Mountain Biking Three Nearby Rides

The Lexington area is a mountain bikers dream. Its location in the Shenandoah Valley, flanked by the Allegheny and Blue ridge Mountains, and its proximity to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide for an unusual opportunity to get off paved roads and explore the mountain, valleys, and slopes of backwoods America. The Turkey Trot trail on campus is a great lead into mountain biking. There are unlimited opportunities for mountain biking adventure, including:

Forest Service Roads

National Forests abound in fairly well maintained gravel roads. Beware of the killer bumps on those roads which have active logging. They will test your shocks and your arms!

ATV Trails

The Forestry Service is an effort to reach different sectors of recreational usage of the forest, have developed a number of all terrain vehicle trails. You, as a mountain biker, qualify as an ATV but you certainly want to yield way to the 4-wheelers and dirt bikers you meet up with on those trails. An even better strategy would be to avoid ATV trails on weekends and holidays.

Unpaved/Gravel Roads

Rural America abounds in roads. It's astounding how many hidden valleys and old communities you can come upon on exploring these roads.

Rails To Trails

Abandoned railroad lines have been converted into public recreation trails, by the taking up of the RR tracks. As the typical RR had only a 5% grade, these trails make for fairly easy riding. Going over old RR trestles and going through dark tunnels provides a nice rush!

Single Track

Your most technical mountain biking, consists of riding narrow, challenging trails through the woods, and very often across streams. Undoubtedly these trails are the most challenging One of the great things about mountain biking in this area is that invariably, weather permitting, there is a swim hole to finish your ride off with.

Bike Attire

An enjoyable mountain bike ride involves dealing for the present conditions, but also being prepared for a lot of other possibilities.

  • It starts with a helmet. It is irresponsible (ie. stupid) to venture out on a mountain bike without a helmet!

  • Sunglasses are a good investment as they not only protect your eyes from the sun but also keep the bugs and mud out of your eyes as well.

  • Basic layering concepts should be considered when deciding what type of shirt to wear. In the warm day of late spring and summer cotton t-shirts might do just fine; but in the early spring days of Virginia you could face a variety of weather conditions in the mountains. You should always have a windbreaker with you. This should take care of the chill you might get on a hot day ride where you get caught in a sudden thunderstorm. However for those early days of spring, you need to wear a garment which wicks the moisture away from the body (polypropylene). Cotton, in contrast, holds the moisture up against the body. On top of the wicking undergarment, you layer with light layers rather than heavy ones. You need to have a wind proof, water resistant/repellant overgarment (nylon, gortex) ready for the ultra conditions that might arise.

  • A good pair of padded biking shorts go a long way in helping to deal with the wear and tear of riding a bike saddle. You might consider wearing tights on those cold weather rides.

  • Many people choose to wear padded biking gloves to alleviate some of the pounding of riding. On those cold weather days you definitely need wind resistant gloves. Remember that one loses most of one's body heat through the extremities (head, feet, hands).

  • When considering what type of socks to wear, again consider weather conditions. On those warm summer days cotton socks might do fine, but on those cooler days, wool socks will help your feet to stay warm. (wool retains heat even when wet).

  • A pair of hiking shoes or sneakers should do just fine for footwear. (I strongly urge you to have a change of shirt, socks, and footwear waiting for you in your vehicle for the ride back home. It makes a big difference both in comfort and bearability)


Mountain biking is high energy activity. You are going to burn a lot of calories and you are going to sweat. You need to be concerned both with hydration and intake of food so as to be able to sustain the energy level necessary.

You should be continuously consuming fluids as you ride; you do not want to wait until you get thirsty. Whether you take in water or electrolyte , you want to make sure you have an adequate amount. You can employ two bottle holders on the frame of your bike, as well as carry fluids in your pack. A very worthwhile investment would be a hydration pack which allows you to take a drink without stopping. Many bikers I know will take water bottles (of water) and a hydration pack of electrolyte.

It is equally important to bring the right kind of food along. You burn an amazing amount of energy as you bike; you need to replace that energy quickly or you are going to "bunk out" (ie. hit the wall). You need to ingest foods which quickly convert into energy and have high energy sources such as fruit and energy bars. There are a myriad of products such as power bars and clif bars which get the job done and even taste good! Candy bars are a poor choice; they quickly convert into energy but they have little energy value. Make sure you take plenty of food along. (One of he tricks of the trade is to have some money ready for your post-ride snack stop!) (Sweet Things!)

Planning a Trip

Now that you are prepared to venture out into the wild on your mechanical mule, where are you going? Its always exciting to find new trails to ride. What exactly are you looking for in a ride? (Single track, hills, flat gravel roads, stream crossings, old towns, etc). How much do you want to be challenged? (Big climbs, big downhills, old railroad beds, miles, etc). How far are you willing to drive to undertake a trail? (Moab, West Virginia, Rockbridge County, campus).

You obviously need to research the ride you are undertaking from all these considerations listed above. Once you have picked out what trail you what to do, you have to go through another level of investigation. How do you access the trail? Detailed maps are vital. What color trail sign does one follow, or which turn does one take at the intersection. Where does one park one's vehicle. Does it make a difference to go one direction vs the other in doing the trail. Very often you will find that it makes for a significantly better ride to do so.

The bottom line is that you have to do your research on these trails. You want to know as much as you can about them. Quite often you are simply going to have to find out the college of hard knocks way. Always tell someone where you are going just in case.

We have listed three trails on this website.  For a more complete list you can purchase the Outing Club Guidebook through the outing club, the University Bookstore or local booksellers.

Longdale Recreation Area

This ride is a fairly easy ride. Park at the Longdale Recreation Area (Parking Lot). Leaving the recreation area, take a right onto FS 271.

Lake Sherando

This trail is not intended for the soft of heart as there is a 2-mile ascent with many switchbrakes that will surely test your will power! Park at the Turkey Pen Trail Parking Lot (Off of FS 42). Follow the Blue Blaze Trail.

South Pedlar ATV Trails

30 minutes from campus. the South Pedlar ATV System provides over 25 miles of developed trails.