According to the U.S. Department of Transportation there are approximately 4.1 million miles of roads, of which, 2.2 million of those miles (53 percent) are unpaved. No wonder gravel riding is becoming one of the fastest growing styles of cycling. It takes riders on new adventures off the beaten path and on a quite journey on unpaved roads where riders have to be ready for anything.
The Virginia Department of Transportation current inventory shows approximately 15,326 miles of unimproved roads. So where do you start?
Where to Ride
Back Bay West Gravel (Virginia Beach) – The most gravel you’ll find in Virginia Beach, get away from people and explore Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park with this gravel route. Parking is available at Little Island Park; beginning there, be prepared for sand, gravel, and beautiful views. Only one dyke is open to the public at a time, call the park or check their website for trail availability.
Bear Creek Lake State Park – Nestled in the heart of the Cumberland State Forest in central Virginia, Bear Creek Lake is less than an hour west of Richmond. It’s the perfect getaway for the outdoor enthusiast. There is a 42.69 mile gravel route with 2110 feet of elevation gain on roads where you will be hard press to see cars. Bear Creek Lake State Park cue sheet and Ride with GPS.
Bedford County/Lynchburg region has several gravel routes through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests ranging from 15 miles to over 77 miles.
Bike the Valley – This website encourages bicycling in Central Shenandoah Valley including the counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, and Rockingham; the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro. There are maps of several gravel routes from 15.5 miles to 41 miles.
Blue Ridge Wrangler – is a circumnavigation of the Glendwood-Pedlar Ranger District, in the eastern reaches of George Washington National Forest. The difficulty of the ride is a 5 out of 10 and is a rollercoaster of dirt, gravel, and single-track, which bobs and weaves for 158 miles across the ridge lines that radiate out from the front range of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Bryce Resort Gravel, Road & Single Track Routes – We’ve scoured the backcountry around Bryce and put together a list of our favorite routes in and around Bryce. Pick from gravel, trails, and road biking and download to your favorite GPS device. Its a great way to discover new spots and virtually race against others.
Charlottesville Gravel Routes – the Charlottesville Bicycle Club has provided a selection of gravel road routes in the region, with links to maps, cue sheets, and directions to the starting points.
False Cape State Park – located in southern Virginia Beach, False Cape State Park is a mile-wide barrier island spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Access is through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is limited to hiking, bicycling or boating. The park features primitive camping and an extensive environmental education program in one of the last undisturbed coastal environments on the East Coast. It has a network of over 12 miles of unpaved roads.
Gravel Collection – this collection was put together by Cardinal Bicycles showcasing popular routes in the following areas: Bedford County, Blacksburg, Bland County, Botetourt County, Clifton Forge, Craig County, Floyd County, Franklin County, Giles County, Gretna, and New Castle.
Grayson County, VA Bikepacking Routes – Ride with GPS collection of gravel routes in Grayson County, VA from 34 miles up to 143 miles.
King and Queen County – gravel routes range from 32 to 62 miles long.
Loudoun County – gravel routes range from 40 to 100 miles long. All routes start from Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, VA.
Loudoun County – has mapped its unpaved roads on its geographic information system. People really don’t realize Loudoun County, Virginia, has over 300 miles of historic unpaved roads. Many of the unpaved roads were based upon Native American trails and later used by settlers, and eventually, these roads supported Loudoun County’s agricultural economy. The roads are tree lined and punctuated by stone walls, sunken lanes, cemeteries, mills and other historic sites, which serve as a living museum traversing the Loudoun Valley.
Mountain Road – has well done and current videos of Virginia Gravel routes and provides excellent commentary and maps. The site is constantly adding content and new videos throughout the riding season – recommended by Cycling Virginia to get a flavor of Virginia gravel.
Roanoke Collection – gravel ride options ranging from 36 miles up to 89 miles. The Roanoke area has some great gravel, and mountain biking.
Rocktown Bikes, in Harrisonburg, VA has created several gravel ride options ranging from 16.7 miles up to 85.8 miles. So come and explore the Shenandoah Valley – it’s well worth a visit.
TransVirginia Bike Route – Ride from DC to Damascus, VA, traverses 554 miles. The Transvirginia website provides a detailed map of the route, list of cabins, places to camp, and places to get provisions along the way. This is one of Virginia’s newest gravel, bike packing, and touring route’s focused on rideable, non-technical, unpaved terrain and is intended for multi-day trips carrying overnight gear.
Virginia/West Virginia Bikepacking Routes – David Landis shares a collection of 10 bikepacking routes and your sure to find a great adventure.
Plan Your Own Gravel Adventure
Gravelmap – is an interactive database of gravel and dirt roads and paths, submitted and managed entirely by people who ride them. You can browse routes by location, import routes and add routes.
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recognizes the ever-growing interest in gravel riding and has provided a state map of Virginia’s unpaved roads. Unpaved roads have a 35 MPH speed limit statewide, adding to their appeal to cyclists.