Off-road riding offers a unique thrill - for all riders. The potluck of unpaved trails throughout the Ohio area is sure to get your adrenaline pumping - if that is what you desire. If you are a beginner, the terrain caters to your thirst for the scenic routes, with fewer surprises. The following eight trails offer riders of all levels an opportunity to leave the road and enjoy the great outdoors.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Mountain Bike Trail, 0 Miles http://www.nps.gov/cuva
Don't ride here, yet. Other than the Towpath Trail, off-road bicycling is forbidden in all areas of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). In 2005, the National Park Service agreed to work with the International Mountain Biking Association on a pilot project to build mountain biking trails in three national parks, including the CVNP. No time line exists for the construction of the trail, but this project should be a huge attraction for mountain biking enthusiasts.
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail 35 miles (continuous section between Cleveland and Akron), beginner http://www.canalwayohio.com/towpathtrail.htm
Yes, I know, it's not a mountain bike trail. It's just for families, right? Now, any cyclist reading this who has not ridden on the Towpath, raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone? The Towpath is a resource we are lucky to have. Casual riders make it their full-time home. Racers use it for recovery rides or training in the off-season. Commuters can take it from Akron to Cleveland or many points in between. I am a Towpath rider. Are you a Towpath rider? It's OK, I won't tell.
Quail Hollow State Park 3.5 miles, beginner to intermediate http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/parks/quailhlw.htm
If you are a total beginner to mountain biking, head to Hartville to check out the trail at Quail Hollow State Park. This user-friendly loop is fairly flat and has just enough twists, rocks, logs and roots to give you a taste of what real mountain biking is all about. The trailhead is easy to find on the main park road off of Congress Lake Avenue, which can be reached from downtown Hartville or Route 224.
Reagan Park 8 miles, beginner to intermediate http://www.camba.us/pn/index.php?name=Reviews&req=showcontent&id=13
Tucked among the strip malls and subdivisions north of downtown Medina, the trails at Reagan Park are Northeastern Ohio's best-kept mountain biking secret. What started as a small tangle of of rogue trails carved by local riders has been expanded into a first-class trail, well-marked with signs for first-timers. Park at the soccer fields near the intersection of Route 3 and Huffman Road, and point your bike down the gravel path behind the picnic pavilion.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park roads beginner to advanced
When you just gotta ride pavement, the CVNP is the place to do it. This is where to take your out-of-state friends to show them that Ohio is not as flat as they think. Start in Peninsula with the basic "valley loop." Ride south on Akron-Peninsula Road for about nine miles, then turn right onto Merriman Road, which becomes Riverview Road and leads you back to Peninsula with only one major hill. Want more hills? Turn left on just about any side road, grab a low gear, and head uphill. Make two right turns and hunker down for a screaming descent back to the main loop. Repeat.
West Branch State Park 10 miles, intermediate to advanced http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/parks/westbrnc.htm
This is the Swiss Army knife of local trails, offering something for everybody. Choose from fast, smooth, swooping descents for the speed freaks, to climbs that will burn your thighs, to heinous rock gardens, gnarly roots, log piles and bridges. It's an intermediate's playground, with enough obstacles to keep the experts grinning.
Like most local trails, these are maintained by the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association. The CAMBA folks are constantly working to expand and improve this trail. West Branch State Park is near Ravenna. The trailhead is near the west ramp boat launch on Rock Spring Road. Take I-76 to Route 14 south, turn left onto Tallmadge Road, then left onto Rock Spring Road.
Mohican State Park 25 miles, intermediate to advanced http://www.mohicanstatepark.org
A year ago, the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park was just an eight-mile, one-way affair. Since then, the Mohican/Malabar Bike Club has been busy building a new trail that offers a 25-mile loop without ever seeing the same tree twice. The trail work is top-notch, leaving it very ridable, ever after some rain storms that turn other trails into a muddy mess. A day at Mohican is a truly epic experience. The trailhead is easy to find, near the entrance to the campground on Route 3 about two miles south of Loudonville.
No story about mountain biking in Ohio would be complete without mentioning The Knob, the great-grand-daddy of Ohio mountain biking. Located in Wooster, private owners of the land built a trail that will eat you alive and, if you're lucky, spit your bike out afterward. Consider yourself warned. Maps are available on the Web site.
Kevin Madzia knows a good bike trail when he rides one. His cycling accomplishments include riding from Seattle to Boston and a third-place finish in a 24-hour mountain bike race. He is the Web site manager for Century Cycles.