My favorite adventure vacations are ones where the adventure is in close proximity to comfort. No one understands this quite like a ski resort. Throw in a gorgeous Virginia summer and a resort sports director who is an avid mountain biker, and what do you get? You get Mountain Bike Party Time, that’s what. I had the extreme pleasure of experiencing said Mountain Bike Party Time last weekend at Virginia’s Massanutten Resort, located just 10 miles outside of Harrisonburg.
Though Massanutten started as a ski resort, over the years it has enjoyed such popularity that it has expanded to include nearly every form of entertainment to which a human family could apply themselves. There’s golf. There’s a full water park. There are go karts, zip lines, hikes, restaurants, horses, and yes, oh yes, there are mountain bikes.
The place even has its very own wine by nearby Stone Mountain Vineyards. I tried it. It’s delicious.
The resort covers something like 60,000 acres of ground at the southern tip of Massanutten Mountain, which is a series of ridges smack in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. To the east, the Blue Ridge mountains form one border of the Shenandoah Valley. To the west, the Allegheny mountains form the other border. In the middle, the southern ridges of Massanutten Mountain form almost a teardrop shaped bowl in which the main resort body is situated. The singletrack is on the far side of the western ridge, on land the resort also owns.
Massanutten handles access to the trails in perhaps the coolest way such a thing could be handled, through an organization called the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition. To quote the SVBC’s about page:
SVBC envisions an active and organized cycling community in the central Shenandoah Valley that represents all types and levels of cycling and cyclists. The SVBC will further the interests of its diverse membership by advocating for, and providing resources to the cycling community so Harrisonburg and the Central Shenandoah Valley will become known as a center of safe, sustainable and enjoyable cycling on roads, trails, and streets.
You don’t have to be a guest of the resort to ride the trails. You do have to join the SVBC, which supports bicycling of all kinds in the Valley. Membership will run you $20 per year, a small price to pay to support cycling in the area, I think. Then you have to either pay $50 or commit to donate eight hours of your time to trail maintenance with the SVBC to get access to the trails at Massanutten (details on the trail pass program here). Mind you, these requirements are for a season pass, not just one day.
I wish every private land owner would institute a program like this. It really seems like everyone wins. Locals get to ride private trails on private land, resort guests get well-maintained trails, and the area’s greater cycling interests are supported. Boom, boom, and turboboom.
Of course, if you are a resort guest the trails are free to ride. They also have a fleet of rental bikes and helmets in case you forgot yours, or didn’t feel like flying with your bike.
We had the pleasure of riding with Kenny Hess, Massanutten’s Sports Director. Kenny rode with what I’m now calling “Virginia Style,” which is exemplified by huge amounts of bike control. I handle rock gardens by powering through them, but the Virginia riders ride rocky sections so much they can handle them at any speed. That takes huge bike control, and it really opened my eyes to some skill work my riding badly needs.
Kenny said he started mountain biking as a way to cross train for skiing many years ago. I don’t know squat about skiing, but if mountain biking is something he does as a sideline to skiing, I’d expect to see him doing flips down the mountain on one leg, or maybe handstand skiing (is that a thing?) come wintertime. On top of that, he was a great host and a cool guy to be around.
Here’s Kenny talking about some of Massanutten’s ski programs. He’s a busy guy, so if you stay at Massanutten he might not have time to ride, but if you catch him with some free time, he’s a great dude and a big advocate for cycling in the area alongside SVBC.
Here are some more photos of the trails we rode:
We also rode the horses, took a zip line through the trees, and visited the water park. Not to swim, though, that’s just where their espresso machine is. Coffee is a big part of my life.
As an example of the comfort the resort offers in great proximity to the riding, we got to attend a meal called the Winemaker’s Dinner, where we enjoyed five courses made with locally-sourced ingredients paired with five local wines from Stone Mountain Vineyards. And we stayed in a condo-style room with full kitchen and a big bathroom.
Honestly, I can’t say enough about Massanutten as a mountain bike destination. The local food, wine, beer, and most of all, people are outstanding. If you are looking for a place to get away to that has everything you could possibly want in addition to some challenging singletrack, you should definitely give it a long look.
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