The unique joy of cycling through Virginia’s Blue Ridge is discovering the distinct culture of the regions you are traversing. A ride along the Greenways by the Roanoke River is a completely different experience than a trek up the Hi-Dee-Ho trail at Carvins Cove, but both offer a unique perspective to cyclists, encouraging them to complete the trek.
The challenge can be finding a one-stop-shop of information about your ride before you go. Not just where the trailheads and parking lots are located, but what’s nearby, where to find folks to ride with, how to easily rent bikes, and even sample itineraries and suggested trail routes to enjoy the best ride.
We have you covered in Virginia’s Blue Ridge! Our newly reinvented Biking section features the region’s finest road routes and gnarliest mountain biking trails, plus all the information you need along the way to make these rides in Virginia’s Blue Ridge an awesome part of your vacation.
We’ll start with conquering our mountains. Virginia’s Blue Ridge is known as the U.S. East Coast Mountain Biking Capital, and these three featured trails are just a small part of the reason why.
1. Carvins Cove
Carvins Cove is the 2nd largest municipal park in the United States, boasting 12,000 acres of forest and a whopping 60 miles of mountain biking trails! The Cove’s trails vary in difficulty, meaning mountain bikers of all skill levels can enjoy a full day at the Cove. Of the three available entrances, parking for cyclists is most common and accessible at the Bennett Springs lot, just a couple miles off Route 311.
After a soaking rain, it’s best to head up Hi-Dee-Ho, where you can access any number of the ‘upper trails.’ The upper trails offer experienced riders wide gapping jumps on The Trough and arm pump inducing downhills on The Gauntlet.
If you’re looking for less climbing, but all the beauty of the trails, give the lower trails a try on a sunny, dry day. Sticking to the rides that hug the Cove’s shores, such as Comet and Enchanted Forest, will give you the ride and waterway views you’re searching for.
2. Explore Park
You’ve no doubt heard of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but few spots along the Parkway offer better mountain biking trail systems than Explore Park. Located at Milepost 115, more than nine miles of Explore Park trails weave seamlessly through forest, down ridges and along the Roanoke River.
The most convenient parking for bikers is Lot E near the boating access point. Color coded trails are mapped out by Blue, Red, White, and Yellow. Most are loops that can be enjoyed separately or ridden to connect the nine miles of trails into a full day’s ride.
As a designated site on the Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail, Explore Park gives riders the opportunity to cycle through diverse ecosystems, from wetlands, to woods. This also emphasizes why every rider should follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ trail etiquette. If you biked it in, bike it out.
3. Mill Mountain
Rounding out our mountain biking selections for Virginia’s Blue Ridge is a park and trail system that is literally minutes from downtown Roanoke and accessible by bike. Hop onto Roanoke’s famous Greenway trails and a quick pedal will bring you to the base of Mill Mountain Park.
You probably saw the highlight piece capping Mill Mountain on your drive into the Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge—the Roanoke Star. That 90-foot-tall neon star and the views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains from the scenic overlook are your payoff for this ride.
Most of the intersecting trails on Mill Mountain are manageable in length at ½ - 1 mile each, but feature the same challenges and beautiful views mountain bikers seek when visiting the region. Popular trails like Monument, Ridgeline, Riser, Big Sunny and Wood Thrush are maintained by the City of Roanoke Parks and Recreation and are kept in tip-top shape throughout the year.
For road cyclists, Virginia’s Blue Ridge offers hundreds of miles of roadways featuring challenging climbs that lead to stunning overlooks, or relaxing downtown trails perfect for the entire family.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway
Dubbed “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway has proven to thousands of cyclists over the years why that statement isn’t just true for automobiles. Of the 469 miles connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, 80 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway wind through the Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Access to some of the best cycling the nation has to offer is only five miles from Downtown Roanoke at Milepost 120. Popular parkway rides such as the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club’s Famous Beer Ride, or Botetourt County’s Mills Gap route, offer challenging climbs, fast descents and views that make it all worth it.
2. TransAmerica Trail
If you find yourself crossing America by bicycle, the 4,228 miles of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail is your best bet. And wouldn’t you know, by the time you’ve crossed Oregon, conquered the Rocky Mountains through Colorado and enjoyed the flatlands of Kansas, you have yet to meet your greatest challenge. Out of the entire 4,228 miles of the well-known national route, the Virginia section has more total elevation gain than any other state! The portion known as Section 12 winds through Virginia’s Blue Ridge, before heading east to the coast.
Riding the entire route takes about three months, but for all that hard pedaling, riders are welcomed to the east coast through Virginia with views of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. Of course, riding the entire TransAmerica Trail is not a requirement to enjoying Section 12 in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Let’s just call it your warm-up.
3. Roanoke Valley Greenways
Of all the biking options for cyclists who prefer riding pavement, the 30 miles of mixed-use paved trails that make up the Roanoke Valley Greenways are by far the most accommodating for young riders, as they keep cyclists off the roads for the majority of the trails system. This is just one reason the Roanoke Valley Greenways offer family fun for all ages that not many trails systems can match.
Created by a group of citizens who simply wanted to make their home a better place to live, the Greenways network snakes through various neighborhoods and communities throughout the Roanoke Valley. Pick any day of the week, and you’ll find a diverse group of runners, walkers and four-legged companions taking advantage of the relaxed nature and beautiful scenery that are synonymous with the Valley’s urban biking trails system. It's part of what earned the region the distinction of being one of the "Most Bike-Friendly Cities in America" by USA Today!
Those are a few highlights, but by no means all of what Virginia’s Blue Ridge has to offer cyclists. For a full list of popular rides, bicycling itineraries, repair shops, unique gear and local riding groups, visit our newly launched Biking section.
And for bike enthusiasts interested in watching the professionals at work, join us for the Virginia's Blue Ridge Downtown Twilight Criterium, hitting Downtown Roanoke May 21st. The fast-paced, high-energy cycling race features a total purse of $15,000 and features packs of professional riders, cheered on by hundreds of spectators lining the streets (and outdoor beer gardens) downtown.