crew was busy building more trails, with a focus on offering more fast and flowy trails to complement the legendary gnar of its drops, rocks, and roots. This means that even beginner riders can now enjoy the bottomless fun of a lift-serviced bike park. And just as a reminder: lift-serviced bike park means more than 40 trails, 1,500 feet of vertical, and two high-speed lifts to get you back to the top in less time than it takes to say “do I have a bug in my teeth?”

photo courtesy of Snowshoe

If downhilling is not your pint of beer, IMBA has some great news for you—The International Mountain Bike Association has recently crowned the Snowshoe Highlands area as a Silver-Level Ride Center. This is a prestigious designation that is bestowed upon areas and efforts with only the highest concentration of bike offerings—and that includes bike shops, lodging, breweries, and, in the case of Snowshoe, even a spa. Besides the gravity-oriented Bike Park, Snowshoe has also invested into its adventurous backcountry trails, as well as partnered with local organizations to further build out the regional trail systems, such as the famous Tea Creek area and the recently opened Mower Track.

Final questions: Don’t have a bike? Bike in the shop? Interested in eBikes? Need to brush up on skills? This is where Snowshoe’s commitment to the bike culture really shines: It. Is. All. In. One. Place.

Now it’s time to stop reading about it and get out onto Snowshoe’s epic trails for yourself. September is a great time of the year to use up those remaining “sick days.” Ride on!

Find Your Biking Base Camp in Elkins and Randolph County, W. Va.

Perfectly located at the edge of Monongahela National Forest and surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, discover a biking oasis in Randolph County, W. Va., where you’ll be just minutes away from some of the most biodiverse forests in America, miles of backcountry roads, and iconic attractions.

Nothing beats biking in The Monongahela National Forest. Explore hundreds of miles of singletrack, gravel trails, and backroads as you roll past rivers, valleys, forests, and scenic vistas. Experience the area’s newest mountain biking hotspot at the Mower Tract Basin Trails, part of the Snowshoe Highlands IMBA Silver Level Ride Center. Built on Cheat Mountain, you’ll ride singletrack through open meadows and dense stands of red spruce to expansive views of the West Virginia landscape. With 12 miles of trails and new ones under construction, plus a bike repair station in the parking lot and dispersed camping areas along Forest Service Road 227, this is a spot you’ll want to keep coming back to year after year.

If you’re looking for a all-day bikepacking trip, the West Fork Rail Trail is a 22-mile point-to-point trail that snakes its way through a remote mountain setting following the West Fork of the Greenbrier River for most of its route. The trail surface of crushed limestone is nearly flat with an approximate one percent grade. Immerse yourself in the soothing rumble of the river, scenic wildflowers in the spring and summer months, and glorious colorful vistas in autumn as the days become cooler. Just south of the trail’s end in Durbin, you can pick up the 77-mile Greenbrier River Trail in the community of Cass for a multi-day trip.

Hawks Ridge Loop Trail
Hawks Ridge Loop Trail at Mower Tract. Photo by Taira Gainer

For panoramic views of the countryside, the Allegheny Highlands Trail is the perfect spot for a hilly ride. Starting at the historic Western Maryland Railroad Depot in downtown Elkins, the first few miles of this 24.5-mile rail trail are paved before turning into crushed gravel. After you descend into the town of Parsons, you can keep riding through Hendricks to connect with the well-known Blackwater Canyon Trail for a 10.5-mile ascent into the vibrant town of Thomas.

Family riding on the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail
Family riding on the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail

Haven’t had your fill of biking yet? Elkins is the perfect spot from which to launch day trips for additional miles of riding. Just 25 miles to the northeast you’ll find Tucker County, considered the mountain bike capital of West Virginia and home of Canaan Valley State Park and Blackwater Falls State Park. Fifty miles to the south of Elkins is Snowshoe Bike Park, a nationally-recognized park featuring the largest trail system on the East Coast with nearly 40 trails and 1,500 vertical feet of descent. If you want to get a local’s opinion on even more options, stop by Joey’s Bike Shop in downtown Elkins for some suggestions of nearby routes or check out the Highlands Trail Foundation website for some different rides.

When you’re ready to get out of the saddle, check out the delicious restaurants and specialty shops around the area. If you’re in the mood for mouthwatering barbecue, head to the outdoor patio and bar at Smoke on the Water. Make a reservation at Forks Inn for expansive views of the Monongahela National Forest or Vintage Wine Bar & Restaurant for the largest wine selection in the county. If you’re looking for some entertainment, El Gran Sabor serves authentic Venezuelan dishes with live music on Wednesdays and Fridays while the Gandy Dancer Theatre features dinner and a show. Finish off your adventure with locally-made drinks from Big Timber Brewing and Still Hollow Spirits before turning in for the night.

Adventure in the mountains, stay in Randolph County, W. Va.

Heavenly Mountain Biking in West Virginia 

There’s no better way to experience the diverse scenery and topography of the Mountain State than on two wheels. Miles of trails carved out through the Appalachian Mountain Range make West Virginia an ideal spot for beginners looking to try something new and experts who want a new challenge. From flowy singletrack to scenic rail trails, discover some of the top stops the state has to offer. 

Snowshoe Mountain biking
Snowshoe Mountain, photo courtesy of West Virginia Department of Tourism

Nestled within the rugged hills of Pocahontas County, the Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center is a world-class biking destination that attracts riders from around the globe. Recently named a Silver Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, you can’t top the scenery and well-maintained paths as you explore over 375 miles of trails. Whether you’re looking for a thrill on Snowshoe Mountain’s steep gravity park terrain, featuring 1,500 feet of vertical drop, backcountry singletrack in Monongahela National Forest, or long-distance gravel roads, you’ll find there are many reasons why this is a mountain biker’s paradise. After serving as the home of the UCI 2019 World Mountain Biking Championship, Snowshoe Mountain is proudly hosting the event again in 2021, bringing in talent from all over for a week of racing. 

Want to experience the country’s newest national park? The dramatic landscape of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve provides the perfect backdrop for hours of riding. The Arrowhead Trails, a stacked loop network built by IMBA, are open for riders of all abilities with a wide variety of trail lengths and difficulties that will get your heart racing. Additional trails in the area provide epic views of historic sites, rivers, and the New River Gorge Bridge. Looking for bike and gear rentals while you’re in the area? Arrowhead Bike Farm has everything you need to safely enjoy a day in the mountains. Plus, you can book bike clinics, tours of the area, and a campsite all in one place. When you’re done in the park, the town of Fayetteville provides a welcoming place to stretch out, kick back, and relax. 

Arrowhead Bike Trails
Arrowhead Bike Trails, photo courtesy of West Virginia Department of Tourism

A visit to West Virginia wouldn’t be complete without venturing into Tucker County for hundreds of miles of singletrack trails, gravel roads, and rails-to-trails. Centered around the biking hub of Davis, this area has been home to some of the country’s largest races and top professional racers since the early 1980s. The 10.5-mile Blackwater Canyon Trail, once used to carry coal and lumber through the area, is now a top recreation spot with beautiful views of the canyon and river. Cross a few items off your bucket list, including classic rides like Yellow Birch Trail, Plantation Trail, and Moon Rocks. Stop into Blackwater Bikes, a community mainstay, for a wide range of services, including rentals, shuttles, and repairs. Nearby, Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley Resort State Park offer additional ways to get outside. 

The list doesn’t end there. You’ll find countless biking adventures await around every corner, including fan favorites like Kanawha State Forest, the Greenbrier River Trail, and more. When you’re done in the saddle, head into one of the nearby towns for good eats, a craft brew, and comfy lodging options.

When it comes to biking, nothing beats an adventure through the mountains of West Virginia. Ride with friends. Take the kids out for an unforgettable experience. Sign up for a race. Get the most out of every minute of daylight you can. Plan your Almost Heaven trip today. 

Cover photo: Sparrow Loop Trail at Mower Tract in Elkins, WV

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