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Posted In: Mountain Biking

A Wealth of Great Trail Riding at Hanover’s Poor Farm Park

Phil Riggan

November 14, 2016 9:31pm

This past weekend, I finally made it back to western Hanover County’s Poor Farm Park. It had been more than 5 years since my last visit and I’ve been craving a mountain bike ride in those challenging hills and ravines, located less than 5 miles from Ashland.

Poor Farm Park in Hanover County

Poor Farm Park in Hanover County

I loved it. I had a smile on my face for most of the ride — it is that kind of fun. The short sections of trails are all packed so tight among the hardwoods and along the streams at Poor Farm that there are few chances to catch your breath and take a break.

The one known drawback for most people accustomed to Poor Farm is that the trails are not marked — as in not marked at all. I didn’t see a map posted in the park and there doesn’t appear to be maps available online (please correct me if that is wrong).

Poor Farm Park in Hanover County

Poor Farm Park in Hanover County

The time away from the park riding more a more organized trail network — like Pocahontas State Park — perhaps had me a little too regimented in my riding. As soon as I started riding Poor Farm, flashbacks of being lost during previous rides quickly reminded me that I needed to stay alert to where I was and where I was going (especially since there was an abundance of fallen leaves hiding the trail in certain areas).

Once I became somewhat re-accustomed the confusion of the trails, the fun really began. Maybe it is for the best that there are no rules to how to ride the trails. I was lucky that there weren’t many other riders, which allowed me to explore and ride at my own pace, meandering through the woods with my mountain bike.

It wasn’t physically easy. I rode about 12 miles, but it felt more like twice that amount due to all work required to bike this park. The technical aspects of the trails network ensure that riders cannot relax and take their eyes off the trail for long. Climbs, switchbacks, rocks, roots, logs, tight paths between trees, creek crossings, narrow bridges, etc., are lurking everywhere. And I loved it.

Pine forest trail at Poor Farm Park in Hanover County

Pine forest trail at Poor Farm Park in Hanover County

One part of the trails that I didn’t remember from before was a series of quick turns through a stand of young pine trees in the northeast part of the trail network. That dense stand of thin trees is growing very tight to the trail and the visual through the narrow corridor is quite pleasing.

The only part of the trail system that is flat (besides the trail along Stagg Creek — a personal favorite because I love that creek) is the southernmost portion of the trails, known appropriately as “The Flats.” During this visit, I rode that part of the park more than I have in the past because I needed a break from the challenge of riding up and down the hills. That area is still great for beginners and young riders.

Though I tried, I still didn’t ride every section of the trails at Poor Farm Park. According to the Richmond Outside destination page for Poor Farm Park, there are more than 10 miles of trails in the network. That number might be accurate if you consider that there are trails everywhere — it is up to the user to figure out how to best connect them for an enjoyable visit.

About Phil Riggan

He's been a part of Richmond's outdoors since moving to Richmond in 1988. Earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning at VCU in 2015 with a focus on the environment, parks, transportation and nonprofits — largely due to his dedication to becoming part of the solution to advocate for outdoor initiatives, the James River and Richmond’s great parks and recreational amenities. Now works as a transportation planner with the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization, focusing primarily on bike/ped planning.