Happy trails: The Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club maintains and build paths for your riding pleasure. (Photo by Eric Kelley)
Local fat tire fans have a lot to be excited about. Trails in and around Charlottesville have been multiplying in recent years, largely due to the hard work of the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club. Whether it’s maintaining the singletrack at longstanding favorites like Walnut Creek Park or building trails at new spots like Preddy Creek Trail Park, the members of CAMBC have proven they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to creating opportunity for off-road biking.
“We have a lot of skilled dirt movers and certified chainsaw artists,” said current CAMBC president David Stackhouse. “Without trail work, we wouldn’t have trails to ride.”
Stackhouse took over as president of the near-decade-old local club two and half years ago, and during that time the group has more than tripled its membership and become a chapter of the venerable International Mountain Biking Association. With trail access being the nonprofit group’s No. 1 priority, members participate in a handful of building and maintenance work days every month. In the last three years, the club has logged more than 2,000 hours of trail work.
The key to CAMBC’s success has been a willingness to lend a hand where it’s needed. It’s currently helping Charlottesville City Parks and Recreation create a pump track in Azalea Park, along with assisting Albemarle County expand the trail options at Preddy Creek and working with the Rivanna Trails Foundation to maintain its namesake.
“We have a lot of trail opportunities in this town, and it’s in the best interest of mountain bikers and all trail users to learn how to build and use them sustainably,” Stackhouse said. “Our biggest goal is to build bridges between mountain bikers and other trail user groups and explore how we can work together.”
Where to ride
Preddy Creek Trail Park
Volunteers put in close to 2,000 hours last year to develop this beginner-friendly trail system, located off Burnley Station Road, north of the airport. An outer loop four-mile was created to circumnavigate the 571-acre spread of county park land. CAMBC members are also currently in the final stages of building an additional two to three miles of trail that will be a mountain bike-specific course with built-in skills obstacles, including rock gardens and skinny bridges.
“This is by far the best beginner trail system we have in the Charlottesville area,” Stackhouse said. “It has very few hills and not a lot of elevation, but it’s undulating terrain with some twists and turns that still make it fun for an advanced rider.”
Walnut Creek Park
Locally known as the Charlottesville area’s mountain biking mecca, the North Garden-based Walnut Creek Park has a well-established, 15-mile maze of tight and twisty wooded singletrack with terrain for every level from beginner to advanced.
Pleasant Grove Community Park
The 900-plus-acre farm in Palmyra that’s been opened to the public has a 15-mile trail network that offers an easy off-road fix for Lake Monticello residents. The park’s trails were popular with equestrians before they were opened to mountain biking, so be prepared to share.
Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve
CAMBC has helped Albemarle County develop a trail system on this rugged parcel that backs up to Shenandoah National Park. Currently the available trails at Byrom will only appeal to hardcore riders looking for a workout, as both the 3.6-mile loop and 3-mile out-and-back riding options feature lung-busting climbs on burly terrain. Riding options should expand as regular trail work continues.
O-Hill and the Rivanna Trail
Stackhouse’s go-to ride in town takes him from McIntire Park to Observatory Hill on the Rivanna Trail. “It’s a great after-work ride that doesn’t require puting the bike on top of the car,” he said.
The trails on O-Hill are steep and rocky, so be prepared for a technical challenge. But you can’t beat the central location next to University of Virginia Grounds.
CAMBC members organize group rides throughout the week, which are announced on the club’s e-mail list (cambc.org). Some regular favorites include a Tuesday night women’s ride, a Wednesday night Brownie Crit and a Thursday night ride that leaves from the Blue Ridge Cyclery bike shop on Millmont Street.