With so many amazing places to go mountain biking in the UK, it’s a bit of a minefield knowing which ones are suitable for kids. And what if you’ve got kids of different ages and abilities? Fret not, we’ve dialed up our experts in the MTB field, all parents themselves, to bring you the best places to take your kids mountain biking.
Epping Forest, Essex
Perfect for beginners, Epping is relatively flat with lots of wide open fire tracks to get confident on. Stray away from the fire tracks and you’ll find some windy single track for the more adventurous.
Pros: The forest covers quite a big area. Tea huts dotted around the place for snack stops, and pubs for dad stops.
Cons: Not very easy to navigate your way round. Expect to get lost.
Swinley Forest, Ascot
Swinley Forest is an area of Windsor Forest comprising of 2600 acres with many miles of tracks and a wide variety of trails suitable for the whole family. The cross country(XC) loop is perfect for all levels, and there are areas for more advanced riders with down hill runs and a jump quarry.
Pros: Easy to navigate (you can download a map from the website or pick one up there), the layout is well designed and you can hire bikes. Lots of other family activities including Go Ape, nature and science exhibition, kids play area and cafe.
Cons: You have to buy a cycle permit permit at £2 a day or £25 for an annual permit if over 16 years of age. Children who are under 16 do not require a permit as they are deemed to be their parents or guardians responsibility whilst riding in the Forest.
PORC (Penshurst Off Road Cycling) calls itself “the best biking centre in the world”. That’s a pretty big claim, but then again it has got the lot: down hill, 4X, 10km XC circuit, world-class BMX track, 3km road race circuit, cyclocross…so basically something for everyone, big or small, young or old.
Pros: Bike hire, visitors centre with showers, massage rooms and restaurant.
Cons: It ain’t free: Day pass is £5 for adults, £3 for under 18s
Chicksands Bike Park, Bedfordshire
Another one that’s got it all, at Chicksands there’s 4X, dual slalom, dirt jump, down hill, freeride (North Shore) and XC. The XC isn’t exactly the main event, so go for the other stuff, of which there’s plenty. Trails range from easy to hard so there really is something for everyone and if you get tired you can sit and watch the pros on the bigger jumps.
Pros: Everything is in a small area.
Cons: £5 for a day pass, regardless of age or annual membership is £60 for adults, £40 for 15 years and under, £120 for a family pass (2 adults, 3 children)
The North Dows, Surrey
Box Hill and Leith Hill have plenty of bridleways that wind through pretty leafy woods, which are mainly flat but with a few gentle slopes so children can have fun freewheeling down them. There are also some steeper, bumpier slopes for those who want a bit more adventure. Park up in Peaslake where the facilities are good – there’s a bike shop and a nice little deli.
Pros: Free and relatively easy to navigate.
Cons: You’ll have to find the trails yourself unless you hook up with a guiding organisation like Surrey Hills MTB Guiding.
Cons: Can be windy. Avoid the tanks.
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
The Forest of Dean provides such varied terrain, with an extensive network of stoned roads and paths, it is perfect for cyclists of all abilities. There’s the 11 mile family trail which follows a disused railway, and more challenging trails for more experienced riders including a very technical down hill trail. If you don’t have your own bike, bikes for all ages can be hired.
Pros: Not just for cycling, The Forest of Dean has Go Ape, farm parks, underground caves, railways and mazes as well as a packed programme of family events and festivals throughout the year.
Cons: Watch out for the walkers on the family trail.
The Timberland Trail, Avon
The yellow route of the Timberland Trail in Ashton Court is a great place for young or inexperienced riders to have a go on the rough tracks because it’s not too technical. It’s just been resurfaced so ride it slow, but anyone over 6 can get round. Ride it fast to be scared. More adventurous riders can follow the pink trail in 50-Acre Wood to test out their skills in more rugged terrain.
Cons: Can be treacherous when wet.
Cons: Not many facilities but the Black Lion pub just round the corner is recommended.
Puddletown Woods in Dorset is like a giant play area with lots of natural singletracks, dowhill sections and crazy jumps for the pros. The area is constantly changing as woods are harvested and new trails pop up. Perfect to just go and get lost in and then try and search out where you parked the car.