Bikepacking the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail (VMBT) Route – Part 2

  • Distance

    272 Mi.

    (438 KM)
  • Days


  • % Unpaved


  • % Singletrack


  • Difficulty (1-10)


  • % Rideable (time)


  • Total Ascent


    (8,727 M)
  • High Point


    (1,383 M)
Part two of this spectacular, diverse, and wits-crushing bikepacking route that writhes its way through isolated farming communities, remote wilderness, panoramic crags, and historic rail grade trails...
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Approximately one month after riding the northern portion of the VMBT (see part 1), I embarked from the foot of Little Mare Mountain on the northeast fringe of Douthat State Park to tackle the southern 270 mile stretch of the route. This massive chunk of the VMBT is just as challenging, if not more so, than the northern portion, and traverses a much more diverse array of terrain and surroundings. The trail winds through scenic farmland, rugged ridgeline forest including the the epic 14 mile North Mountain trail, historic towns such as Clifton Forge, and established tracks like the peaceful 55 mile New River State Park rail trail.

This portion of the route seems easier at times with more established trails, easier access to water, and several stretches through fairly populated areas. But it throws plenty of knuckle balls throughout and delivers a final blow of steep climbs and rugged horse trodden tracks over the last 70 miles in the Mount Rogers highlands. The closing stretch of downhill along the Iron Mountain Trail eventually erases the pain that carried your legs up to that point.

  • Highlights


  • Must Know


  • Camping


  • Food/H2O


  • Trail Notes


  • Up Middle Mountain and down Stoney Run in Douthat State Park.
  • The North Mountain Trail, a not to miss rugged ridge line ride.
  • The New River State Park Trail: a scenic and peaceful ride along the New River.
  • FSR 14, a desolate wilderness track through an amazing forest.
  • The view from Comer’s Rock.
  • The descent down the Iron Mountain Trail.
  • All of the historic farmhouses, trestles, and artifacts along the way.
  • This route follows trails and roads depicted on National Geographic maps 791, 788, and 787. However, these maps are out of date and private property issues are always changing. I highly recommend using both a GPS as well as a map from Shenandoah Mountain Touring that can be purchased by contacting Chris Scott.
  • Make sure you are well stocked with tire repair supplies, there are plenty of thorny plants along the dry ridges; I would recommend a tubeless setup or a couple of squirts of Stan’s in your tubes.
  • Hunting is big in these parts. If you choose to ride during hunting season, make sure to pack your blaze orange.
  • Some of these trails are very rugged, grown up, and/or seldomly travelled; wear long socks and prepare for some hike-a-bikes.
  • Use precaution and realize that at times you will be in extremely remote areas and far away from services or help.
  • There are campgrounds scattered throughout the route as you come in and out of the Jefferson National Forest.
  • Also, there are sites along the forest roads as well as plenty of backcountry sites.
  • At times there are long stretches of very rocky terrain which makes finding a flat spot rather difficult; a hammock is your best option for camping anywhere along the trails.
  • Water is much more abundant on this part of the route, although part of that may be the fact that there was a little more rainfall prior to setting out.
  • The main places where one may fall short with water are along the ridges: North Mtn between miles 77 and 92; the Mount Rogers highlands after mile 200 (although there are scattered springs).
  • As noted in the GPS track, there are a few scattered general stores with well stocked supplies.

Diversions from the Original Route

  • At mile 14 the original route depicts a track following the Middle Mountain trail all the way to 64; I chose to take Stoney Run to Douthat, then go through Clifton Forge to avoid backtracking on the highway.
  • At mile 48 the original route leads across the river via an ancient trestle; because of new posted signs I decide to take a paved route instead. However, a more off road option may be doable by taking Craig Creek Road at mile 41 and then 818 to a trail over Patterson Mountain.
  • At mile 124, the original route shows wading across the New River to access roads on the other side and work toward the New River Trail. It was cold so I passed on this.

NOTE: for those interested in this route, Shenandoah Mountain Touring will be offering a well-documented map of the full route. I highly recommend obtaining a copy prior to tackling the VMBT; there are many trails and forest roads that can be slightly confusing, and the National Geographic maps (792/791/788) of the area are slightly out of date and do not correctly display water availability, several of the trails, and private land issues.

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.

  • RobE

    I assume the posted signs on the old rail tressel were “No Trespassing” signs?

  • That’s correct Rob… plus that thing looked a little sketchy. Bummer though, I spoke with a group of mountain bikers that mentioned an awesome rail grade potential through that area…

  • RobE

    I emailed Chris Scott and his VMBT maps aren’t 100% complete yet. He still needs to mark them up.

  • Good to know. You could get by following my route with a GPS and nat geo maps (but that would be 5 maps all-in-all)…

  • RobE

    What cycling GPS device did you use on this trip? Your battery lasted forever!

  • 3 sets of AAs in the eTrex 20. However, I didn’t ride the last bit on Iron Mountain this trip (I rode that last year). Also, my third set died somewhere in the Mount Rogers wilderness so I appended a track I recreated on Google Earth for about 20 miles of it (hence the little blip around mile 228)…

  • Better than Knards?

  • For different surfaces, definitely! More soon…

  • nin

    What mount are you using for the eTrex?

  • Not sure… I got it from amazon. I will look and see if it has a model number when I get home…

  • Jim

    About how much do you think your gear weight was including water (how much?) and food?

  • Kyle Inman

    The shots on North Mountain do justice to my little nickname for it: Dragon’s Back!

  • Whoops, sorry I missed this comment Jim. I am honestly not sure… I would guess I was carrying 25-30 pounds of gear, 5 pounds of food… and one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds; most of the time I carried 2-3 liters. Also, I carried about a half liter of fuel, another pound. Hope that helps.

  • Kyle, I actually thought of that while I was up there (sorry I missed this comment a couple of weeks ago… lost in the shuffle when i was out of town, I guess). Cheers.

  • RobE

    On Dec 14th myself and a group from the Virginia Endurance Series found the trestle and traversed it. It was definitely sketchy, more than once I could imagine myself plummeting to my death. Yes, the rail grade on the other side is awesome. Here is a video of some of us making it across it.

  • Good to know that it’s doable! That definitely seems like the natural direction of that route. Thanks for sharing!

  • Travis

    Has anyone had any luck obtaining one of these maps? I’m in the planning stages now and will be coming out there early June going North to South. I’ll have around 8 days on trail to go as far as I can.
    Thanks for the write up and pics. This blog is what put me on the path to come out ya’lls way!

  • Hi Travis. Thanks! Did you try contacting Chris Scott?

  • JP

    I would like to know about this as well. I have no luck in getting in touch with Chris.

  • Let me know if you have any specific questions…

  • Jared

    Logan, I notice there’s a lot of decent single and double track in your photos. How much of this trail could be done on an RLT9? I assume the higher elevation is going to be fat tires only with the rocky areas. I watched a promo video of the VAMTB trail and it seemed way more intense than your (beautiful) shots show here.

  • Jared

    I might have to convert my hardtail back to geared. This goes through some wonderful areas.

  • Yeah, I wouldn’t touch it with an RLT9. And you’ll definitely need gears… this is a toughy (Part 1 more so that this second part).

  • Mark

    Hey Logan, I’m very interested in attempting this route it looks to be the closes hardest route to me in Northern Michigan. However, my biggest question is what camera are you using for your photos? they are spot on!

  • Thanks Mark. These are all from the Fuji X100..

  • James Dunaway

    Do you think it is possible to cover the last 70-80 miles of this route (end of river trail to Blacksburg) in one long day for two pretty strong riders? A friend and I are doing majority of this route this weekend and we are trying figure out food rationing. Unsure cause I spy lots of singletrack on the map. Thanks!