Whether you’re just starting out or have been mountain biking for years, finding the right trails is the key to happy riding. Fortunately for Columbus-area riders, central Ohio has become a mountain biking hub, in large part due to the work of the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization (COMBO). The group’s approximately 250 members build and maintain several trails (and they’re always looking for more volunteers). What to target first? The 10 miles of trails at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. “What I love about Chestnut Ridge is that it offers something for everyone, from the beginner, to the more advanced, to the expert who wants to try More Cowbell,” says Mollie Berberich, president of COMBO. “We tell people: ‘Choose your own adventure.’”
The trails are interconnected through a stacked loop system, which is great for offering multiple route options, but can be a bit of a maze for first-timers. Color-coded signs (green = beginner, blue = intermediate, black = advanced) help keep you on track, and the trail system isn’t huge so even if you get confused you’ll eventually find your way out.
Chestnut Ridge, which rises to just over 1,000 feet in the foothills of the Appalachians, is home to black oak, shagbark hickory, and northern red oak trees on the upper slopes, with plenty of sugar maples and American beech on the lower slopes. Short hiking trails wind through the woods as well, which is great if you come with a mixed group of hikers and bikers.
The beginner loop is about 2.5 miles, and has just enough twists, turns, small bumps, and tree roots to make this a challenge for beginners and a nice warmup for more advanced riders. Attention beginners: Not only is this trail great for learning, COMBO is dedicated to sharing the sport and offers introductory classes (more on this later).
Step It Up
You can connect to the intermediate/blue route from the beginner loop. This wooded loop is about 8 miles long and includes the opportunity to perform some front- and rear-wheel lifts, roll-down lunges, high-speed cornering, a couple switchbacks, and some climbing. There are a couple of forks in the trail; pay attention if you don’t want to accidentally end up on a black route (it will reconnect with the blue route).