Training: Bryce Resort Mountain Bike Park

Nestled between I-81 and the Virginia-West Virgina ridge line in Shenandoah County, Virginia is the four-season Bryce Resort.  This summer, on top of zip lining and grass skiing/boarding, the resort added a progressive downhill mountain bike park.  The bike park features six lift-accessed trails (one green, three blue, and two black) that carve across the mountain, challenging riders of all skill levels.  Given my obsession with anything bike related, that’s all I needed to hear to make the trip.  For less single-minded folks, the resort also offers up golf, mini-golf, lake swimming, boating, and hiking.

Bryce Resort Welcome Sign next to the resort entrance road

The bike park is easy to find – park at the main entrance to the resort

Hair-raising ramps on the (double black diamond) Copperhead trail, with exhilarating switchback of the (green) Sundowner trail in the background.

Step-up and whale-tail jumps on the Copperhead trail (double black diamond) alongside exhilarating switchbacks of the Sundowner trail (green)

Perhaps the best thing about the bike park is that it accommodates all types of riders.  The green trail is ideal for novice riders, even first time mountain bikers, who can quickly progress to the more challenging blue runs.  Riders of all levels can also take advantage of the park’s learning center, which teaches novices essential skills and helps more advanced riders enhance their speed, fluidity, and style.

While you’re free to bring your own helmet and bike, all you need to bring with you for a great experience is a good attitude and some cash.  Riders can rent a full-face helmet, full body armor, and choose from the Trek Session downhill bike with 8-in suspension (front and rear), or the Trek Slash all-mountain rig with 5-in suspension (again, front and rear).  Both are extremely stable, confidence inspiring, and capable on all trails.  The Session is a  plush downhill-specific machine, while the Slash feels more like a standard mountain bike, which I prefer .

A Trek Slash getting serviced by in the full-service rental and retail shop

A rack of Trek Slash bikes waiting to roar down the trails.

A rack of downhill specific Trek Sessions, with arm/chest/ and leg body armor and full-face helmets in the background

Downhill-specific Trek Sessions, with a rack of body armor to the left

Once you’re set up with a bike, helmet, and protective gear of choice, the ski lift is a mere stone’s throw from the rental shop.

Simply rack your bike, then sit back and enjoy the ride up!

Simply rack your bike, then sit back and enjoy the ride up!

A glimpse of a trail from the skilift

A glimpse of the Sundowner trail

A black diamond ramp with another trail underneath, as seen from the ski lift

A black diamond ramp with another trail underneath, as seen from the ski lift

In three hours at the bike park, I did a total of six runs.  I started off easy on the green trail, and worked my way up through the blue and black trails.  The green Sundowner trail features smooth and flowy singletrack, perfectly bermed turns,  and gentle switchbacks.  It’s an excellent track to develop downhill MTB skills and confidence.

I then progressed to the Brew Thru trail (blue).  The single track was still smooth and flowy, but promoted slightly higher speeds than the Sundowner trail.  Bermed turns and switchbacks were also more frequent and challenging.  The Brew Thru’s defining feature is a series of progressive jump opportunities; riders can curb their speed and simply roll over them, or go faster to grab as much or little air as desired.  It is the perfect opportunity for intermediate riders to slowly and safely learn to catch air on a mountain bike.

Next I tried out the blue/intermediate Screwdriver trail.  It has a more natural downhill feel with tighter and more twisty singletrack than the Sundowner and Brew Thru trails.  Continuing on with the more narrow and rugged theme is the blue/intermediate Snakebite trail which branches off from Brew Thru. It’s like the tougher big brother of the Screwdriver trail: steeper, tighter, rougher, and completely exhilarating. It also has a set of ~1ft wide planks to ride and practice holding your line at speed!

On my fifth go-around, I rode the Copperhead trial (double black/expert).  It features even steeper, and rougher singletrack than the Snakebike, as well as two rock gardens, two ramp jump-drops, a creek bed jump, large gap jump, and back-to-back step-up and whale-tail jump ramps at the bottom of the course.  The second expert-level trail is the Car Bomb, which splits off from the Screwdriver trail.  Like the Copperhead, it offers up tight, steep, and fast singletrack with a gnarly ramp jump-drop.

Overall, I was very impressed with the bike park.  Riders of all skill levels can spend an entire day on the slopes and progress on each run.  Beginners can learn the fundamentals of mountain biking and build confidence while learning to ride relaxed and in control.  Intermediate riders can practice high-speed cornering, pumping the terrain to gain free speed, and safely learn to catch air.  Expert riders can enhance their speed and style on challenging and technical black diamond trails.  Another great feature of the park is that virtually all of the riding is wooded, with occasional traverses of the ski runs.  The only thing I would add is an uphill trail that would let cross-country riders like myself skip the ski lift and get some aerobic and sustained climbing work between downhill runs.

After a thrilling session at the bike park, I hopped on my cross-country bike to get a feel for the scenic, hilly, and quiet Shenandoah valley roads around the resort.  I took Alum Springs Road out-of-town to Crooked Run Road, a gravel road that climbs 1,700 ft to the top of the mountain ridge border of Virginia and West Virginia just north of Basye.  The grueling climb passed in a flash thanks to the spectacular views and peaceful mountain environs.  As I crested the mountain ridge, I bombed the 1,500 ft descent on the backside of the mountain into West Virginia.  While the road is plenty wide, navigating the rocks, rain ruts, tight turns, and switchbacks at 35+ mph was quite challenging.  I followed Upper Cove Run Road alongside the rural countryside into Mathias, West Virginia and turned around to climb and descend the ridge once more.  After the lung burning climb back into Virginia, and the white knuckle descent back to Alum Springs Road, I ended the ride with a lap along the 2.5 mile (cross-country) loop trail around Lake Laura back at the resort.

Elevation graph with two large peaks

Elevation profile starting at Crooked Run Road

A lonely Chimney in a field as seen from Alum Springs Road

A lonely Chimney as seen from Alum Springs Road

Unpaved road with trees arching overhead

Peace and quiet on the scenic and challenging Crooked Run Road climb

Unpaved road with trees arching overhead

Road riding doesn’t get much better than this.

Alex on the side of the road, standing behind his bike

The only car that passed me offered to stop and take a picture

Unpaved road with trees arching overhead

One of many challenging switchbacks

Scenic overlook, sky with clouds, grass, trees, and hills below

Good thing the road doesn’t take a straight path like the telephone line

Trees and wooden fence

Taking in the view while cooling off in the shade

The road less traveled

The road less traveled

Still lake water, surrounded by trees, white coulds

A view of Lake Laura from the lake trail

Narrow dirt singletrack surrounded by grass and thick foliage, with Lake Laura visibile on the left

The cross-country trail surrounding Lake Laura

The Bryce Resort area is a hidden gem for all types of riding with downhill trails, cross-country trails, gravel roads, and low-traffic rural paved roads all in close proximity.  There’s plenty to do off the bike as well, which comes in handy if you’re traveling with a group.  I spent my weekend with friends who opted to go for an easy, scenic hike along the ridge line while I went off on my crazy hill-climbing adventures, and we all enjoyed swimming in Lake Laura and practicing our putting skills at the resort’s 18-hole mini-golf course.  A two-hour drive from DC, Bryce Resort is a great rural getaway and is definitely going on my list of go-to training grounds.

Acknowledgements:
Thank you to Bryce Resort for providing me with a bike, helmet, and lift pass for the day. Thanks also to my gracious weekend hosts for housing me, feeding me, and providing great company.

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2 Responses to Training: Bryce Resort Mountain Bike Park

  1. beverlygeer says:

    Great visit to Bryce via video. I’m sharing this one with friends.

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