Go Ape and Mountain Bike Trail at Whinlatter Forest Park

Mountain Biking in the Lake District

The Forestry Commission boasts some exciting facilities at Whinlatter Forest Park. With a well stocked cafe and bike shop, you can explore the Lake District forest on a Go Ape high wire adventure, and the Quercus or Altura mountain bike trails.

In 2007, The Forestry Commission welcomed the decision to give the go ahead to new mountain bike trails and a Go Ape high wire forest adventure course at Whinlatter near Keswick.

Planners at the Lake District National Park Authority gave the £500,000
project the all clear, and Graeme Prest, Forest Management Director for the Forestry Commission, said: “We’re delighted that these new facilities have been developed at Whinlatter.

Whinlatter Mountain Biking

Thousands of people who visit the Forest go mountain biking but up to now there has been no purpose built bike trail. This new trail is therefore a great opportunity for mountain bikers to develop their skills or simply go out and have fun.

Go Ape has been a huge hit at Grizedale Forest and we’re confident it will also be very popular with visitors to Whinlatter.

Mountain Bike Fun on the Whinlatter Altura Trail
The 19 kilometre bike trial isthe longest purpose built trail in the Lake District and involved building 15 kilometres of new single track trail. The trail was built by Hugh Clixby who has previously constructed trails for the Forestry Commission at Dalby in North Yorkshire and Cannock Forest in the West Midlands. It is sponsored by Altura, who make clothing for cyclists.

Bike hire facilities are provided at the Whinlatter trail centre by Cyclewise from Penrith, who also offer mountain bike training.

The North Face Trail, which opened at Grizedale Forest in 2006, has been a very big success story.

The Go Ape high wire forest adventure courses include rope bridges, tarzan swings and zip slides up to 40 feet up in the trees. Customers are fitted with a climbing harness, given instructions, and then trek from tree to tree high above the forest floor.

The new facilities opened in summer 2008 and led to the creation of 10 new jobs as well safeguarding 12 existing jobs. The North West Regional Development Agency helped to fund the construction of the mountain bike trail and redevelopment of the car park at the Visitor Centre.

Whinlatter Forest Park is England’s only true mountain forest. Rising to 790 metres above sea level it offers spectacular views of the Lake District and into Scotland.

The first half of the Altura Trail (North Loop) has been open since June 2008 and is used frequently. It is graded as a red route which means difficult. The second half (south loop) was opened on 1st Dec 2008.

The north loop of the Whinlatter mountain bike trail is 10km and the south is 9km, again classed as a red route.

There is now a Whinlatter Mountain Bike Trail route map – Altura and Quercus Triails.

The north loop is more technical than the south. It starts from behind the cycle shop in the main car park. The first stage consists of narrow single track going through the trees. As it begins to climb up the mountain, the trail remains narrow, with a steep drop to the side. Make sure you are paying attention when on your mountain bike on this section. There are a few very tight switchbacks before the Whinlatter Altura Mountain bike trail follows a wide forest trail futher up the mountain. Near the top, the Whinlatter Altura trail heads into the trees. This section is great, however you need to watch out for the tree roots. they do their best to get you off your mountain bike. The last section is a nice open swooping series of loops. You can get up some serious speed, but watch out for the switchbacks as some of them are quite sharp. When I was descending, the group behind me seemed to misjudge a sudden right hander as you go back into the trees. This turn has a very steep slope as it turns on a blind corner. The stream of profanities I heard indicated that they hadn’t expected it. The very end of the Whinlatter Mountain Bike Trail North Loop stops suddenly at the road at the entrance to the main car park. Beware of traffic, or as I experienced, someone had parked their car there. It was smothered in mud as previous mountain bike riders had obviously been caught unawares and skidded in the mud spraying it up the side of the car.

Whinlatter Mountain Bike Altura Trail Whinlatter MountaiBike Trail
For a more sedate mountain bike trail, start on the Whinlatter mountain bike south loop. The south loop starts opposite the entrance to the main car park. Although there is some serious climbing up to the top of the mountain, the switchbacks are easier to turn, although you will need good balance. you will know when you are at the top. the first part of the descent is jagged rock and will be rebuilt. A lot of mountain bike riders have difficulty on the first 30 metres. the descent then goes on soem great windy single track. Once you have crossed the fire road, there is a boardwalk you can try (although I would avoid it in the wet as it doesn’t have any chicken wire on it). The next section consists of long swoopy curves. Once on another fire trail, watch out for the sharp exit over a rock bridge and into the trees. There are a couple of wooden bridges to cross towards the end.

Video of Whinlatter Altura Mountain Bike Trail
Have fun on the Whinlatter mountain bike trails, but take care. There were some guys in the cycle shop hiring bikes who weren’t going to wear crash helmets. The guy behind the counter persuaded them that it was a good idea to wear a helmet as you only have one head. I saw several riders returning to the car park with grazes and cuts, so make sure you stay within your abilities. If you want some more difficult and varying trails, explore the Lake District for yourself, or get the book Lake District Mountain Biking – Essential Trails by Chris Gore and Richard Staton

More information about Whinlatter Forest Park can be found at Whinlatter Altura Mountain Bike Trail.

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