With an abundance of mountain regions, national parks, moorlands and forests, it’s no surprise that mountain biking continues to be one of the most popular ways to spend time outdoors here in England. From the forests of Gloucestershire to the mountains of Cumbria, there are incredible trails to suit all abilities, and in this post, we’re going to talk about five of the best mountain bike trail centres in England.
The mountain bike trail centre at Dalby Forest is perhaps one of the most well-known in the country. The red trail is a whopping 34km long and, as you’d expect with a trail of this length, you’re going to have a bit of everything to deal with and you make your way along. Steep climbs, fast-flowing descents, rock gardens, boardwalks and everything in-between. You’re going to need to be pretty fit to complete the whole trail, but don’t worry if you’re not, the trail can be divided into smaller sections to suit your fitness level or time constraints.
Dalby Forest is also home to the black-graded XC world cup route. This is a trail for the experts and contains technical features and infamous drop-offs.
Dixons Hollow is the bike park at Dalby Forest, and here you’ll find jumps and pump tracks to practice your skills on.
For beginners, there are a few options. The Ellerburn Trail is a green-graded, family-friendly route that is just short of 5k long, or for a longer green trail you can take on the 12k Adderstone Trail. For something more challenging but still suitable for beginners, there is also a 13k blue-grader route at Dalby Forest.
The trail centre has all of the facilities you might need, such as parking, toilets, cafe, bike hire and a bike shop.
Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean has over 40 square miles of ancient woodland to explore and the mountain bike trail centre here is not to be missed. There are several trails to choose from and this is a particularly good location for those at an intermediate level who are looking to build on their skills.
The green-graded family trail runs for 11-miles through the forest and along the now disused Severn and Wye railway line. There are options to make the route shorter if 11 miles is too much, and it’s easy to connect the route to nearby villages if you want to break up your ride with a coffee from a local cafe or a pub lunch.
Some scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in the Forest of Dean, so motivating younger ones to keep pedalling should be quite easy while there’s a hope that Hogwarts might be around the next corner.
For those looking for more of a challenge, the blue-graded Verderer’s Trail is the next step. This is a fast-flowing trail of 7-miles. It features berms, rollers, and very enjoyable descents. If you’re looking for all the fun and thrills of mountain biking but aren’t quite confident enough to tackle a red route yet, this is the trail for you. Often regarded as one of the best blue-graded trails in the country, you’ll definitely want to have enough time for a second lap.
The most challenging route at the Forest of Dean is the Freeminer Trail. This 7-mile, red-graded trail goes one step further than the blue route, with steeper climbs, technical descents and rocky terrain to deal with.
The trail centre at Cannock Chase proves that you don’t need big mountains, or even big hills, to make great mtb trails. The community of volunteer trail builders – known as Chase Trails – ensure that every metre of elevation is used to make incredible singletrack trails.
There are two XC trails to choose from, Follow the Dog and the Monkey Trail. Both routes are graded red and run for roughly 7 miles or can be combined to make one long route. Both trails have a bit of everything; flow sections, technical descents where rocks and roots will challenges your skills, and there are even a few narrow boardwalk sections to keep you on your toes.
Cannock Chase also has a downhill park at Stile Cop where there are a dozen trails designed for speed and air. The runs might be short, but they’re not to be underestimated. Each route has been lovingly crafted by the Racer’s Guild to ensure that the adrenalin is well and truly flowing by the time you reach the end.
For those looking for a more leisurely ride, there are several green and blue trails to explore, all of which take in some of the most scenic areas of the forest. The 12.5 mile Sherbrook Valley Trail is the best of the beginner options.
Kielder Forest, in the heart of Northumberland National Park, just seems to keep getting better and better for mountain biking. There are more than half a dozen different trails to choose from, ranging from green through to black, and over 100-miles of trails to explore.
For the beginners, there is the Borderline Trail that follows the route of a former railway line, and the blue-graded Osprey Trail that heads into the forest for a more challenging ride.
The fun really begins with the Lonesome Pine trail, however. This red-graded route covers 11 miles and you can expect some incredible views as you climb up to the top of Purdom Pike. As well as the singletrack, berms and rollers that you’d expect from this kind of trails, there is also the longest section of wooden boardwalk in the UK to ride; built to transport you over the peat bogs of the open moorland. The Bloody Bush Trail can also be combined with Lonesome Pine to make a fantastic 20-mile route.
On the other side of the forest are the Deadwater trails. Deadwater Red heads up to the summit of Deadwater Fell at 1,900ft and then descends again via some of the best singletrack in the country. Deadwater Black, sometimes known as the ‘up and over’ trail, heads up to the summit and over the other side, descending via a black-graded route that is packed full of obstacles and features designed for advanced riders.
It’s also worth noting that Kielder is a designated Dark Sky Park. This means that the area is protected from light pollution and is one of the best spots in the UK to see the night sky.
Whinlatter claims to put the mountain back into mountain biking. This Lake District trail centre has something to offer that many trail centres lack: actual mountains.
The trails here climb and flow through the mountainside forest that sits above Keswick, with epic views over the valley towards the surrounding mountains.
The Altura Trail is the best of the trails here and it is split into two loops; the north and the south. As you’d expect in this part of the country, there are some steep climbs to deal with along the way, and a decent level of stamina and fitness is needed to really make the most of the trails. But what goes up must come down and those steep climbs are rewarded with incredible singletrack descents.
Whinlatter is also home to the Quercus Trail, a short, blue-graded trail that features berms, rollers and flow sections – perfect for anyone building up their skills and fitness before they take on the red trails.