A New Long-Distance Bike Trail Takes Shape

480-mile Virginia Mountain Bike Trail links 8 trail systems in the Appalachians

The eastern U.S. may finally be getting its answer to the West’s epic long-distance mountain bike trails.

Pioneered by mountain biker Chris Scott, the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail is taking shape in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.

Scott, who owns Shenandoah Mountain Touring and organizes a century ride through the mountains every September, originally envisioned a multi-state mountain biking equivalent to the Appalachian Trail, he said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He pared the idea down—for the time being, anyway—to one that links existing trails in Virginia.

“We just weren’t getting a lot of traction with [a multi-state trail],” Scott told the paper. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s just focus on what we have right now, a Virginia trail.’”

The dream was realized in fall 2011 when Scott led a group on a 12-day inaugural ride down the route, which traverses George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Although not yet formally recognized by the U.S. Forest Service or the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the VMBT is very real, albeit with the challenges that come with a lack of funding.

Volunteers maintain sections of the trail with the blessing of the Forest Service, but large portions of it are remote and difficult to access. “That’s been the hardest challenge: getting [the trails] passable,” Scott told the Times-Dispatch.

In a video interview with Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, Scott elaborated on his vision for the VMBT:

The final vision and ultimate goal is to have basically a hut-to-hut route through the length of Virginia to where you could ride with just your day pack, get to the facility, know that there was a food cache waiting for you, a bedroll for you, so you could travel minimally, travel light.

Once East Coasters realize they have some major long-haul singletrack in their backyard, Scott hopes, his original dream might finally come true. “If we create this amazing Virginia trail,” he said to Blue Ridge Outdoors, “we could take it north to Maryland and Pennsylvania and south into North Carolina and Tennessee, and all the way down into Georgia.”