Big Levels

Waynesboro, Virginia 22980

Big Levels

Big Levels Professional Review and Guide

"Narrow singletrack trails along rocky ridgelines and steep, barren, sun-baked jeep trails characterize this grueling route, one of the most difficult rides in the book. It's important to remember on a ride like this to bring lots of water and food because there aren't any 7-Elevens out in the woods where you can grab a tasty Big Gulp.

Another suggestion before starting this ride is to invest in some type of suspension if you don't already have it. The steep and rocky nature of these trails will probably cause more shock to the body than arms and backs were meant to absorb. Without shocks, you may end this ride quite sore. Trail Surface: Singletrack, jeep, dirt, and paved roads."

More Big Levels Professional Reviews and Guides

"This ride's general location is 10 miles south of Waynesboro. Scenery includes dense woods with trailside streams and breathtaking views of the Upper and Lower lakes of Sherando.

This loop will challenge your climbing and aerobic abilities along a tortuous section of barely single-track, known locally as "the Switchbacks," leading up to the Blue Ridge Mountains; recharge your batteries with endless views from the Blue Ridge Parkway; and then delight yourself with a four-mile single-track descent into the Sherando Lake Recreation Area, where you can swim in the lake before finishing up at Big Levels. Wow, what a ride! Needless to say this ride should only be attempted by very competent, fit mountain bikers who can handle the tough single-track ascent and descent as well as the total distance."

"This ride's general location is 10 miles south of Waynesboro. Scenery includes a mountain lake on a densely wooded path. There's something for everyone in this 32,000-acre parcel located at the base of the famed Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a good loop to introduce riders of varied ability levels to the bottomland section of Big Levels.

It's ups and downs are minimal, and it is the shorter of the two Big Levels routes. The loop around the reservoir offers a sampling of single-track, double-track, and rocky no-track along the reservoir. Pack a lunch and eat on the dam overlooking the reservoir with panoramic mountain views as for north as Massanutten. It's best to think of this area of largely unmarked trails and logging roads as one that is ripe for exploration."

Big Levels Reviews

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Really nice ride. Mid-Oct fall colors are fantastic. Gentle ride thru the woods up to the switch-backs, nice coast back down. Switch-backs not technical or real steep - just a real hard grind - we walked a lot - great coming back down tho. We did not do the loop - after switches up, we wanted to ride the bstds back down. Trail is clearly marked and well used. I rate it beginner to intermediate level.
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Just recently did the Big levels ride for the first time. A good friend of mine was my personal tour guide and led the ride the whole way. By the way thanks Metro. we started on this what looked to be fire road which was a gradual ascent which was a great warm up. that part was a mixed bag of road and single track with some Creek crossing and rock gargens thrown in for good measure. once your out of there it is a short climb up to what is called the switchbacks or what i refered to as the Heart Buster. as we started the ascent up the switchbacks my very fit younger friend shot right up the trail, Me on the other hand made it about a Quarter of the way and it was walking time. Very steep the whole way up especially the last switch back which was very difficult just to walk. Once up at the top we took in the Vistas and had a celebretory Beer we packed for the ride up. Refreshed and ready to go we left there and took a left on the fire road climbed maybe a half a mile and there was the first downhill to the left. After dropping my seat we started the Descent and what a descent it was Very fast and Technical as well, most of the descent was like that with some Very long and hard Rock Gardens thrown in there. All i can say is what a Ride and looking forward to doing it again.
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I live near these trails, and they never get old! The trailhead is located in a little parking lot about a mile down coal road, which also marks the lowest point of the whole ride. From the beginning the trail goes gradually up...which provides for a nice 45 minute warm up. On the way to the switchbacks there are 3 or 4 sizable creek crossings, some are more technical than others, all of which are sweet. There is also one rock garden which stretches for a 100 yards or so and proves to be pretty tricky! After the lower slopes of this trail are behind you, its time for the SWITCHBACKS...there are 8 of these bad boys...all of which can put the unsuspecting rider into a state of cardiac arrest. These things are long, rocky, and STEEP. From the bottom, with no breaks they take about 15 minutes..barring the last part of the last one which is so steep it usually requires hiking. After making it up these tortuous "switchbacks" i usually inspect my bike for a dragging brake...or 2 flat tires, or possibly an anchor tied to the rear wheel..bc im thinking that on a perfectly rolling bike there is no way those things should be so hard! At the top there is a beautiful overlook of the valley, where you can take pride in the number of vertical feet you have just cranked up. At the top there is a fireroad which, you will want to make a left on. This goes up for another half a mile or so until the road forks. Stay to the left if you want to ride the trail the whole way down the mountain..i believe this downhill is flagged with a piece of tape. The other option is a right at the fork and a left onto the parkway..After a couple miles on the parkway enter the first turnoff on the left and pick the trail back up. By doing this you skip the steepest most technical part of the downhill and still have your forearms left for the sweetest part of slacks trail! All in all these trails are physically demanding, but very rewarding.
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If you want a great epic ride , this is for you . Climbing the switchbacks is WORK , but the technical downhills are a great reward . This trail system has it all and well worth the trip .

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Trail Information

Nearby City
Trail Type
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4.5 hours
Main gate is open from 6AM to 10PM.
2,000 feet
Trailhead Elevation
3,500 feet
Top Elevation
Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger Districts
Local Contacts
USGS Sherando and Big Levels. George Washington National Forest map & Pediar Ranger District Sportsman's map, call the park service for these maps. They cost $4-$5 each.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Nov 2018