Based on a wooded hilltop overlooking Devon’s capital city of Exeter, Haldon Forest Park is a brilliant trail centre for beginner and intermediate level riders, as well as family groups. You’ll find four different waymarked MTB trails here, including a green-rated family loop, two different blue routes and a more difficult red-rated loop, plus a skills area and pump track.
The trails at Haldon Forest Park are well made and rideable year-round thanks to their rocky flint base. Having said that, you will inevitably find a lot of puddles in the wetter months and after heavy rain some of the trails appear more like stream beds, so come prepared to get your feet wet!
Start out with the two blue-rated trails if you’re new to Haldon Forest, which give you some good loops to warm up and get used to the trails here. If you’re an experienced mountain biker and keen to try something more challenging, the red-rated Ridge Ride trail that heads across the main road from the centre is a great option. This trail not only delivers some technical rock garden sections and little drop-off features, but also magnificent views of the city and Devonshire countryside.
In this Collection, I’ve also included a cross-country style loop that takes in some of these marked trails but also a hefty chunk of gravel fire roads and more natural riding, including the brilliant St Andrew’s Lane bridleway, a firm favourite with local riders.
There’s more besides the riding at Haldon Forest Park too. You’ll find both walking and orienteering trails, plus guided segway trips in addition to the bike hire and servicing centre and the brilliant Ridge Cafe and children’s play area.
The best way to reach Haldon Forest Park is by car, and there is ample parking for a fee, although season parking tickets can help if you plan on visiting regularly. The Park is a 15 minute drive from central Exeter, or just 3 minutes from the A38. If you’re riding from Exeter St Davids train station, the journey is 6.6 miles (10. 6 km).
There are plenty of facilities at the Forest Park, including toilets and a bike wash, so that’s one less thing to clean when you get home! For more information about these facilities and bike hire, visit: forestcyclehire.co.uk
The blue MTB trails at Haldon Forest Park are arguably some of the best, with brilliant, flowy descents mixed with scenic singletrack both over moorland and in the forest. There are two separate blue trails combined here: Spicers Trail and Kiddens Trail, which here I've combined into one loop that measures 6.2 miles (10 km).
The circuit starts at the trail centre car park, where you can also find the café, toilets, bike hire and bike wash facilities. You begin by heading to the south-east on the more mellow Spicers Trail, which snakes around the gauze and heather moorland with growing pine trees and through some of the woodland. This is a great way to warm up and work on your cornering without worrying about any technical trail features or steeper gradients.
Following the well marked signs for the Spicers Trail will lead you almost all the way back to the trail centre, and here you can pick up the second half of the loop, the Kiddens Trail. You start with an exhilarating descent in the open, with the singletrack zig-zagging down the hillside, wiggling between tree stumps. Expect a few roots and puddles here before riding into the woodland where the singletrack continues.
The main descent of the Kiddens Trail complete, the rest is more undulating or pedally through the woodland. Test your handling skills with a few bridge crossings as you navigate over streams and around some tight corners.
To get back to the trail centre there's a fair bit of uphill, but you'll mostly be distracted by the brilliant singletrack route. Why not enjoy a cuppa and some cake at the end of your loop, or head to the skills area to check out some of the features there to prepare you for the red trail?
Tackle the red route (trail rating difficult) at Haldon Forest park once you’re confident on the blue routes and are looking for more of a challenge. Starting from the car park, take some time to warm up in the skills area, practicing on the rock drop offs, step ups, rock gardens and boardwalk. Make sure you’re happy with these first, as the following trail includes almost all of these features!
The start of the red route, named Ridge Ride, takes you over the road to the north and along a fire road to the start of the singletrack. A rock roll takes you off the gravel road and onto the twisting singletrack trail here, with wide-reaching views over the Devon countryside above the level of gorze bushes and ferns.
You’ll soon be spat out onto the fire road lower down where you take a sharp right hand turn on the corner to drop in to the next part of off-camber trail. Along this section there’s some rock garden features to test you on the undulating terrain, where you’ll be very glad of a hardtail or full sus mountain bike!
After a narrow section alongside the fence, cross a lane to continue on the singletrack following the red signs to the south. You’ll need to climb a little here as you follow the track through the trees and laurel bushes. One of the best parts of the red trail is up next: a rapid, narrow and fairly straight descent to the fire road with a few small rock drops along the way.
Shift into an easy gear for the fire road climb next, leading to some moorland singletrack and over the main road back towards the trail centre. The next part is challenging but beautiful: a twisting, sculpted track through the trees that features some sharp cornering and steep banks to ride up, before a fairly easy return to the trail centre across more moorland tracks.
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There are so many reasons why Haldon Forest Park is great for visiting with children. Close to the city of Exeter with ample parking, it's easily accessible and has plenty of facilities too, from the bike hire centre and bike wash to toilets, café and kid's play area. Not to mention the many walking, cycling and orienteering trails!
For budding riders, the green-rated family trail is a great place to start. This short loop measures 1.7 miles (2.3 km) from the trail centre car park and takes in both breathtaking views over the Devon countryside and pretty forest trails.
Don't expect anything scary or challenging on this route, as it's all easy-going and fairly wide, flat tracks to make it achievable for riders of all ages and abilities.
If you and the children still have some beans after completing the loop, you can head to the pump track and the skills area which are both close to the Ridge Café for some more practice and play. Once you're happy and confident on these trails, the blue-rated Spicers Trail would be an ideal next choice.
This cross-country (XC) style loop is a great alternative to the waymarked trails at Haldon Forest Park, taking in some gravel fire roads and bridleways as well as a visit to Belvedere Castle, a well-known local landmark.
Unlike the other Tours in this Collection, this Tour starts in the village of Kenn, a short drive from the A38 motorway, rather than at the trail centre. This means you'll need to climb up the hill to Haldon, but the descent on the way back down makes it all worthwhile!
Leaving Kenn from the church and Ley Arms Inn, head up the lane to reach the bottom of St Andrew’s Lane, a well-known bridleway that’s much loved by mountain bikers visiting Haldon Forest Park by bike. It’s quite narrow in parts and often enjoyed as a descent, so make sure you watch out for descending riders as you make your way up this rather technical singletrack climb. Thankfully it’s quite straight, so you should be able to see (or hear) them from a little while off!
At the top of the climb, you’ll need to join the road for a short while to cross the motorway bridge at Great Haldon, before taking a left onto one of the many gravel tracks up in the forest away from the road. The network up here is incredible and it would be easy to get lost enjoying them.
Descend through Harcombe to cross over the motorway in Silverton and head back up towards the forest on lanes and then forest gravel roads. Join the easy blue Spicers Trail to wind along the singletrack to the trail centre and Ridge Cafe, where you might want to take a break for a cuppa and a snack.
The next loop takes you to the glowing white tower of Haldon Belvedere along the Kings Road gravel road. You then return to the east on Kings Road, or opt for the parallel red-rated Ridge Trail if you’d like something more technical. Next, you can either follow the red trail’s fire roads to the road, which leads you back over the motorway bridge to the top of St Andrew’s Lane.
Now you’ve ridden up this bridleway you know what’s in store. Let off the brakes and enjoy this thrilling and usually very mucky descent!