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Welcome to this comprehensive guide on the Cannock Chase MTB trails, situated in the heart of the Cannock Chase Forest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Despite its modest size and highest elevation peaking at just 240m above sea level, Cannock Chase has become a mecca for mountain bikers and is synonymous with top-notch mountain biking experiences.
Managed by the Forestry Commission, this lush expanse offers a whopping 14 miles of twisty singletrack trails, a dedicated downhill area with a variety of technical features, and an expansive network of beginner-friendly routes. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time mountain biker, you’ll find a trail that suits your skill level among the diverse Cannock Chase trails.
Having grown up on the edge of this beautiful forest, I’ve spent countless hours exploring these trails and have witnessed their constant evolution and improvement over the years. So, if you’re thinking of heading there to explore for yourself, this post aims to be your ultimate guide. It will help you understand which trails are best suited for you, what difficulty levels you can expect, and what facilities are available nearby, including the well-equipped Birches Valley Forest Centre.
Follow the Dog
One of the most iconic trails at Cannock Chase is “Follow the Dog,” a red trail that stretches for nearly 7 miles through the forest. This trail was the first of its kind at Cannock Chase, built over 15 years ago by a dedicated community group of volunteer trail builders. The trail’s unique name has a charming backstory: one of the trail builders would bring his Jack Russel, Zak, to the build sessions. Whenever the group was uncertain about which direction to take, they’d simply “follow the dog” into the forest, and thus, the trail found its name.
Designed with intermediate riders in mind, “Follow the Dog” is packed with a variety of technical features, including challenging rock gardens and intricate boardwalk sections. These elements contribute to its popularity among local riders and visitors alike.
The trail begins and ends at the Birches Valley Forest Centre, a well-equipped visitor centre on the outskirts of Rugeley, Staffordshire. Here, you’ll find ample car parking, essential toilet facilities, and a welcoming café. The centre also houses a bike shop where you can purchase a trail map for around £1.50 or pick up any new gear you might need, including a puncture repair kit.
If you’re new to the world of mountain biking, don’t fret. The bike shop at Birches Valley also offers hire bike facilities, making it easier for first-time mountain bikers to get a taste of the action. Whether you’re an experienced biker on a high-end, full-suspension bike or a beginner on a budget-friendly hardtail, “Follow the Dog” offers a range of difficulty levels to cater to all.
Parking for Cannock Chase MTB Trails
Parking at Birches Valley: Use postcode WS15 2UQ.
Facilities include: toilets, cafe, bike shop, bike hire, bike wash, Go Ape
The Monkey Trail
If you’re looking for a trail that offers a bit more of a challenge, then look no further than the Monkey Trail Mountain Bike Trails. This trail serves as a 7.5-mile extension to “Follow the Dog” and is often tackled as part of a larger figure-of-eight loop that encompasses both trails.
The Monkey Trail is also a red-graded route, but it offers a more intense experience with its technical sections and high voltage thrills. Expect long, gradual climbs followed by fast and technical descents that will test your riding skills. This trail is not for the faint-hearted and is best suited for competent riders.
Just like “Follow the Dog,” the Monkey Trail starts and ends at the Birches Valley Trail Centre, ensuring you have access to all the essential facilities. If you’re considering tackling both trails in one go, you’re looking at a total of 14 miles of exhilarating XC mountain bike trails.
For those who crave an extra layer of complexity, the Monkey Trail also features optional black sections, allowing you to deviate briefly for a more challenging line before rejoining the main trail. These sections are perfect for riders looking to push their limits and experience different trail surfaces.
It’s worth noting that if you opt to ride only the Monkey Trail, parking is available in a layby on the A460 between Rugeley and Hednesford. However, this option places you well away from the Birches Valley visitors centre and its amenities, making it more practical to make a day of it and explore both trails in a single 14-mile loop.
The newest addition to the Cannock Chase MTB trails is Perry’s Trail, a blue route specifically designed for those who are new to the sport or looking to enhance their riding skills. Unlike the technical hand required for “Follow the Dog” and the Monkey Trail, Perry’s Trail offers a smoother experience with gentle slopes and endless berms and rollers.
Built as part of the preparations for the mountain bike leg of the Commonwealth Games, Perry’s Trail is a testament to the solid years of work and planning that have gone into the development of these award-winning trails. It’s a new look for Cannock Chase, offering easier access to the sport for inexperienced riders.
The trail starts at the Birches Valley Forest Centre, just like the other main trails, ensuring you have access to all the necessary facilities, including bike hire options. Spanning just under 3 miles, it’s the perfect length for beginners but also offers a quick and enjoyable ride for more competent riders.
Though it may be aimed at beginners, don’t underestimate the fun factor of this trail. Whether you’re an experienced biker or trying it out for the first time, Perry’s Trail offers an exciting play area for all. It’s a good thing to have a trail that caters to a wide range of difficulty levels, making it a versatile addition to the XC trails at Cannock Chase.
Family-Friendly MTB Trails at Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase isn’t just a playground for experienced mountain bikers; it’s also a welcoming space for families and riders of all ages. The forest offers a wide variety of trails that are perfect for a great day out with the family. These trails usually utilise the shared, fire access roads, also known as fire roads, that criss-cross this working forest.
One of the standout family-friendly rides is the Fair Oak Trail. This is a circular green trail that departs from Birches Valley Forest Centre and loops around the scenic Fair Oak Pools. It’s an ideal route for leisure cyclists and those looking to enjoy the picturesque landscape without much climbing involved.
For families with younger children, the Pedal and Play area is a real treat. This specially designed zone aims to encourage kids to master the art of mountain biking. It’s a perfect place to teach the little ones some basic riding skills and help them progress in their mountain bike adventure.
The family-friendly trails at Cannock Chase offer easier access and are less technical than the red and blue routes, making them suitable for inexperienced riders and those looking for a more relaxed experience. They provide a wonderful opportunity to explore the open heathland and Sherbrook Valley, parts of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Stile Cop Downhill MTB Trails
For those who live for the adrenaline rush of fast downhill sections, jumps, and drop-offs, Stile Cop is your go-to destination within Cannock Chase. While the area may not be known for towering hills, the downhill area at Stile Cop makes the most of its 65 metres of elevation, packing a punch that belies its modest height.
Stile Cop offers a dozen trails of varying grades, all meticulously crafted through man hours of dedication by a volunteer group. These trails range from beginner-friendly options to advanced routes that require a high level of skill. They’re short runs, each lasting around one minute, but that just means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hone your skills and master each route. It’s no wonder these are award winning trails that attract a dedicated community of local riders.
Safety is paramount here, and a full-face helmet and body armour are strongly recommended. The trails are well-marked, offering optional sections for those looking to challenge themselves further. Whether you’re tackling the black section or sticking to the main trail, you’re in for an exhilarating ride.
Parking is available at the top of Stile Cop Road, with the trails accessible just down the hill on the opposite side. Use postcode WS15 1ND to find the small car park. It’s worth noting that Stile Cop lacks on-site facilities, so for amenities like toilets and cafes, the nearby town of Rugeley is your best bet.
Stile Cop Parking and Facilities
Use postcode WS15 1ND and look for the car park at the top of the hill on the left.
There are no facilities at Stile Cop so the nearby town of Rugeley is your best option for toilets, cafes and post-ride beers.
Cannock Chase Bike Hire
If you’re new to the world of mountain biking or simply visiting Cannock Chase without your own set of wheels, you’re in luck. The Cannock Chase Cycle Centre, based at Birches Valley Forest Centre, offers an excellent bike hire facility that caters to a wide range of needs.
The cycle centre boasts a diverse range of new mountain bikes available for hire, from hardtails and full-suspension bikes to electric bikes and even options for kids. All the bikes in the current range are Trek models, ensuring you’re getting a quality ride for your adventure on the Cannock Chase MTB trails.
Whether you’re an inexperienced rider looking to dip your toes into the sport or a seasoned pro in need of a temporary ride, the cycle centre has got you covered.
Make it a Weekend Adventure
Cannock Chase is more than just a forest; it’s a thriving mountain bike adventure hub located just north of Birmingham. From the technical hand required on trails like “Follow the Dog” to the family-friendly options that offer easier access to the sport, there’s something for everyone in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Managed by the Forestry Commission, the trails are a testament to the community group involvement and solid years of work that have gone into making this one of the most diverse and award-winning trail centres in the UK. Whether you’re a local rider or visiting for the first time, the Birches Valley Forest Centre provides all the amenities you could need, from bike hire to trail maps.
So, whether you’re an inexperienced rider looking to build your riding skills, a leisure cyclist wanting to enjoy the picturesque landscape, or an adrenaline junkie keen to tackle the Stile Cop’s downhill trails, Cannock Chase offers a wide variety of trails that promise a great day out for all.
With its combination of technical sections, gentle slopes, and optional sections, Cannock Chase is a destination that should be on every mountain biker’s radar.