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Road Trip: Trail Riding is a Thrill at Freedom Park

Phil Riggan

@RigganRVA
February 24, 2017 6:23am
"Shotgun" TTF at Freedom Park.

“Shotgun” TTF at Freedom Park.

Looking to get out of Richmond for a day of outstanding trail riding? Williamsburg isn’t far away and Freedom Park is a great place to ride a mountain bike.

Located in the James City County suburbs west of Williamsburg, heavily-wooded Freedom Park covers more than 600 acres. It features more than 20 miles of fantastic mountain bike trails, approximately two miles of multiuse trails, including a one-mile ADA accessible paved trail, and multiple historical sites.

The single track trails are designed, built and maintained by the Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association. They are excellent. On my visit, I had time for about 10 miles of trail riding and I was super impressed with the lines, flow, sustainability and varying degrees of difficulty among the five main trails. For an older, more established trail, there were plenty of tree roots and ruts, but very few damp spots as the single-track popped up and down ravines and through the trees. There was an abundance of fallen pine needles covering the trail, but the sight lines were clear and the path was well-worn, so there was little doubt about where the trail up ahead.

Trailhead for Trail C at Freedom Park.

Trailhead for Trail C at Freedom Park.

It took me a little while to decipher the trail map, but once I got the hang of it, the park is incredibly well organized and marked (my compliments to EVMBA, great work!). There are five main trails, labeled Trail A (4.5 miles), Trail B (1.7 miles), Trail C (4.5 miles), Trail D (5 miles), and Trail E (3.7 miles). There are also two short beginner trails, Bunny Trail and Living Forest. The multiuse trails help connect several sections of trail — and provide a chance to catch your breath and recuperate before the next big ride.

I spent time on A and B before taking a spin around Trail C, which is the park’s tricked-out amusement park fun ride. While it is an amazingly fun ride, I valued my safety too much to take on the majority of Technical Trail Features (TTFs) on that run. The park’s trail map [.PDF] shows a total of 27 TTFs on Trail C, and from my cautious perspective, only about 10 of those were within my desired risk range. All of the TTFs have bail options, so no need to attack them without scouting by way of the easy route first.

The TTFs begin with two series of gap jumps that were quite intimidating upon first glance. “Shotgun” is a long ramp with a big drop. I would love to watch (from a safe distance) someone attempt that jump. Others like the “Log Ness Monster” (a long, curved skinny) and “Monster Bridge” looked like the opposite of what my conservative skill set allows. Even sets of teeters, drops and smaller skinnys had me repeating “NOPE” over and over to myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen riders take on and survive plenty of TTFs. I’m only opposed to them for my own preservation. If TTFs are what you crave, Freedom Park’s Trail C course is amazing.

Though I saw no signage declaring this, the trails are designed to flow one direction. I rode Trail A backwards for a bit on accident and none of the signs pointed in my direction. Riders would miss every feature on Trail C if you rode it in reverse, so stick with following the trailheads and trail direction.

I was happy to see a handful of families riding together. The children riding with their parents looked to be between 10-15 years old — what a perfect time to instill confidence in trail riding and the importance of a lifetime of fitness. There are trails easy enough for beginners at Freedom Park.

I saw several runners, dog walkers, and a handful of hikers that day too, though I’d say the majority of the users were on mountain bikes. The majority of the vehicles in the parking lot had bike racks and mounts, a tell-tale sign that you’re at a prime trail riding destination.

Overall, my experience at Freedom Park was worth the wait. I’ve been craving a trip to ride in Williamsburg for a long time. My family normally visits Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown and Busch Gardens/Water Country USA when we make the trip down east from Richmond. I’m tempted to let them drop me off at Freedom Park next time we plan an amusement park trip so I can get in a couple of hours on the bike — I much prefer the ups and downs of trail riding to rollercoasters.

James City County closes the trails to bikes during inclement weather to prevent trail degradation. Call (757) 259-4022 to check trails status.

Freedom Park is located at 5537 Centerville Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188. The park is about 50 miles from downtown Richmond (55 if you bike on the Virginia Capital Trail, a tougher accomplishment on a mountain bike). Check the James City County website for more information.

While you are there, Freedom Park is home to the GoApe Treetop Adventure Course and Treetop Junior Course. According to the county website, participants can explore the park “from an otherwise unobtainable vantage point while navigating through the treetops using zip lines, obstacles and tarzan swings.” For more information and fees, please visit goape.com or call (800) 971-8271.


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.


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