Harrisonburg Area Advice
I've read a lot on this board about your area and it sounds awesome. I'm planning an annual MTB trip with 8 friends and looking for a little advice. Since it's close, and awesome, we often do this trip in Pisgah. 2 years ago it was Davis, WV (incl North Fork Mtn Trail, Spruce Knob, etc)
Our trip is Thursday thru Sunday the 3rd weekend in May. It seems all the riding options in the Harrisonburg area are spread out. GWNF, Massanutten, and the Fort Valley area. Staying in Harrisonburg would make sense but house/cabin rentals seem non-existent. We typically like to rent our own place, cook our own meals, etc.
Given that... what's a good way to go? Rent a cabin at Massanutten and deal with the longish drives? Or, find a cabin closer to either GWNF or Fort Valley and do most of the riding where we're located? I guess the question then would be... do these areas have enough trail to keep us busy without much repeat over 3.5 days?
We favor backcountry epic trails, roots and rocks, over buff and flowy.
Any advice or leads on cabins would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Holler at Chris over at Shenandoah Mountain Touring. He runs a lodge and bike touring biz, however I know May is when things really start popping off here in the valley. You may get lucky and they might not be booked that week. Otherwise you might want to check out the resort at Massanutten or venture out on your own and find a cabin. Things I would highly recommend: Big Schloss/ Wolf Gap, Narrowback/ Tilghman west/ lookout Mtn, Western Slope (Kaylors Knob/ Boone's Run/ 2000 Hours), Rode Hollow/ Bridge Hollow/ Braleys Pond, and maybe a day in the Fort. I say maybe because that riding isn't for everyone. It's slow technical, and can consist of much hiking if big rock moves aren't your thing. For the most part, it doesn't have the views you get elsewhere in region unless you ride Buzzards. In Fort Valley, I would say a well rounded ride would be climbing Sherman and continue to the Northern end of the ridge and ride Buzzards. If you are feeling ambitious, ride the stuff across the valley first climbing the Signal Knob single track, hook a left on Maneka, then another left to rip down Bear Wallow
Hey, thanks a lot for that. Lots of great stuff to go on. Finding a house or cabin to rent seems a lot harder up there than it is in Pisgah -- especially for a large group. I think we'll pass on staying in Massanutten... a little too far from most of what we'll ride. I guess we could change it up and camp this year, too. If anyone has any other advice, I'm all ears. We like to do an epic or mini-epic each day... at least 4 or 5 hours and up to 8+. Gotta pack in it! We dig rocks, too, so Buzzards will be in order. Had read about Elizabeth Furnace. Anyway, thanks!
Now camping would open up all kinds of options.
Places I've camped with lots of riding.....little fort campground in Fort valley and Camp Rosavelt sp?? both have endless riding opportunities.
Todd lake campground west of Harrisonburg is another place I've camped and rode til i dropped.
If a cabin is a must with lots of riding then consider Douthat but the 50+ miles of trails are mostly XC.
How many are in your group?
Depending on group size...you could always look into renting an RV. That way...a shower, fridge, bed, and maybe even a couch is with you at every trail head...though maybe not a luxurious shower. To be central-ish to the good trails that make up the SM100 course...there is todd lake campground and plenty of nearby spots that are open to primitive (free and less likely you'll get complaints if you are up till midnight being loud around the campfire).
Places like cruise america and elmonte rv are the two big rental companies.
I'll help with this as I'm also part of Lono's group.
There are 8 of us. We do already have one RV that'll sleep three of us fine, and the rest probably are fine camping in tents, especially if we have a campground with any kind of decent bath house facilities. No, 8 of us can NOT shower and share the bathroom in this particular RV. Renting another RV is out of the question as those cost twice what we normally pay for our house in Pisgah and this is a cost conscious group.
Steve says "we like rocks", but I'm not sure we're on the same page. My idea of "big rock moves" is trials or at least near-trials kind of stuff, and that's NOT the kind of thing this group can do. These are XC guys that aren't afraid of a few 2' rock ledges, but nobody in this group is even going DOWN anything bigger than that without walking. In this group I'd say we'll all try a 20" log crossing but only half will clean it, to give you a skill idea.
So if a trail is simply "very rocky" but dudes who ride 4-5" bikes a lot can ride it, that's fine. If it's "lots of gaps and ledges" and most people who ride it are on 6+" bikes, no, it's not for us.
Our other vehicle available for the trip is an 8 passenger Sprinter van. It's got a custom bike rack in the back for four bikes and we just take another four tray rear rack, so we only need that and the RV to get places. It *could* sleep a couple people fairly well by simply removing the two rows of rear seats and wrapping them up with a tarp (they'd be terribly uncomfortable to use, but they come out very easily).
Check these out
If you can't get the cabin that Chris at moutaintrouing is now running and the group is okay with camping...I'd say that is your best bet. I'd give you a link for the cabin, but I can't see any mention of it on their website. Might just have to call. As for the campground at Todd Lake...I haven't stayed there...I primitive camped while in that area. If you guys had memorial day weekend open, you could head down for the VA mtb festival that mountain touring puts on. No showers (Todd lake campground is just a couple miles down the road), but it makes it otherwise logistically easy to get a good sampling of the riding there.
I've also ridden some off of Fort Valley Road near Elizabeth Furnace that washedup mentioned...signal knob, maneka, and bear wallow. I normally ride a 150mm travel 26er and had to walk parts of it. My route went from the Elizabeth Furnace campground, up mudhole gap, over to wodstock tower, along the masanutten trail, up to signal knob and then maneka and bear wallow and back to camp. So, I was pretty tired by the time I hit signal knob. I'm not expert, but I have my fair share of destination rides (mostly CA, AZ, UT, and CO). That route, while a ways from H-burg...is doable by your description of your group...though there will be a couple of spots to get off and walk and still come away having enjoyed the ride overall.
The stuff that is popular closer to H-burg is a little bit easier in terms of rocks than the loop I just mentioned and there is a lot more of it centrally located. You can find both well maintained and primitive trails there too. Again, nothing a bunch of guys riding 5" bike can't handle. Evey time I've been on a group ride out there as part of an event...the HT bikes far outnumbered the FS bikes. It has been a long time since my one trip to Pisgah and DuPont...but I'd say the H-Burg stuff is no worse in terms of rockiness. Depending on how much riding you want to get done on Thursday and Sunday...you should be able to get plenty of riding in without hitting too much of the same trails and not move camp.
The below two links shows some of the new stuff out there:
Gnarrowback on Vimeo
Lookout December! on Vimeo
Riding Massanutten is a good idea. Riding the SM100 course is a good idea. Southern Traverse is a big out and back unless you ride the road back, which ain't easy either. If you want 4-5 or 8+ hours days, you are heading to the right spot.
Camping at Todd Lake is a good idea. No matter where you ride down there, you will be scared a few times.
Pisgah/Brevard stuff is way less maintained then the 'burg area stuff, and that's good. It's not dumbed-down at all but you are way less likely to come around a corner hot and get dumped into a 3 foot washout rut. There's better flow with difficult stuff in GW than the just cowboy nature of Pisgah. The stuff further north near Asheville in Pisgah is more dumbed-down than GW too. There's a ton of flow in the GW with chutes thrown in.
Generally speaking, all the GW trails are fast and flowy 3/4 of the way from bottom to top with the top 1/4 generally very technical, with some hiking in many of the rides unless you are a stud.
Shout when you are heading in to town. Many of us have flexible schedules and enjoy watching people hit these trails the first time...
wow, thanks much for all the great information. sounds like we'll have no trouble finding kick-ass trail up yonder. i will continue looking into cabin rentals, including a call to Chris, and camping will be our fall back. so, if anyone has a line on a place that holds 8... pls tell. we'll continue to research the trail sitch. if anyone has the time and mind to put together an itinerary of Hburg greatest hits for a Thurs-Sun trip... awesome. At this point... and without having a map of the area... I'm thinking... Wolf Gap/Big Schloss, Narrowback/Lookout Mtn, Elizabeth Furnace/Fort Valley, and maybe a day at Massanutten. I may not have all that geography quite right... thanks again, and thanks for offer to maybe help us out when we're in town.
as for skill and interests... we survived and largely enjoyed WV, including Huckleberry from Spruce Knob and are perfectly comfortable with all Pisgah has to offer.
Todd Lake Campground
I understand that option #1 for your group is a cabin but if Chris Scott's Lodge is booked that week (end) you guys should be able to make Todd Lake work.
It is a very clean and orderly campground smack dab in the middle of the Shenandoah 100 trails. Great location that I have used for pre riding the 100 many times. You can go any direction from there and hit sweetness.
Each campsite (I think there are 32) has a large tent pad, parking for 2 cars at least, a picnic table, an in ground fire pit (wood provided) and a grill. I know there are RV hookups but not sure if every site is equipped for that or not. Also, the bathrooms are ridiculous. Cleaned daily, stocked with paper products, private showers and toilets. I almost don't call it camping when I stay there.
Oh yeah, I 'believe' it was $12-16 a night or so.
Good luck and have fun.
Thanks for the Todd Lake rundown, 8Shakes. I was curious about all that. Camping starting to sound more appealing. Two more Qs on Todd Lake... I believe I read it does not do reservations. Do you think getting a few spots the 3rd week of May will be tough? We will arrive noon-ish Thurs so maybe that helps. And, second, I assume beer not welcome but if discreet will Mr Park Ranger be up our butts? Because, that would really suck. Thanks again!
I think that is correct about no reservations.
I cannot say with certainty that there will be spots but I have always gotten a spot there 2weeks prior to the 100 - the weekend everyone is pre riding so I think you will be fine unless there is some redneckpalooza that weekend.
Thursday definitely helps and discreet will work. You guys will be too wiped out to make much noise anyways.
You might consider forgoing Fort Valley/ E Furnace for the Road/ Bridge/ Braley's which sounds to be more up your alley. If you are riding in the Fort, I consider it a waste to ride the fire road up as the single track climb is rad, be it intensely technical and draining. If this isn't your cup of tea, I would say pass it up. This would also save you about an hour of driving each way. Road, Bridge, braleys is more of the epic type ride you described and will probably take you 4ish hours. PM if you want the good info on that. It's in the Camp Todd area. And if camping there, Camp Todd/ Chestnut is a good couple hour spin that's worth it.
As for camping, I don't think you will have too much trouble with the no reservation thing. On the drive in to the campground, you can see quite a few well established free dispersed/primitive spots to set up camp. Many are close to water. From my limited experience (only 3 camping trips) out there, those sites fill up first...as they are free.
if you're camping at todd lake, i'd say definitely put chestnut/grindstone on your list. the camp todd/horse trough climb is a killer, but you can ride FR 95 out to north river trail, then take a right at the top onto FR 85 (?) for a longer but less wicked climb. from little bald you'll have 7-9 miles of sweet downhill ridgeline singletrack with intermittent climbs, with a fun sketchy downhill off grindstone at the end.
Sorry to possibly highjack this thread, but I am in need of advice as well.
We have a group coming to the Harrisonburg area at the last week of March (27th-31st). We will be staying in the Rawley Springs area. We usually vacation in the Dupont/Pisgah areas of NC, so we are used to and enjoy those kinds of trails.
We are riding on Thursday-Sat and a half day Sunday. We plan on doing the Southern Traverse one day and traveling to Douthat on another day.
So, we have 1.5 days of riding remaining to fill and are looking for suggestions. We prefer to leave camp in the morning, ride, break for lunch, then ride 2-4 more hours.
Lookout Mountain and Narrowback seem to be close to where we are staying and are on our short list of trails. With all that being said...
Considering where we are staying, if you had 1.5 days to fill what would your ride itinerary look like for those days?
Any help would be appreciated!!!
I would spend the extra time in Douthat :)
I am not sure I can convince them to do the 1 hour and 45 minute drive from our Cabin twice....any other suggestions?
Originally Posted by Bird
I recommend stopping by Shenandoah Bicycle Company. They have a packet of about 10 rides with maps and directions to trailheads for about $10. You can also ask them for advice about linking sections together.
Are you riding from Stokesville store up Hankey, down Dowell's over 250 to Mountain House/Ramsey's Draught then up to Brailey's then back up Dowell's and down Hankey? You should.
You can park at the store in Stokesville (yes, that's a real name) but get some gps tracks cuz there's a few turns. You can lunch (or pick up and carry to the top of Brailey's) at the store on 250 before climbing the road up to Mtn House. Good sammiches there.
Also, the Chestnut ridge ride is worth it. There are some good trails up there. Check out the mtntouring.com website for a map of the SM100 course. All of those trails are rad.
If you are used to riding in Pisgah, you'll find better maintenance, flow and less 'whoa crap' type of stuff in Harrisonburg area. It's tough, to be sure, but the trails make more sense and allow you to relax a bit more while you are scared to death, screaming through a rock garden.
I would pass on mountain house and continue up the road to Confederate Breastworks (yes, that's its actual name) and ride Road Hollow, Bridge Hollow and then Braleys. One day the Autobahn will be legal and you could climb Tear Jacket, Autobahn, Rode, Bridge, Braleys which will be sweet!
We should be clear on the amount of climbing there is out there. There's a lot. You should have a few loops set up and maybe consider stashing some vehicles just in case. It's remote, it's sketchy and there is a lot of high-speed stuff out there. Big tires are a must, regardless of what bike you are riding.
Thanks for all the responses!! I will take these routes into the Shenandoah Bicycle Company and get info/directions!
Originally Posted by trailbildr
Which store are you referring to?
We are all on FS 29er's. Speaking of tires....what are your favorites for this area? I have had success with Racing Ralphs and Conti XKings in Pisgah/Dupont, would these be a good choice here?
Originally Posted by trailbildr