Mountain Biking Virginia
by Scott Adams (Falcon Guides)
© Scott Adams/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
A fantastic ride. It was flat terrain, so it wasn't difficult but it was long and I maybe saw 10 people the entire time I was there.
I rode through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge on the levee roads one spring afternoon. I encountered numerous white-tailed deer, several wild pigs, raccoons, nutria, and a number of wading birds, but no ponies. I rode to False Cape Park, then returned to Back Bay by using the other levee road that runs parallel to the road I departed from. I ended up riding around the perimeter of the marsh area. The weather was perfect (slightly cool outside due to earlier showers). I would definitely recommend this trail to people looking for good off-road biking in the Virginia Beach area.
False Cape State Park is a narrow strip of land, about 1 mile wide, that can only be reached by water or by coming in from the north through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. People can hike, bike or take a tram through Back Bay NWR to False Cape.
The trail from Back Bay's entrance ($2 per person entrance fee) to False Cape is about 5 miles. This trail is level and wide enough for a car (no cars allowed other than the tram and ranger's vehicles though, so you won't be dodging traffic). The surface is gravel, which makes biking rough on your backside (gel seats are such wonderful things....). The trail for the most part leaves you completely exposed to the wind and sun as you ride alongside pools where water birds, turtles and other critters hang out.
Once in the state park, the trails are still flat and car-width but the surface changes to being more packed sand and earth rather than so much gravel. The trails in False Cape are often going through the woods (pine trees, live oaks) so you get some relief from the wind here too.
False Cape has potable water available at the main contact station as well as near the 2 northern primitive camping areas (3 campsites on the bay side, 3 on the ocean side) These campsites are about .7 of a mile from the main contact station. There are two more primitive camping areas about 2 miles farther south, but you'll have to fill your water containers up at the contact station and carry them the last couple miles to these sites. The contact station and the 4 camping areas each have their own pit toilets.
The contact station also has a small picnic area and a soda machine just outside the building. Be sure to pack out your trash.
If camping overnight you have to make reservations with the state reservation system - try to phone a few weeks in advance because they need to send you a packet of information including a notice to put on your car so it doesn't get towed. You'll have to park your car overnight at Little Island City Park in VA Beach - it's maybe another half mile or so from Back Bay's park entrance but it's all paved flat road there. Camping fees are $8 per night.
On our trip we camped overnight on the bay side. We sat on the dock and watched a gorgeous sunset over Back Bay that evening. The next morning we spotted deer and wild ponies near our campsite while we had breakfast. We explored the rest of the park before packing up and heading out - we checked out the beautiful dunes and beach (no lifeguard, swim at your own risk) and the oceanside campsites (you can camp nestled behind the first line of dunes and listen to the ocean all night!) as well as biking deeper into the park's southern sections (and encountering another band of wild ponies). It had rained hard the day before, but we were already finding some patches of soft sand on the trail that went south beyond the second two camping areas; that stretch might get to be really tough going if there's been a long dry spell.
We spoke to the ranger who said the best time to visit this park is early to mid April (the trail through Back Bay is closed from November through March, and October is deer hunting season in False Cape so you're limited to April through September). Insects become a problem later in the season; even in April we were finding ticks on us. As soon as the weather gets warm the mosquitos are out in force, so a good repellent is a must. But if you can get there on a beautiful April day like we did, this park is just wonderful. (I would rate it 5 stars except for all that evil gravel on the Back Bay section of the ride - I was pulling a 2-wheeled bike trailer and it took a pounding on that stuff.)
This is an excellent experience.
The "Trail" is mostly graveled fireroad so it isn't the most comfortable ride on a bike.
This is a nature lovers dream, and if you ever wondered what it must have looked like landing in America before the tourist trade ruined the coast, this is the place to go!
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