Bikepacking the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail (VMBT) Route – Part 2
272 Mi.(438 KM)
% Rideable (time)
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.
- 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 However, these maps are out of date and private property issues are always changing.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.