On a recent trip to Liverpool we took a detour through the Ribble Valley to ride the mountain bike trails at Gisburn Forest. I’d heard good things about Gisburn and couldn’t wait to check it out. It was a gorgeous day and the drive there through the Lancashire countryside was stunning.
Like most of the UK’s main trail centres, Gisburn Forest is run by the Forestry Commission and has a very similar feel to my stomping ground of Glentress. The trails are expertly built and maintained, and the facilities excellent.
We decided to take the red trail, ‘The 8’, an 18km long figure of eight route with optional black sections. Unusually, in my experience at least, it started off with a short downhill section. It was quite nice to have a little downhill blast without even having to earn it first, but once we got to the bottom the climbing began.
I actually enjoy climbing, especially when it’s up meandering trails through the forest. The climb sections of ‘The 8’ at Gisburn were particularly good, with lots of steps, dips and rocky sections to keep it interesting and challenging. There’s a pretty steep stretch of fire road half way up, which can feel a bit relentless, especially if you want to ride the Hope Line (a short downhill section with berms, rollers, tabletops and drop offs), which means you have to do it twice!
Once you get to the top of the steep section, you’re not only rewarded with the option of riding the Hope Line, but also beautiful views of Bowland Forest and the Ribble Valley. Continue up the trail and you soon arrive at a quarry where the trail takes you over solid rock and features built from massive slabs. Shortly after, you hit the Sheep Hill boardwalk section. Unlike smooth Northshore sections that you just cruise along, the boardwalk at Gisburn is made from rough, uneven planks that you actually have to concentrate on riding if you don’t want to risk falling off! Good fun though.
Further on you arrive at Whelpstone Crag with its weird stone formations and plenty of good technical black sections to challenge more advanced riders. It’s here you’ll find ‘Bigfoot Slab’, a short, steep section of trail made entirely from, you guessed it, massive slabs. It’s one of the things to do at Gisburn and tends to attract crowds of people either psyching themselves up to do it or just watching others give it a go. We decided to give it a miss but will definitely do it another time when it’s not so busy.
The other main attraction is Hully Gully, which you arrive at soon afterwards. This section of trail is certainly worthy of its acclaim as it’s unlike anything I’ve ever ridden. It consists of a series of swooping, exaggerated berms that plunge down one side of the gully and up the other. It’s about as close to a rollercoaster as you’ll get on a bike and is such good fun you want to do it again and again. Sadly we only had time to do it once, so that’s another good reason I’ll be heading back there as soon as possible.
Continuing on, there’s a fun, albeit gentler, swooping section through more forest, followed by a trail with a series of log skinnies, some of which are pretty challenging. By this point the best of the route is over, but it’s a pleasant cruise back to the car park nonetheless.
With its varied terrain that’s both technical and fun, plus some great features, ‘The 8’ at Gisburn is without a doubt one of the best trails I’ve ridden to date. And to top it off, the scenery is absolutely stunning too. Can’t wait to go back!
Where’s your favourite place to go mountain biking? Let me know below as I’m always looking for new places to ride!