The Forestry Commission has a great network of trail centres across England, with over 2,500km of trails ranging from off-road cycling routes for the whole family, to bike skills parks and fast-flowing descents to test your full range of skills.
The FC rangers work closely with local MTB groups and volunteers to maintain and develop the trails. Add to this, the on-site bike shops, cafés and other facilities and you’ve got a great day out on your bike.
Here are our top ten trails.
1. Whinlatter – Altura Trail
Whinlatter Forest in Cumbria puts the ‘mountain’ back into ‘mountain biking’. The red-graded Altura Trail is a classic route affording stunning views, adrenaline-fuelled descents and leg-burning climbs in the heart of the Lake District National Park. The North Loop winds its way up through the trees before a fast-flowing descent back to the visitor centre where you begin the South Loop. There’s another climb up to 500m altitude; pause to admire the view across the fells (and catch your breath) before the descent with berms, jumps and natural features to challenge you – a great finish to your ride.
2. Gisburn – The 8
Start your ride on the Skills Loop at Gisburn Forest Hub where you can brush up on your trail feature skills from table tops to berms. Then head out to “The 8”, 18km of trail packed with all the features you would want from a testing red trail. Highlights include the volunteer-built trail of Home Baked, the gnarly rocks of Whelpstone Crag and the rollercoaster ride down Hully Gully, as well as optional black sections and features. The route is shared with part of the blue-graded Bottoms Beck trail, which offers an option for younger and developing riders.
3. Cannock Chase – Follow the Dog
The Chase has great mountain biking for all ages and experience levels. Follow the Dog was the Midlands’ first dedicated mountain bike trail, built and maintained by volunteer group Chase trails. It has fast, flowing singletrack with some tight and twisty technical sections too. The trail features include boardwalks, rock gardens and rollers and it is constantly evolving and being improved. Current highlights include The Stegasaurus Rock Garden, The Boardwalk and Tackeroo Blast. With little climb in the trail, this is all about the technical features and flow of the singletrack – add on the Monkey Trail if you’re after a more physically demanding ride.
4. Dalby – The Red trail
With miles of expertly sculpted technical singletrack, you’ll want to ride all day. Dixon’s Hollow Bike Park ticks all the freeride boxes from North Shore to 4X, and Dalby is home of the 2010 World Cup XC course that provides a challenge for even the most experienced riders. The Red bike trail is 21.5 miles long, featuring rock gardens and North Shore styling with technical features such as drop-offs and large rocks. With challenging climbs and tricky descents, you’ll need good MTB handling skills as well as a high level of fitness to complete the trail.
5. Kielder – Deadwater Fell
Wilderness mountain biking at its best, with epic red-grade trails and cross boarder links to Newcastleton. There’s a huge network of trails, from the family friendly Lakeside Way, to the black features of the Deadwater Trail. Deadwater is our pick for the list, climbing up through the forest via an optional black-graded section or a hand-built red-grade cut. Coming out of the forest, continue up to Deadwater Fell, the highest point in the forest at 571m, or cut back down through the singletrack into The Valley section. Then it’s a fast and furious descent to the Northshore berms at Woodstock and a final stretch of winding singletrack.
6. Sherwood Pines – The Kitchener Trail
There’s plenty of riding across Sherwood Pines for all abilities. For a fast and challenging ride, try the 13km-long Kitchener Trail. It flows through the forest and is virtually all singletrack; the only time you hit the fire road is when you cross to hit the next section. While the trail lacks in elevation, it keeps you flowing with berms and rollers with a nice mix of rocks and roots that give the trail its red rating. It’s a great introduction to riding singletrack for riders wanting to progress.
7. Thetford Forest – Lime Burner Trail
Thetford has wide, open trails for complete beginners, as well as miles of flowing singletrack for more adventurous types. The Lime Burner Trail is for experienced riders only and provides the chance to hone your riding skills with crests and dips, bomb holes and singletrack. The Beast towards the end of the trail is a fantastic rollercoaster ride of ups, downs and tight corners, perfect if you are looking for an adrenaline rush. High levels of skill, experience and off-road knowledge with a lot of endurance fitness is needed to get the most out of this route.
8. Forest of Dean – Verderers’ Trail
A great trail centre for all levels of skills, our pick is the Verderers’ Trail, an exciting blue-graded route for both intermediate and experienced bikers. Features include different surfaces, flowing berms and undulating whoops, as well as some moderate climbs. Take on the “Iron Chicken” and “Blue String Pudding” before completing the final descent. The overall trail is challenging but gives a massive sense of fun. The skills loop near the start gives you a chance to get a feel for your bike before you start.
9. Bedgebury – The Red Trail
The Red trail at Bedgebury is over 13kms of singletrack winding its way through the forest in one continuous loop with options to cut short if you choose. Each section offers a wonderful riding experience from fast sweeping descents that twist their way through the trees, to the climb up “Cardiac Hill”. The Forestry Commission and the Bedgebury Forest Cycling Club are busy developing the site to add some free-ride play areas and black options.
10. Haldon Forest – Kiddens Trail
Build up your skills on the pump track and skills area and then head out to try the range of bike trails at Haldon. The Kiddens Trail is great for intermediates looking to test their skills, with more challenging terrain and greater changes in gradient. It’s a fast and playful ride with a great open air downhill section.