Not all of the best bike summits have to be 10,000+ feet; in fact, sometimes smaller summits present even more of a challenge than their taller counterparts. A perfect example is Little Bald Knob, a 4,300 foot mountain west of Harrisonburg, Virginia along the Virginia/West Virginia border. The obvious choice in the area was initially Reddish Knob, which features a 3,000 foot descent down into the Shenandoah Valley. The only detail that keeps Reddish Knob off this list is that the summit experience lacks a wilderness feel. A road to the top lined with steel guardrails and graffiti makes it seem as if the top of Reddish Knob is a stop right off of I-80. Where’s the fun if you can just drive?
That is where Little Bald Knob gains the upper hand. In addition to the peak only being accessible via trail, it doesn’t have to be completed as an out and back for a complete singletrack experience. A nearby road does make it accessible from Reddish Knob, and the descent off the mountain on the Wild Oak Trail is just as epic as Reddish.
At Horse Trough Hollow, riders are immediately confronted with an 1,800 foot climb to the peak. If you are not already aware, mountain biking the ridges of Virginia involves a lot of rocks, and the Wild Oak Trail won’t disappoint. Couple this with the painfully elevated grades of the climb and a liberal dose of Appalachian roots, and riders will be in for a suffer-fest to the top. Once they get there, they are left in a field surrounded by trees. Don’t worry, as a view is nearby. Find the rock outcropping that extends out from the summit ridge for great views of Shenandoah Mountain, Shenandoah Valley, and the Blue Ridge itself.
Pointing their steeds downhill, riders will get rowdy on one of the biggest descents on the East Coast. They’ll boost beautiful wooded drops and jumps while railing the occasional berm in between. To add some contrast, the more natural side of the mountain biking coin will serve up abundant root webs, rock obstacles, and janky rock jumps. Continue on the trail past Grooms Ridge until the Skidmore Fork/Grindstone Ridge intersection appears. Then, savor every moment of the steep, primal final descent to the Wild Oak Trailhead.