Guidebook

3 Hidden MTB Gems in Jacksonville's Forest Park

Sift through the dross and find the singletrack gold in Jacksonville's Forest Park.

Greg Heil

Description

When you look at it on a map, Jacksonville's Forest Park seems like an attractive place to ride a mountain bike. Even though some of the trails are off-limits to bikes, the dozens of remaining bike legal trails run up and down the steep-sided mountains, contour along the creek valleys, and collectively form a seemingly endless variety of loop options.

Unfortunately, the on-the-ground reality isn't nearly as rosy and enjoyable as the map suggests. Most of the trails in Forest Park have been poorly-built without following sustainable trail best-practices, and even in just a few years since their construction, some of the newer trails are already visibly eroding quite quickly. Even on the more sustainable trails, many of the corridors, corners, and trail gradients are not bike-friendly in any way. Almost no consideration was given to mountain bikers when the vast majority of these trails were constructed.

Negative points aside, there are still a few singletrack gems to be mined—and this guidebook will get you pedaling in the right direction. Easily the best ride in the park is this loop of the Granite Trail. Granite is a fast, flowy, feature-filled rip down the mountain that almost any mountain biker will enjoy... but it does trend toward the advanced end of the spectrum. After you've enjoyed Granite to the fullest, this loop with the Deadman Trail, also known as Lower Secret Squirrel, offers a fun variant of the Granite loop, swapping out some of the flow for rocky high-speed moto trails.

If technical mountain biking isn't your thing but you're willing to do a bit of suffering on the uphills, this loop of the Jackson Ridge and Atsahu trails might be for you. Be forewarned: you'll climb almost 2,000 feet in a less than 9-mile loop, and the downhill isn't nearly as rewarding as the two rides mentioned above. But, the trails are objectively less technical. The choice is up to you!

Forest Park: Granite Trail Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Forest Park: Granite Trail Loop

8.5 km
346 m
346 m
Easily the best trail in Forest Park
Difficult
Private
Forest Park: Deadman Trail Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Forest Park: Deadman Trail Loop

10.0 km
418 m
418 m
A fun variant of the Granite Loop
Severe
Private
Forest Park: Jackson Ridge and Atsahu Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Forest Park: Jackson Ridge and Atsahu Loop

14.2 km
604 m
603 m
A steep sufferfest of a mountain bike ride.
Moderate
Private