A Quick & Dirty Guide to the Best Mountain Biking in Winston-Salem
Traveling across the notoriously flat North Carolina Piedmont, it’s a shock to come across the hills of the Triad region. But those hills are home to some of the most challenging singletrack in the Carolinas outside the Blue Ridge Mountains. They draw mountain bikers across the state from Charlotte to Raleigh with pumpy ascents, fast and flowy lines, lake vistas, and something new to offer each season thanks to the passion of a local MTB community that continually works to upgrade and extend the trails. In Winston-Salem, there are rides for every skill level right on your back doorstep, so gear up and clip in for a quick and dirty guide to the best mountain biking in Winston.
Ten miles of novice trails at Northeast Park make a fast and flowy training ground for beginners and families just learning to mountain bike. Significant stretches of trail run along the banks of Reedy and Buffalo creeks under heavy shade, and the relatively flat terrain alternates between pine forest and open meadow on two major loops. A rugged and fun creek crossing at the Reedy Fork divides the two sections. Push past the creek to ride out Tobacco Barn Ridge to enjoy the sweeping views of barns and horse pastures beyond the park boundaries.
The 3-mile Blue Heron Trail runs along the banks of Lake Townsend and is more of a leisure ride than heart-pumping singletrack. Beginners are going to love the fast, flowy berms, tight turns, and short, moderate climbs. The trail connects to the 1-mile Kingfisher spur and the 7-mile Reedy Fork Trail for more than 10 miles of beginner to intermediate singletrack.
The Reedy Fork delivers just enough tight and twisty singletrack to challenge the advanced beginner who’s ready to take it to the next level. The 7-mile out-and-back trail starts out along Reedy Creek to hug the Lake Townsend shoreline, with several steeper and more technical side trail options for intermediate riders. Moderate climbs and drops at the start and finish let you build speed to run the rooty midpoint section.
Eight miles of trails at Tanglewood Park are divided into three loops, all accessible with no fee from a parking area just outside the park’s front gate. The Northeast Trail, a 1.5-mile beginner loop, flows fast and smooth through tight turns and over rolling hills, small logs, and moderately technical root sections. The punchy climbs and fast descents on the Northwest and North Central trails will raise your heart rate, with plenty of jumps, drops, creek crossings, and berms for more advanced riders.
A challenging, intermediate ride packed into a tight area, Hobby Park’s 7-mile loop is one of the most punishing rides in the Triad, not because of its technicality or obstacles, but because of the vertical gain. Punchy climbs will make your legs scream, but just in time, a fast descent offers a break before kicking it back into granny gear. The demanding hills keep coming for a total of 800 feet of climbing on the main loop. You can opt out of the technical features on the loop named XC, which has longer climbs and flowy berms, and the Super D loop, which features downhills and jumps. The finale is a rocky, technical creekbed climb on a black diamond section nicknamed Little Pisgah for its similarity to the grueling terrain of western North Carolina. A perfect warm up and wind down is nearby on the jumps of Hobby Park’s pump track.
Quick-drying, loose rock on the 6-mile Copperhead Trail makes it the go-to ride after a heavy rain, and adds a dimension of difficulty to the intermediate trails in any conditions. Beginners with some experience can take the trails at slower speeds to enjoy the more moderate elevation changes and easy flow. Intermediate to advanced bikers will have no problem building speed to hug the berms and gullies and catch some air over the moguls. Free-ride The Zone’s downhill jump course, with all the jumps, berms, and rhythm and whoop sections expert riders can handle. For an easy warm-up or cool-down, ride the paved Country Park Loop Trail to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park loop trail around the historic battlefield.
One of the most popular trails in the Triad, Wild Turkey is pure fun and flow. It’s a fast, 5-mile rollercoaster ride that connects with five other Triad trails, adding up to a total of 30+ miles of intermediate to advanced singletrack. Smooth berms and skinnies pass through the forest along the shores of Lake Brandt, with plenty of tight turns, moguls, log pyramids, bridges, and substantial rock jumps. From end to end, you’re riding along the lake for stunning views of the water.
Speed and technicality make Owl’s Roost, in Bur-Mil Park, a perennial favorite for Triad mountain bikers. More than 4 miles of rugged intermediate to advanced singletrack dips and twists through the forest along the shores of Lake Brandt. Hard-packed sections and pumpy climbs give way to wide-open water views for most of the ride, and fire road connector trails let you double back for more mileage and multiple loops. Best for experienced riders who like to push their speed, the rooty verticals and a 10-foot gully drop at the halfway point will challenge the most seasoned mountain bikers. Intermediate riders can cross the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway to warm up on Big Loop and Little Loop on the west side of the park.
Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with OrthoCarolina.