We are lucky to live in an area that is home to some of the most challenging and beautiful mountain biking on the East Coast. There are also plenty of beginner-friendly options, so don’t be afraid to get out on the mountain!
The Watershed is a treasured jewel to area mountain bikers. It has fantastic riding opportunities, but like Gambrill the trails are rocky and technical. Due to advanced terrain and unmarked trails, the Watershed is a poor choice for beginners.
Gambrill State Park
Gambrill State Park provides one of the best mountain biking areas on the east coast. It is about 51 miles northwest of Washington, DC, and 53 miles west of Baltimore on Catoctin Mountain. The park is located at the end of Frederick’s “Golden Mile” or Route 40. You can park at the main entrance or head up the mountain about a mile and park at the trail head. The trails tend to be rocky and technical. Gambrill Trail Map
- White Oak Trail – 1 mile: Hikers only, bikes not permitted.
- Red Maple Trail – 1 mile – Moderate: The red trail is moderately difficult to ride. This is an ideal warm-up loop. One short section of the trail is fairly steep.
- Green Ash Trail – 2 miles – Moderate: There are several steep slopes and very little level ground, making this trail a fun challenge.
- Black Locust Trail – 3.3 miles – Difficult: This trail showcases the beauty of Gambrill State Park, from wooded slopes to breathtaking views of Frederick to the east and Middletown Valley to the west. The trail passes through the High Knob Scenic Area, mixing several steep slopes with fairly level areas.
- Yellow Poplar Trail – 7.1 miles – Difficult: The longest of the Gambrill trails, this trail is fairly difficult to ride. Sections of the trail are quite technical and rocky. Mountain bikers can enjoy the view from North Frederick Overlook as you continue north along a moderately sloped ridge line. The Yellow Trail offers the option of a three-mile extension.
- Catoctin Blue Trail – 3 miles – Difficult: This trail traverses Gambrill State Park before leaving the park and entering the Frederick Watershed. This trail is not a loop.
Emmitsburg offers a ‘stacked loop’ trail system
, including easy, moderate and harder options. The beginner loop (green) is about 2.5 miles and is closest to the lake. The intermediate loop (yellow) is about 5 miles but will ride as more. The intermediate loops have more climbing than your typical trails and are basically 2 loops joined by a mile of trail that links them together and takes you on the road for about 40 ft around a private driveway.
There is also an out and back completed across the street from the lake parking area down the road a bit. Out and back is accessed from the trail that leads to the upper loop. When you come out on the road look across and there is a trail. There is also a more beginner/intermediate trail directly across from the lake parking area. Fun layers of trail with switchbacks, great flow and pump sections. A great place for intermediate riders looking to improve their technical skills. Closed for hunting Sept Through Feb except on Sundays. Also closed for Turkey Season except Sunday.
Schaeffer Farms is an extremely popular mountain biking and equestrian destination with several excellent singletrack loops that cover almost 12 miles of rolling terrain. These trails offer something for all levels, but tend toward fast and smooth hardpacked singletrack, with moderate climbs, and a good number of log and ramped log hops. Some technical sections will require beginners to dismount, but intermediates should find most sections rideable and challenging. Trails can be crowded on weekends, with much lighter use during the weekdays. Schaeffer Farms Trail Map
Black Hill has cycling opportunities for a wide range of riders. The park has both paved and natural surface trails to choose from. The non-paved trails are fast and flowing with a few difficult trail features. Beginner mountain bike riders, cyclocross riders and even the more experienced cyclist can have a great time at Black Hill. The Hoyles Mill Trail leads to Schaeffer Farms for those looking for a longer ride. Black Hill Trail Map
Hoyles Mill Connector Trail
The Hoyles Mill Connector is across the road from the entrance to Schaeffer Farms, at the end of the parking lot after the gate. The 7 mile trail is similar to that of Schaeffer and connects to Black Hills Regional Park. The terrain combines, smooth single-track, moderate rock gardens, gravel roads and one paved section. The trail is great for newer riders and only has a few short climbs. There are two stream crossings that range in depth. Hoyles Mill Trail Map
Little Bennett Regional Park
Little Bennett has over 23 miles of natural surface trails great for cyclists, hikers, and equestrians. The terrain is easy-to-moderate with flowing ups and downs but no real steep climbs or descents. These trails are ideal for new riders or more experienced riders in search of fast flowing trails. Little Bennett Trail Map
Cedarville State Forest
Cedarville in Waldorf is a few miles south of Rosaryville. This trail is comprised of several different loops. The Cedarville Sate Forest Homepage describes the trails as “off-road rides on forest roads and wooded trails through Prince George’s and Charles counties’ quiet forests. Each trail has its own flavor. The orange trail wanders through damp and marshy areas lined with holly, magnolia and assorted marsh plants and flowers. The blue trail is hilly with several streams and springs. The brown trail is pretty level and dry. It circles through a pine plantation and around the 4-acre stocked fishing pond. The green trail starts by the 4-acre pond and then loops through the forest and headwaters of the Zekiah Swamp. This is a suitable riding area for both novices and experts.
This mountain bike trail is a series of loops with several short steep climbs and some fast descents. There is a 10 mile trail and some obstacles such as teeter-totters to play on. The trail is designed to flow in a clockwise pattern. Fountainhead requires that helmets be worn by all riders and the park closes at dark. The trailhead is visible from the parking lot about 0.6 miles from the park entrance. Fountainhead Trail Map
Greenbrier State Park
Greenbrier offers a moderately difficult selection of trails. The tendency at Greenbrier is climbing or descending with few flowing sections. This dichotomy of trail makes it possible to get a good workout in a short period of time. The trails are fairly rocky but certainly tamer than Gambrill or the Frederick Watershed. Greenbrier Trail Map
Hashawa Environmental Center
Hashawa offers rolling and twisty single track. There are few technical features (such as rocks) so these trails would be good for newer riders. The trails should be avoided after rain as they tend to get muddy.
Hashawa Trail Map
Loch Raven Reservoir Watershed
Loch Raven is located in the Towson/Lutherville area and is home to about 20 miles of modestly technical trails. The Reservoir hosts several different mountain bike trails. Most riders park at the intersection of Dulaney Valley Road and Seminary Road. The ride starts across the intersection on the northeast corner with a short fire-road entrance.
Various single track sections depart on the left as the fire-road continues. The single track follows along the water and is pretty root-filled and a bit twisty. After you leave the water, you rejoin the fire-road for a climb. After that you have more singletrack, mostly level, but with plenty of logs. The singletrack leads you to Loch Raven Drive where you can climb up the hill and then get back into singletrack on the left. Do that loop and come back down the hill on the road. There’s a rope-gated entrance to more fire-road with climbs.
Loch Raven Trail Maps
Patapsco Valley State Park
Patapsco offers moderately difficult trails. It is a great place to develop mountain bike skills. The trails are not super technical, so you can ride them fast, making Patapsco fun for all skill levels.
- Avalon / Glen Artney / Orange Grove / Lost Lake Areas – Trail Map
- McKeldin Area – Trail Map
Rosaryville is a great destination for riders of all ability levels. The trails tend to be moderate with some technical sections. It consists of a lot of tight, twisty singletrack with some short steep hills. The trails are never very crowded and offer beautiful overlooks. Cost for park access is $3 per Maryland car and $5 per out of state vehicle. They are open 8am – 4pm weekdays. Rosaryville Trail Map
- Perimeter Trail – 7.5 miles – Moderate/Difficult: This trail circumnavigates the park, providing hikers, cyclists and horseback riders with a tight, twisty, single-track route. The trail passes primarily through the woods, providing plenty of shade during hot summer months. The western section of this trail is mainly easy-to-moderate in difficulty. The trail in the eastern section has moderate-to-difficult terrain with more technical sections and frequent short hills that provide challenging climbs.
- Tanager Point Overlook Trail – 0.2 mile – Easy: This overlook got its name from the numerous scarlet tanagers that spend the summer in Rosaryville State Park. You can recognize the males from their brilliant scarlet red plumage. Female plumages are yellow underneath. This trail is not hardened and therefore does not comply with ADA access guidelines; however, it may be usable by some persons with disabilities due to its relatively level surface and short distance to the overlook.
- Spur Trails – No Blazes: There are a number of spur trails throughout the trail system that provide opportunities to shorten or lengthen the trail circuit. These spurs are not maintained, however, so caution is advised when using them
Wakefield is a good easy trail system in Northern Virginia and host for the area’s mountain bike race series called Wednesdays at Wakefield
. These trails are great for beginners and the experienced alike. Because Wakefield is located in the city the surroundings make it difficult to feel one with nature, but it does cure your riding bug. Wakefield Trail Map
Raystown Lake Allegrippis Trails
Raystown is about a two hour drive from Frederick but well worth the trip. There are several camping options a few pedals from the trail head. Your reward for the journey is a well designed trail system that is nicely marked and flows like water. If you are looking for a break from the rocky east-cost tough-guy trails that are local to Frederick, Raystown can make a super weekend getaway. Raystown Allegrippis Trail Map