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Level: Advanced
Length: 12 mi (19.3 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Loop
Elevation: +708/ -692 ft
Total: 16 riders

Mountain Biking North Mountain/longdale Loop

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#25 of 300 mountain bike trails in Virginia
#794 in the world

Longdale History

In 1827, a stone stack cold blast furnace 30 feet square and 30 feet high named "Lucy Selina" was constructed at Longdale, nestled in the valley formed by North and Brushy Mountain. Iron ore, limestone, and charcoal were fed in through the top. Combustion and smelting was caused by a cold air blast from the water-powered bellows (Cappon 1957:33).

The Lucy Selina, and her sister blast furnaces, were used to produce Confederate iron in the Civil War. Immediately after the war, in 1865, the furnaces were abandoned.

But Lucy wasn't quite dead yet! In 1874, the Lucy Selina, updated and renamed Longdale No. 1, produced Virginia's first coke smelted iron. The furnace continued pumping out heavy metal until 1911. Today, we enjoy the byproducts of ore production by playing in the woods on bikes, horses, and foot in the Longdale Furnace Recreation Area.

The Ride

The Longdale ride starts on state route 770, a mile or so down road from the actual Longdale Recreation Area. 770 turns off route 60, 8 miles from 220 east of Clifton Forge. The road starts out paved, then turns dirt just before the parking area on right. The loop begins there.

Climb 770 by turning right out of parking area. You'll savor a serene forest service road for 3 miles, or 40 minutes, without any breaks whatsoever. Not too steep, just incessant. The major landmark signaling your arrival to North Mountain's ridge is a good-sized tower. You'll see it, along with the arc of your remaining 400 vertical left of climbing, about a half-mile before the summit.

Once there, you'll turn right at the intersection, going a short way to the right turn at the singletrack. The trail is obvious, taking off short and steep. From there, the views, the trail, the experience is simply amazing. In about 2/10ths, you'll arrive at a major rock overlook that exposes all of God's glory looking eastward over Lake Robertson, Big House Mountain, and much too much to convey in words. This is premium living atop North Mountain.

The trail stays prominent and rocky for a bit more before changing character entirely. The oft narrow ridge takes on a leafy, hardwood character, and remains mostly so for the 3 miles until the descent. Mostly ride-able, with a few kicker dismounts, the trail is outstanding and wild. A few areas will remind you of another North Mountain, aka Dragon's Back, although far less rocky overall. That is, until, Pete's Cave, an altogether different section that must be experienced.

It's a boulder convention, big boulders. The staircase through the rock walls yields to a narrow crevasse... yes, that's the trail. This steep limestone hallway is a challenge to navigate while huffing, grunting an somehow stuffing the bike through. Once to the top, park your machine and go the the stacks on the right for the vista you bought your ticket to see. Interstate 64 lies below, with Mill Mountain along with all the Alleghenies best work laid out before you in a display that would make Rembrandt melt. The boulder is cracked with crevasses, some deep. The main slice held snow 15 feet below on this 82 degree day! Jump gingerly across, it's a little freaky.

Back on the trail, you've got about a half mile left, with one short kicker, and some nice rolling fun stuff. You'll finally get an excellent descent section just before the turn (wished the ridge went on a bit longer!). A sign To Longdale shows your path. The downhill is often incredible, sidehill, off camber, sometimes without much bench. The woods are big and open as you drop, finally arriving at a stream cutting the hollow. A few dismounts are required to negotiate the small creek. I imagine it's not too flowy most of the summer, but on this day, there was a little extra water in the mountains.

You arrive at the intersection with the sign To FDR 334. This is your path. The fire road rolls about 2.5 miles before depositing you safely at the parking lot. Ride complete.

The deceptive 12 mile distance requires excellent fitness. This one makes up for distance by working over the full-body. Ride time, and a slow pace, was 2:20. 5 mph! Gotta love these tough Appalachian Mountains!

First added by n-man-726 on Apr 3, 2010. Last updated Apr 29, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
8 miles east of Clifton Forge towards Lexington on route 60. State Road 770 turns southeast. Go one mile until it turns dirt. Find parking lot with National Forest kiosk on right.
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Clifton Forge, Virginia

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  • irbydw

    Great ridge riding. Challenging 3300 ft of elevation (we did an 18 mile version) . Fun downhill with switchbacks and ravines. Super cool cave area with amazing views.

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  • Brad Donze

    MTB athlete's playground with extraordinary views and sights all along the ridge!

    NOTES RELEVANT TO RATING: there are zero bridges and none needed, IMO; loose material is minimal and stumps/boulders/felled trees were navigable; trail is at least moderately maintained, but could be stellar with a dedicated trail love crew. No major complaints at all, though. 4.5 stars...5.0 stars if it received a weekend of dedicated trail care.

    The climb to the top of 770 is a superb effort and achievement. The arduous sections of 6.0-7.0 % grade make the 3.0 % grade feel like a rest stop, but helps you regain your juice to tackle the next hard effort. But be sure to save some for the ridge - you're not done climbing!

    The vistas are incredible along the ridge and I'm certain there are hidden nooks and spaces that would be great to explore. Next opportunity I have, I would definitely make this a bikepacking trip and set up camp to explore around more. Alternately, if you have the convenience of a drop ship friend, you could have your camp supplies delivered by a friend at the top of 770 (Collierstown Rd. from the West or Turnpike Rd. from the East). Keep in mind, the route to the top is essentially one lane travel with few opportunities for vehicles to pass each other, if needed.

    My only complaint about the loop is that it was too short and I currently have insufficient juice to ride it twice in one day. It was a blast and my preference would be to run it 2x. You'll never be bored on this ride.

    Near the end of the ridge climb, you'll have to hike-a-bike up stone steps through Pete's Cave - a conglomeration of enormous stone outcrops that form an eery, but awesome cavernous route up and over to continue the trail.

    NOTE: Be prepared with something to cover your arms & legs as there is a good deal of mountain laurel shrub growth very close to or growing into the trail at several points along the way.

    The descent (as I took the right at the end of the ridge towards Longdale to 334) was, as a previous contributor indicated, "a hoot"! It was ravine descent heaven! My only regret was that I rode this on my full-rigid fatty to honor Global Fatbike Day 2017 (12/2/17) instead of my full sus Santa Cruz. I recommend the suspension, but you should note, the ravine descent is a perfectly smooth (albeit narrow) bench cut all the way down. The only thing it was lacking was more time and a lift back to the top.

    DH NOTE: if you take Rte. 334 to the right (because you parked your vehicle at the junction lot of 770/334) save some juice for the jumps! There are some great little whoopty-doos before you hit gravel at 334!!!

    So much fun!!

    You're easily able to take your time on this one to see the sights or blaze through to keep your legs burning and adrenaline high...or do two laps and take this as a prescription for lap 1 and lap 2...but be prepared...serious climbers and experienced riders only.

    I rode it solo (a bit of a risk) - it's preferable to ride a trail of this caliber in groups of 2 with all the stuff you'd require in case of emergency or breakdown.

    Have fun and be prepared with plenty of water, calories and supplies (including TP and a camp trowel). :)

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  • chefmark

    Fun trail to ride. Three mile service road ride to top. Great ridge ride with some fun rocks for another three, then some really nice singletrack all the way down to forest service road access back to the trailhead

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  • fleetwood

    Check out my review at the link below:


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  • rmoon

    Toss up. Could be expert. I am an old man 60 and weigh about 240. But I ride a lot. The right up said they did it in 2.5 hrs. I allowed 4 and went over a little. A strong rider will be tested on this. It is a fantastic cross country trail. The terrain is beautiful and the trail changes character often. A section on the drop home has serious downed trees that really need professional sawyers

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