- 100 miles of bike trails
- Brown County named one of top 33 in US for mountain biking
- Indiana becoming a mecca for mountain biking
- Versailles hosting 24 hour endurance race in September
Most of the 100-or-so trail miles at state parks are in mountain biking trails. Eight parks allow mountain biking, a recreation option that was added about 10 years ago with trail-building help from groups such as Hoosier Mountain Bike Association. Those parks are Brown County, Fort Harrison, Harmonie, O’Bannon Woods, Potato Creek, Spring Mill, Salamonie Lake and Versailles.
Brown County, Versailles and Fort Harrison see the most mountain biking action.
Versailles State Park assistant property manager Brad Walker, who is also a mountain biker, said he has met cyclists at Versailles from Texas, Connecticut and Colorado. An elite endurance cyclist from Ohio named Sara Dallman trains at Versailles regularly, Walker said.
“Indiana is quietly becoming a mountain bike designation,” Walker said.
Versailles offers about 17 miles of trails from beginner to expert. That distance is second to Brown County State Park, which offers about 30. Both parks offer similar terrain and trails, although Brown County tends to grab more attention from media and Indianapolis area cyclists.
In recent years, Bike magazine named Brown County State Park one of the 33 best trail systems in the United States. Singletracks.com named it the best weekend destination in the country for a mountain bike getaway. And the International Mountain Bike Association named it an “EPIC Ride.”
“This is flowing singletrack at its best,” IMBA said.
Even though miles are fewer at Versailles, Walker encouraged cyclists to visit.
“Brown County is the crown jewel, but I’m telling you I’d put our trails up against theirs,” he said. “We are the best kept mountain biking secret in Indiana. I’ve never been on the trail when I felt like there were too many people.”
Versailles is hosting four mountain bike races this year, including a 24-hour endurance race in September.
Whether you’re on-road or off-road, Fort Harrison State Park, just a few minutes from downtown Indy, has something for everyone. Fort Harrison is the most recent state park to offer mountain biking. Trails were built by members of HMBA and opened two years ago. Schoen Trail and Lawrence Creek Trail offer a combined seven miles of riding, according to interpretive naturalist Jeff Cummings.
“Without getting into hyperbole, we are very popular,” Cummings said. “We have these beautiful side-slope trails and wonderful vistas. You get to see the park and it’s interior. We have people on the mountain bike trails from the time the park opens up in the morning until 8 o’clock when we are closing the gate.”
Before you hit the trail — whether paved or dirt — park officials have some advice. First, grab a property map as you enter the park. Maps are usually available at the gatehouses and nature centers. Second, ride within your capability. If you are new to cycling, stick to the paved trails or the beginner mountain bike trails.
“It’s easy to go out there and get ahead of yourself,” Walker said. “Start slow.”
And if you enjoy it, consider giving back your time. Many of these trails would not exist without help from volunteer groups. And their maintenance continues to depend on volunteers.
Story by Nick Werner, Indiana State Parks