Whether it’s a gradual climb from the valley floor to high moorland or a grueling ascent of the toughest peak, there is something truly inspiring about traversing wild passes by mountain bike. For some riders, it’s the challenge of the climbs, for others it’s the sense of achievement on reaching the summit. Whatever your reason for pushing ever upward, however, one thing is always the same at the top: The excitement of the final descent.
Mountain passes encapsulate all we love about off-road riding. From the wild plains of Exmoor and Dartmoor to the technical terrain of Mount Snowdon and the Lake District, this selection of eight passes over hills and mountains across the UK should test your mettle and inspire you in equal measure.
The bike trails that lead up to Snowdon's summit are so good, it's almost a shame that you can only ride on one. For this Tour, however, we selected the Ranger Path as the trail that’ll get you to the top. A fairly smooth run, you’ll be able to ride the majority of the ascent, although you’ll have to carry your bike for short periods when the trail gets a little more complicated.
As you can’t take your bike on the train that carries passengers up and down the mountain, there’s only one thing to do once you make it to the top: Ride back down again. And to get you back down, you’ll be riding the hiking path that runs parallel to the railway.
Important: As there is a summertime ban on bikes on the mountain between 10 am and 5 pm, you’re going to want to do this ride in either spring or autumn.
This Tour reveals to you the Quantock Hills at their finest. You’ll start among the wooded glades of Holford car park before climbing one of the many combes that drop down off the Quantocks ridge. From there, you’ll ride riding the undulating crest amid bike-height ferns broken only by occasional copses. For lovers of singletrack, this route saves the best until last: a wonderful, rocky descent along Holford Combe's dried-up river bed (although in places it has not completely dried up - expect to get your feet wet!). It's such a good trail you'll be disappointed when Holford village soon rolls into view.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
This route starts from a car park on the NCN277 cycle route.It's not long before you leave the tarmac behind and are climbing south along the Two Moors Way, however, a coast-to-coast route that connects Dartmoor and Exmoor. At Hoaroak Hill, the route starts to wind its way back north, dropping of the high moors along Ilkerton Ridge and swapping boggy moorland for gravel tracks before crossing the West Lyn River and returning to Cheriton on a mixture of country lanes and stony paths.
Leaving Grinton by road on a waymark, this route soon drops down to the banks of the River Swale before beginning the slow, steady climb to Harkerside Moor. It can be heavy going amid the mossy undergrowth, but the trail firms up as you reach a series of disused mine workings high up on the moor. A level gravel track at Grovebeck signifies the pinnacle of this route, almost 1,600 feet (500 meters) up. Once you get through the lane back into Grinton, you are back out in onto open, sloping moorland again before dropping down the valley of Cogden Gill, crossing the river and returning by road to the Dales Bike Centre at Fremington.
There's little time to warm up on this ride over peaks as you'll be climbing almost as soon as you leave Edale station. Heading north, it's a technical climb some 1,000 feet (300 meters) to Grindslow Knoll before you arrive at the high grassy plain of Edale Moor. For a few miles, you can enjoy a wonderful panorama from this wild plateau.
Look out for the fist of rock known as Madwoman's Stones — this is where you drop down the north side of Jaggers Clough, before descending into the valley itself at breakneck speed. Afterward, a short climb will reveal the Hope Valley in all its glory. This last gravel descent takes you to the Hope - Edale road and back to the station.
A relaxing ride along the banks of Ennerdale Water does little to prepare you for what's to come. Following the River Liza, which feeds into the lake, it's a blissful ride through deciduous woodland. Once you reach the tree line, however, the real mountain biking begins!
Heading north up Scarth Gap Pass, the trail instantly steepens and it doesn't relent until you reach the 2,650 foot-high (806 meter-high) rocky behemoth of High Stile. You will probably have needed to shoulder the bike once or twice by now, but from here there's a great descent to Buttermere to enjoy before the valley beneath Gale Fell takes you back to Ennerdale and the car park at Bowness Knott.
This route out of North Bovey on Dartmoor has the best of both worlds: It starts along the wooded banks of the river Bovey, taking in the wonderful singletrack around Lustleigh Cleave before striking out onto wild-feeling, exposed moorland. It's a constant climb out of the valley to the jagged rocks that mark Hound Tor, but at least the gradient is a steady one. By the time you reach Black Hill, it's downhill almost all of the way back!
From Great Malvern station, you can be at the highest point in Herefordshire or Worcestershire in just a few miles. To get you there, there are around 9 miles (15 kilometers) of ridge line to explore and dozens of paths that crisscross the range. This figure of eight route begins by exploring the northern tip of the hills before dropping south to Black Hill near Little Malvern and looping back via Wyche Cutting and Worcestershire Beacon. The trails on the ridge drain well and tend to be dry, dusty and a joy to ride!