The ride begins with miles (approx. 16) of mostly uphill climbing on fire road through serene forest and mountainous landscape. Lots and lots of climbing, in fact, so I wouldn't recommend this ride to someone who is a beginner or not in decent shape. Nearing the top, you'll pass a series of meadows and even the grave of a women who froze to death there in 1925. Take heed. Once you're finally at the top of Little Bald Knob, the fire road connects with a portion of the Wild Oak Trail. Get ready for about 7 incredible miles of rolling downhill on a combination of rocky singletrack and grassy logging road through mountain brush and forest. Nothing extremely technical, making this a great ride for the intermediate+ mountain biker. At about the 5 mile point on the downhill trail, make a right onto Little Skidmore Trail, which eventually leads you back to Forest Service Road 95. Make a right here for a short ride on paved road back to Todd Lake and your car. Important note: make sure to stop in at Shenandoah Bicycling Co. in Harrisonburg beforehand for maps of this and other trails along with some friendly advice.
From Dayton, drive west on 257 for a few miles and enter the George Washington National Forest. 257 turns into Briery Branch Rd. You will pass the Hone Quarry campground entrance on your right (good place to camp, by the way.) Turn left onto the first gravel road (Rt. 718). Follow this for several miles until you reach a "T" intersection, just before the entrance to Camp May Flather. Turn right (Forest Service Road 95.) Pass the Wild Oak trail entrance on your right and continue on 95 for three miles until you reach the entrance to Todd Lake Recreation Area on your right. Turn here. At the top of the hill there is a fire road to the left just before the gate. The ride starts there. You may park inside the recreation area. If it's closed for the season, just park outside the gate. There is also camping at the North River Campground which is closer than Hone Quarry (about 2 miles from Todd Lake) but more crowded.
Summary: I rode the trail as outlined in "Mountain Bike! Virginia". Excellent, excellent trail! The first 15 miles are mostly climbing, so it's not for the faint of heart. There are a couple breaks in the climbing for relatively short distances, but it is a climb! Once you finally get to the top of Little Bald Knob, you finally hit the singletrack. Be prepared for some spectacular views! (You may want to stop riding while admiring the scenery, because at a few spots the trail is only about a foot from a very steep, very long drop off the side into oblivion). Once on the singletrack, it is not long before the downhill starts. The downhill is fast and flows well. There are some nice rock gardens along it, but nothing that is unrideable, at least on a full-suspension.
The only gripe I had is that the book did not mention that to get back to your car at Camp Todd, you have to cross North River! The trail literally ends into the river and picks up on the other side. (the river is right at the very end--you can see your car parked at Camp Todd while you cross the river). Make sure to bring water shoes!
If you are in good riding shape, aerobic difficulty may only be a 3, but if you are just a casual rider, you will easily find aerobic difficulty a 5. I call it a 4.
As for technical difficulty, the climb is not technical at all-mostly fireroad and jeep road. Much of the descent was not very technical, either, although it was very fast--be prepared to brake! Some good technical spots on the downhill, though. I give it a 2 overall, with a couple short spots that may earn a 3 or 4.
Now that I know about crossing the river, I definitely give this ride a 5 overall. I wasn't so happy when I first got to the river, though--I wasn't prepared for it at all. There I was having to shove my Sidis in my pockets and wade through almost knee-deep rushing water (and it was moving pretty good!) in my bare feet (and the river is rocky!). Now I know if I want to do that route to just bring my water sandles in my pack and I'll be good to go. Luckily it was a 70+ degree day in March! The water was still quite cold, though!
Recommended Route: I parked at Camp Todd on FS 95. Rode up 95, took a right on 85, then right on unmarked FS 427, which becomes a jeep road after a gate a couple hundred yards in. Just keep going up the jeep road until you get to the top of Little Bald Knob. That will be the intersection with the Oak Recreation Trail. I followed the sign back down to Camp Todd. 17.8 mile loop.
Other recommended trails in the same area: I do want to check out the Long Way to Reddish Knob, and several other trails in the area, because I've heard they are great, and if Little Bald Knob is an example, I'm sure they must be!
Review Date April 30, 2003
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: yankeeheel
, from Not even sure anymore
Summary: Super stellar ride for the person who likes to climb and descend ridges in the middle of nowhere. The beauty of this ride is that your legs get warmed up on the fireroad before you have to climb, and you will climb. The Horse Trough Hollow portion of the Wild Oak that you climb is only 3 miles, but it is a STIFF 3 miles. Once you hit Camp Todd, find granny and let the pain come to you. This climb is sustained. It takes one break about a half mile before you summit, then all hell breaks loose. The whole trail is rideable, that's the beauty of it. Buck Mtn is a great trail. It has a few little technical climbs in it to keep you on your game, but then you just flat out rip. Keep an eye out for trees across the trail. They come up kind of fast and furious. Follow the river down to the lake, climb out, sprint right on SR101 back to the lot. I'd give it six stars if I could.
Recommended Route: Park at the Wild Oak lot, Head up SR95 to Todd Lake, hang a right, left on Leading Ridge Rd, up to Camp Todd, UP Horse Trough Hollow to Little Bald. Continue str8 through the doubletrack for 2 miles until you hit Buck Mtn., Head on down to Hearthstone Lake. Hang a right at the fireroad back to the Wild Oak lot. About 22ish miles of fun.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Lookout Mtn, Shenandoah Trail.
Review Date March 30, 2001
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Ridden Trail: Every few months
Reviewed by: Dwight
, from Washington DC
Summary: This is my greatest "downhill" experience ! If you want to ride hard & fast this is it! No punks for real, dont bring first timers , I'm an intermediate and it was hottttt.Downhill downhill, and more downhill. This is the best Va has to offer , lots of jumps , turns, places to pass , hills to climb ,rocks to watch out for. After a mile into the ride at the rock garden, dont even try to use brakes, no use, just hold on and pray!!! Bring snack and plenty of H20, tubes, pump and all the lil things. this will make the ride much better, just in case something happens. One piece though , it took us 2hours to ride/walk back up the road to get the Jeep. Shuttle haftway or start at the lake. you will be thankful later.
Recommended Route: Same as above but to shuttle or not to shuttle is the question. If you dont ,from the Knobb to the bottom is 8.9 miles.
Other recommended trails in the same area: GreenBriar State Park
Review Date March 6, 2001
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Ridden Trail: Once a week
Reviewed by: john
, from Va beach Va
Summary: I worked close to this trail and It is very nice but take a right about 3 mile in and it drops in at the man made dam this is were you park one car and take another one up the mountain. I say no up hills this way but for advance riders only lots of rocks and a 1 mile deep plunge. good luck
Other recommended trails in the same area: reddish knob is in my opinion is the best advance rider trail in Va!!! 14mile extreme highs mt in Va. take the wolfrun trail. Find it .good luck
Review Date October 31, 2000
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Visitors rate this review 5.00 of 5,
Reviewed by: Jorge
, from Philadelphia, PA
Summary: This is a great ride that can be turned into an all-day epic kind of experience if you pace yourself and stop to enjoy the scenery. With an overall elevation gain of 4500 feet, the seemingly endless uphill ride to the top of Little Bald Knob is strenuous, so make sure you're in decent shape and bring lots of water and a good lunch. The exhilarating 7 mile downhill on mostly singletrack is well worth all of the effort exerted getting there, and is not too technical for intermediate riders. While experts should be able to finish in under 3 hours, I recommend taking your time and enjoying the surroundings, expecting to take anywhere up to 7 hours for the full ride.
Recommended Route: Start at entrance to Todd Lake Recreation Area. Ride fire road about 16 miles to top of Little Bald Knob. Turn left onto Wild Oak Trail.
Other recommended trails in the same area: For a less exhausting but more advanced technical ride, try Lookout Mountain.