Our Guide to Mountain Biking Routes in England
Mountain biking is one of the best ways to get off the beaten track and immerse yourself in the spectacular scenery England has to offer. You don’t even need to be an experienced rider to get out there and shred the trails because the country offers tons of options for everyone from beginners to pro-level daredevils.
Ready to experience some of the best trails in England? We’ve put together a list from easy to extremely difficult to inspire your next adventure.
Remember, mountain bike trails are graded from green to black, depending on their difficulty. Some trails have sections that change grading, so make sure you know where you’re going or you could take a wrong turn and find yourself way out of your comfort zone (which isn’t always a bad thing, as long as you take it slow and put your safety first!)
- Green Trails: These are easy and perfect for beginners and families.
- Blue Trails: Great for intermediate cyclists with a good fitness level and basic off-roading skills. Hybrid bikes and gravel bikes are generally fine for blue trails.
- Red Trails: Where it starts to get a bit more difficult. You’ll need a good quality mountain bike (that, depending on your skill level, you may need to carry at times) and a high level of skill and fitness.
- Black Trails: Don’t even attempt these trails unless you’re a pro, a daredevil, or insane (or all three). You’ll need a specialist mountain bike, superhuman fitness, and nerves of steel. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Adderston Trail at Dalby Forest
Trail rating: Green
Dalby Forest is one of the most popular trail centres in England. With six cycling trails, an abundance of wildlife, two play areas, a canopy walk, and an activity centre, it’s not hard to see why.
The green Adderston trail is an easy 8-mile family-friendly route that takes you through peaceful forests and grass tracks, with gentle climbs and descents. In 2018, a 4-mile extension was added, so you can take your ride to a total of 12 miles.
If you’re a complete beginner or teaching your kids to ride, you can also check out the Ellerburn trail, which was specially designed for disabled cyclists, walkers, wheelchair users, and children. This trail is 1.7 miles on the short route or 2.8 miles on the long route.
For those looking for something a little more challenging, you can also do the 20.5-mile Dalby Red Route or the formidable black 4-mile World Cup route that was designed in collaboration with Olympian cross country racer Oli Beckingsale and ex-World Cup racer Nick Craig.
Verderers trail at Forest of Dean Cycle Centre
Trail grade: Blue
If you’re ready to level up from green trails, why not start with the best one in England? The Verderers trail was voted this year’s best blue trail in England by BikeRadar.
Luke Marshall from BikeRadar writes, “For advanced riders, the Verderers is a great fitness tool. The new sections are mega regardless of your skill level, with the berms being some of the best I’ve ridden yet. It’s an ideal trail to sharpen your skills on – because the surface is pretty smooth it’s easier to concentrate on technique. Of course, it’s still a blue so don’t set off with gnarly expectations and you won’t be disappointed. There’s a lot of fun to be had with a bit of creativity.”
The trail was built in 2011, and immediately became a smash hit. Recently, it’s been updated with an £80,000 investment and further investment is planned. Featuring flowing corners, big berms, and rollover features, the trail offers fun technical challenges and a final descent that was resurfaced in 2020 to give it an exhilaratingly fast finish.
The 8, Gisburn Forest, Lancashire
Trail grade: Red
Laid out in the shape of a figure 8, The 8 is a 5.9-mile red trail with the famous black section, Hully Gully. It’s optional so you can avoid it if you want, but it’s more fun to give it a try.
The loop features diverse terrain, from volunteer-built trails in twisting forests to open moors. Whelpstone Crag is the highest point of the trail, offering beautiful views and some fantastic technical rock features.
Gisburn Forest also offers three skills loops that become progressively more difficult, making them the perfect spot to test your skills before you hit one of the cross country trails.
Ladybower Loop, Peak District
Trail grade: Black
Dark Peak National Park was established in 1951, making it the oldest national park in England - and a playground for mountain bikers. The Peak District is made up of two peaks: The White Peak, known for its gently rolling limestone plateaus, and The Dark Peak, which is higher, wilder, and characterised by steep gritstone slopes.
This bucket list gear-grinding route is an incredible (and incredibly demanding) ride suited for experienced riders. It’s spread across Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Greater Manchester, giving you plenty of room to explore.
There are 26 trails ranging from 7 miles to the 65-mile Lord of the Loop, and while there are some novice-friendly trails, most are rated difficult. One of the most popular routes is the black 28.3-mile Ladybower Loop, which features incredible views, technical climbs, and adrenaline pumping descents.
If you don’t feel quite confident enough to tackle the Ladybower Loop, there’s also the option to do the medium/difficult 9-mile Ladybower Lite route or the easy 8-mile Ladybower Reservoir Loop.