It’s hard to imagine another metropolitan area, especially on the East Coast, with a better variety of mountain biking opportunities available. This really could be mountain bikers’ nirvana.
It all starts downtown, where the trails of the James River Park System wind their way along both the north and south banks of the river. These are world class, technically challenging trails. There’s an 8-mile loop that stays almost entirely in the park. Riders can connect that with Forest Hill Park’s 3.1 fast, rolling miles for a ride that never gets old.
Other city parks with singletrack are Powhite Park, a place seemingly known only to mountain bikers and beavers, and Larus Park, a true hidden gem near the Huguenot Bridge.
North of town, just outside Ashland, Poor Farm Park offers a spider webbed network of trails, with steep climbs and descents along with some rocky, rooty sections. And to the south, in Chesterfield County, sits Virginia’s largest state park. At 8,000 acres, Pocahontas boasts over 20 miles of flowing singletrack for every skill level and more than 50 more miles of fire roads and wider trails. It’s a great place for hard core enthusiasts and families alike.
And these are just the highlights. When it comes to mountain biking, Central Virginians are a lucky bunch.
Mountain Biking Forest Hill Park
Forest Hill Park recently underwent a redesign. Out went challenging but unsustainable trails. In came speedy, rolling singletrack that stays mostly under the shaded canopy of FHP's pines and oaks. Views of the lake and Reedy Creek, which feeds it, are available throughout the ride. At ride at FHP is worth it by itself, but it's proximity to the Buttermilk Trail and the James River make it the perfect add-on to a James River Park System river loop.
Mountain Biking Larus Park
This park has the potential to be a mountain biker's dream, but for now it's just that -- a dream. With steep slopes and multiple creeks, it has could compare favorably to the trails at Pocahontas SP. It's a great place to add on a few miles to a longer ride and a worthy challenge for beginners, but there just isn't enough total trail to satisfy the hardcore fat-tire lover.
There's been talk in the past that city was going to develop a loop trail in Larus Park. That would certainly make it more attractive for MTBers, but might take away from the sense of exploration you get when visiting this park. Every twist in the trail feels like a discovery.
Mountain Biking Powhite Park
From the road, it doesn't look possible that Powhite could possbly boasts the kind of singletrack it does. Heck, from the road, it's hard to tell exactly where the park is at all. But that's the beauty of this 100-acre gem: It's hidden in plain sight. And that means its honeycomb-like network of singletrack is never crowded. The miles of trail are tight in places and fast in others, rooty and rocky in sections and leaf-strewn in others; flat along the Powhite Creek and steep on the two large hills above it. In short, Powhite has a little bit of something for everyone.