Slate Springs Overnighter, Harrisonburg, VA

  • Distance

    52 Mi.

    (84 KM)
  • Days


  • % Unpaved


  • % Singletrack


  • Difficulty (1-10)


  • % Rideable (time)


  • Total Ascent


    (1,658 M)
  • High Point


    (1,329 M)
The Shenandoah Mountain range just west of Harrisonburg, VA harbors some of the finest dirt roads on the east coast. This bikepacking overnighter route cuts through its heart and can be expanded to a weekend ride or more…
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Established initially in 1918 as the Shenandoah National Forest, The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests combine to form one of the largest areas of public land in the eastern United States. While riding along the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail a couple of years back, the forested Shenandoah mountains just west of Harrisonburg beckoned for additional exploration. Most folks think of this area for it’s rugged singletrack. And that it has, but there’s also a massive network of dirt and gravel roads. While this overnighter route barely scratches the surface, it offers a nice introduction to the scenic ridges and knobs that characterize this part of the Blue Ridge.

This loop was designed for gravel-style bikepacking, but it’s actually throws a couple of curve balls for skinny tire bikes. The G.W. and Jefferson National Forests are known for their rocky and rugged surfaces. Although this route features some smooth gravel and paved roadway, it has a fair share of rugged dirt roads, chunky gravel, and off-camber tracks.

  • Highlights


  • Must Know


  • Camping


  • Food/H2O


  • Trail Notes


  • Beautiful dirt road riding through the ridges and knobs of the Shenandoah.
  • Camping on Meadow Knob with views of the surrounding mountains.
  • The wildlife in the meadows; specifically deer that seem to pay you no mind as they go about their business.
  • Riding alongside creeks and streams toward the beginning and end.
  • The fast descent from Reddish Knob
  • The ideal bike: while this route was made for a gravel/all-road bike, the rugged Slate Springs dirt road might be a bit much for some folks on skinny tires; make sure to put on some big tires (40mm+).
  • When to go: Spring and fall are the best times to visit; expect muggy heat in the summer and snow or ice in the winter.
  • Parking: is available at several pull out spots along Tillman road, or speak with the folks at Stokesville lodge about parking there (and/or before and after camping/staging). They specialize in mountain bike touring as well, so they could be a great resource for additional routes or options; the proprietor, Chris Scott, started the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail which shares some of these dirt roads.
  • There are a lot of bears in this area; hang your food at night.
  • There are several options for wild camping as shown on the map above.
  • Our favorite is Meadow Knob, but number two would be Flagpole Knob.
  • There was a piped spring as shown on the map; we chose not to filter it and had no issues. Filter or not at your own risk.
  • There are additional streams and springs through the first 20 miles and final 20 miles, but up on the ridge, it’s fairly dry.

There are several options to extend this route. One easy one that would add a solid 20 miles is an out and back to High Knob Lookout tower. You can take Dunkle Hollow Road at Mile 25.8 to Switzer Lake. Then go West on 33 and take the trail to the knob.

Another option to add big miles and a lot of altitude: Go straight at Mile 12.2 and take left on Clover Hill Road > (L) War Branch Rd > (R) Hughes Ln > (L) Peake Mountain Rd/Merge Hopkins Gap > (L) Long Run > (L) Hall Spring > (L) 33 > (R) Skidmore Fork/Dunkel Hollow… rejoin route at Slate Springs Rd. While I’ve ridden Hall Spring, I can’t vouch for the quality of Long Run Road.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • NOR

    Looks so pretty! Could you make the RideWithGPS track public? Thanks!

  • Whoops…. Sorry about that… done.

  • jason

    My old stomping grounds. Gonna check this one out next time I’m up there.

  • Jarrett Dorough

    Nice! As always, I love these gravel adventures. Looks like a sweet trip.

  • Kyle Lawrence

    Great one night trip! Lots of great options for dirt road riding in or out of the Forest around Harrisonburg. Long Run run is fantastic and not too terribly rugged. Up Long Run and down Rough Run can send you in the direction of a tour to Canaan WV. via Smokehole Canyon and along the Dolly Sods. Thanks for the report.

  • Cool, thanks for sharing the excellent info, Kyle.

  • Thanks Jarrett.

  • Michael Lowther

    these photos are dreamy, great shots.

  • So much good riding and camping in that area, makes it hard to choose!

  • Doug Nielsen

    These are my favorite write ups. Simple, direct and so exciting with gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks Michael!

  • Thanks Doug. We try and keep the route guides to the point…

  • Harry Major

    Is one of you riding a cannondale slate? And if so could you please tell me if you like it?

  • Hi Harry. I was; I did like it, for the most part. Review coming soon.

  • Moshi

    How many hours of riding to the piped spring?

  • Depends on your pace. I would look at the GPS profile and make a judgement call based on your personal pace…

  • Edwin

    Just finished the loop over the weekend by following the GPS on this site. The climb for us was challenging specially on a fat bike. It took my group 2 nights but that was us, 1 night is doable. Thanks for the write up and to Chris and Ryan of Stokesville lodge/campground for sharing resources. (Pic was taken from Meadow Knob)

  • Nice! Yeah, that’s a bit of a climb…

  • Mike Pajewski

    Do you think this would be rideable in the winter on a cross/touring bike?

  • Really depends on if they get snowfall. I would just watch the weather. You never know in the south.

  • smat

    how can i share photos?

  • Hmm, photos from this route? Shoot me an email pedalingnowhere at gmail dot com.

  • bnraines

    Just finished a trip in May 2017 – We encountered boulder strewn forest roads, swollen streams due to recent rains, muddy roads 8-10 inches deep of soft & sticky mud, brutal grades in excess of 18-20% and overnight snow, yes snow, in May on the top of the ridge. Slate Springs, VA you lived up the hype and pushed our bodies and equipment to their max. But you know what? We won and I’d do it again!

  • Betsy Farris

    Yikes! I know it’s supposed to rain, but think it will be ok this weekend? Want to take advantage of the holiday…

  • Andrew

    This looks fantastic and only 2 hours away! My gravel bike only has 35c tires and no clearance for anything more. (a bike with more clearance is high on my list) Do you think this is doable with 35c or is 40 really a minimum for this loop?

  • Well, it’s doable… there are some rough sections though. I’d say go for it as long as you don’t mind walking a time or two…

  • Matthew Hart

    me too. I am interested in checking it out as well.

  • Chris

    Has anyone done this loop in reverse, or does anyone have thoughts about that?

  • Tim Weiler

    Hi, When it states “ 1 days” it means 2 days of biking about 25 miles each day with an overnight stop?



  • DH

    Is this doable as a long day trip?

  • Hi Tim. One day means it was designed and ridden as a S24O (sub-24 hour overnighter). However, this one could certainly be done over two days (sorry for the delayed response)…

  • Yes, absolutely, if you are fit and up for the challenge…

  • It would be perfectly OK if done clockwise, however, it would be a longer more gradual climb and a quick descent. I personally prefer punchy climbs with longer, gradual descents.

  • DH

    Awesome, thanks.