Because of mild winters and very little snowfall, mountain biking (and cycling in general) in the Shenandoah Valley is not really “seasonal” anymore. But April signals the true beginning of the cycling season.
In April, bike parks open, organized rides speed off, and weekend greyhounds grind up Skyline Drive or flash by on remote back roads. Whether you want hardscrabble mountain trails, scenic pavement with few cars or an organized race or ride, the Shenandoah Valley can meet your cycling needs. Here are some highlights for the coming spring and summer.
Massanutten Resort’s lift-served Mountain Bike Park opens in mid- to late April. The park’s downhill trails begin near the top of Massanutten Peak (2,922 feet) and are divided into five skill levels: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Advanced plus jumping skills, and Expert. There is a fully stocked bike shop on the premises, and if downhill isn’t for you, try about 30 miles of wooded trails on the western slope of the mountain—best suited for intermediate to advanced riders. Bike rentals, shuttles and lessons are all available, too. This four-season resort is in McGaheysville, VA, about 20 minutes southeast of Harrisonburg.
Another Bike Park can be found at Bryce Mountain Resort in Basye, VA. Scheduled to open April 15th, Bryce also offers lift-accessible trails for all levels of riders, plus the 2-1/2 mile Lake Laura Trail, a Riding School, Trek bike rentals and a sales/service shop as well. Bryce is about an hour southwest of Winchester, accessible from I-81. Call: 800-821-1444.
If you’re looking for an organized ride in April, The Harris-Roubaix is April 9th, starting in Harrisonburg (the Cycling Capital of the Valley). This ride is held every spring the same day as the famous Paris-Roubaix race. Riders can pedal the 15-mile circuit from Harrisonburg to a farm north of the city, and have the option of cycling the track twice. Smooth gravel roads of this event allow for a diverse group– including mountain bikers, road bike cyclists, and even tandem riders. Email: [email protected].
Harrisonburg was also named “One of America’s Top Ten Mountain Biking Towns” by National Geographic, and the number of local routes, rides, shops and awards justify that. Discover Harrisonburg cycling here.
A new ride near Harrisonburg is also on the horizon this year— a 62-mile (metric century) called Bike Shenandoah. Set for April 22nd, the ride will start in Dayton, about five miles from Harrisonburg. Call: 540 908-3933.
On April 23rd, Shenandoah National Park will open Skyline Drive, from Front Royal to Thornton Gap to “non-motorized” vehicles only. Dubbed “Ride the Drive,” this rare opportunity is part of National Park Week. Registration is required—and filling up fast. Parking is limited but officials are working on nearby additional space.
Staunton has an established seat in the cycling world, too, and is part of the long-running Bike Virginia Tour, which goes from Buena Vista to Staunton, June 23-28 this year. Now in its 30th year, this event allows several options of routes, number of days you ride, skill levels, etc. Call: 804-723-1221.
Staunton is also the hub of the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival, normally held in October and named “One of America’s Best Fall Rides” by USA Today For more information, email: [email protected]
Moving a bit farther south, Lynchburg’s Storming of Thunder Ridge on May 21 brings together cyclists to ride with the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop. Choose from 27-, 45-, 75, and 100-mile distances. The event starts and ends at the Jamerson Family YMCA, and riders are invited to camp out the night before. Post-ride activities include food, music, swimming, and a relaxing soak in the facilitie’s hot tubs. Call: 434-582-1900 x221.
Of course, many other rides will be held throughout the Valley this year. (Watch our Events page for more throughout the season.) Plus, the Shenandoah Valley is full of secluded roads and trails for anyone seeking a bit of solitude. Forest Service roads in George Washington and Jefferson national forests, farm country routes around Luray, serious hills around Harpers Ferry, or even the Blue Ridge Parkway await your exploration. Local bike shops, visitor centers and chambers of commerce will glad to help you find a route, or simply click “Contact Us” at the bottom of this page and we will point you in the right direction.
Banner photo courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation