I had known about the existence of Cannock Chase for many years because it is the go-to trail center in the Midlands, United Kingdom. Recently I found myself in the area with my bike and a spare Saturday, so I thought I would hop on the train and check it out.
Now the Midlands may be known for many things, but it is not known for its mountains. It has none. If you are after big hills or serious bike parks you need to head east towards Wales or north. Cannock Chase is a small mountain biking trail network nestled in a forest on top of some rolling hills.
Cannock Chase neither covers a huge area, nor does it have any considerable climbs. What it does have is two very well built and maintained loops for competent mountain bikers. There is also a downhill park a short ride away for the more gravity orientated.
For any non-mountain biking members of the family that also want a day out, there are hiking trails and a high ropes adventure center run by Go-Ape. There are a couple of cafes and food trucks as well as lots of grass for picnics.
There are two trails on offer. Follow the Dog is the shorter and easier of the two. It is rated as intermediate is about 11 km long and only has one climb. From the car park you are given almost no time to warm up. The first few twists are on wide open track but as soon as you pass the official start of the trail (beyond which you won’t find any pedestrians) you are thrown into tight twisty singletrail, up and over bridges, drops and tight berms.
I chose to take the turning onto The Monkey Trail as it features more climbing and more technical features. After the unexpected in-your-face start of Follow the Dog I was nice and warm by the time I got there and certainly was not disappointed by what was to come. It took about an hour to get to the end of The Monkey Trail and I had a great time. The sun was shining and the trails were fast.
Due to the geography, you never spend too much time climbing. The ascents have been kept relatively short and to the point. When you reach a summit, you are rewarded with high speed, grin-inducing descents. There are regular black run options at the side if you are into bridges, drops, rock gardens and churny bits of roots.
It certainly is not the most technical riding you can find, but Cannock Chase will keep you on your toes and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.
Nearby you can find Stile Cop downhill park with a handful of runs. Watch out for the wooden features and drops, as well as the gap jump that definitely needs more speed than I hit it at! Descending time is between 30 seconds and a minute with a steep push back up again. Similar to Cannock Chase, there is nothing groundbreaking here but it is the only downhill park in the area and worth a look if you are nearby.
Cannock Chase can be accessed by road and there is plenty of parking available.
You can take the train to Rugeley Trent Valley. From the station it is about a 15 minute ride.
Detailed directions are on the website.
The trails are free to use. It is always nice to make a donation though.
There is a bike shop next to the car park. The Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre have a fleet of hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes for hire, as well as kids bikes. They will also help you out with any mechanicals.
Feature image credit: BikeradarLast updated on Oct 10, 2019
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