A steep sufferfest of a mountain bike ride.


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FATMAP difficulty grade



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. All of these factors are visible on this loop ride combining Jackson Ridge and the Atsahu trail.

While this loop is relatively non-technical and remains popular with some cross country mountain bikers, it's a brutal sufferfest of a ride.

In less than a 9-mile loop, you'll climb over 2,000 vertical feet on trails that are designed for foot travel, not two wheels.

This makes for a decidedly unpleasant mountain bike experience...

unless you're into that sort of thing.

If you like whipping yourself and brutalizing your body, no judgment from me! Yet if you can persevere up the steep climbs, this loop rewards with a couple of stunning long-range views over Forest Park and out into the Rouge Valley beyond.

When you do break out of the trees, the vaulted vantage points will show you just how high you've climbed, which provides a good explanation for why you're in so much pain. Unfortunately, the steep climb doesn't reward with a fun descent.

Since this descent is, again, not bike-optimized, most of the downhill is twisty and tight, and except for one short connector trail, you can't let off the brakes. For a faster downhill rip, try out the [Granite Trail](https://fatmap.com/routeid/2693248/forest-park:-granite-trail/) instead.