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Level: Advanced
Length: 32 mi (51.5 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Out & Back
Elevation: +2,177/2 ft
Total: 38 riders

Mountain Biking The Southern Traverse

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#8 of 290 mountain bike trails in Virginia
#264 in the world

This ride has it all; twisty, smooth, steep, narrow, rough, mossy surface.
The snaking trail follows the ridge south and is an amazing melody of smooth and fast downhills and technical rock gardens.

First added by TREKROX on Sep 3, 2009. Last updated Apr 28, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Start at Shenandoah Mountain Touring (SMT)
Located in the Shenandoah Bicycle Co. store
135 S. Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA

From SMT head out of the parking lot onto main street (left only- heading north)
Take your 1st left on Water Street
Take your 3rd left on Rt. 42 - South High Street
Traveling south on Rt.42 through Dayton, Bridgewater, and Parnassus To Jennings Gap road Rt. 736
Take a right on Rt. 736 and travel for 3.5 miles to route 250
Take a right on Rt. 250 heading West for 7 miles to West Augusta and Rt. 629
Take a left on Rt. 629 heading south into Deerfield Valley
Turn right on FR 173 about 6 miles down the road
Cross the cattle grate and continue along the right-of-way dirt road
After crossing the creek for the 2nd time, stay left at the fork
Proceed through the closed gate onto National Forest land - please close the gate behind you
The parking area is 1/4 mile up on the left
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The Southern Traverse Trail map

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djf500 (on Jun 23, 2018)
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Trail conditions

Fair (on Jun 23, 2018)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Harrisonburg, Virginia

Intermediate | 4 mi
Advanced | 10 mi

Rider questions

Q: Is there camping near the trails? Rustic is fine... just need a place (preferably legal) to pitch a tent.

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  • Alex NIN

    While I understand why this is an Epic the trail is in need of a lot of work. About 20 trees down and overgrown even in winter. The bushes and thorns will beat you up and while this isn't a technical trail to me if you don't pay attention to the trail and are looking at the awesome views from the ridge you could easily fall a few hundred feet down the mountain. It's very narrow and leaf covered. The view from the knob before the final descent is great but overall I'd much rather ride Reddish Knob, Timber Ridge and The Wolf Ridge Trails further north.

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  • Cotharyus

    I rode this trail New Year's Eve, 2014. There was about 1/4" of fine powder snow covering the fallen leaves on about 40% of the trail. We knew daylight was short and had two trucks, so we shuttled out the road portion. I'll cut to the chase, because the single track is what everyone's interested in. It's narrow. In that sense, the whole thing is technical. Some places there's room for error, other's there's not. All the rumors about the first bit of single track climb being steep - all true. Even worse if leaf covered and snowy.

    The flip side is, all this stuff is quite fun when you get pointed down hill. There are also plenty of relatively flat sections. It's really a wonder, how the trail traverses the top of the mountain line rather than being a true ridge ride. Lots of little rock gardens, some larger rock gardens, but nothing hugely technical - on the whole, a good way for people who are fit, and have a relatively decent grasp on technical skills to get in a big ride, with big pay offs.

    Not to be missed is the overlook just before the big down hill section at the end. In other words, there's two decent down hills, then a bit of a flat, and sharp left turn. As the trail straightens out, the narrow, steep footpath goes up to the left, and at the top, the view is, in a word, stunning.

    An epic ride in every sense, this is not to be missed if you have the chance.

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  • ctrice

    Rode the trail with my 20 year old son on Sunday 9/22/13. Bikes- Specialized 29r Rockhopper Experts. Weather - Awesome blue skies and middle 70's. Directions are accurate. It is indeed an epic ride. 4 mile climb up FS- 173 from National Forest parking area to reach the ridge then another mile or so up STEEP narrow single track before getting to the good stuff (unless you think endless climbs are good stuff). The trail is narrow especially on the west side. No time for sightseeing as more than a second of inattentiveness to what is in front of you can result in a very nasty tumble which more than likely will result in injury. This is not a good place to get hurt. It rained hard the night before we went. Most of the trail was dry but the west side was slippery in spots. I had a couple near slips that resulted in major pucker factor but all in all if you keep your wits about you all will be good. All the descriptions I have read talk about Jerkemtight being the tricky part. We found that not to be the case as the main trail was accurately marked with yellow single diamonds nailed to trees. What we did find to be tricky was a section about a half mile past Jerkemtight where the trail suddenly ended on a grassy ridge. We spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how we lost the trail before backtracking and finding we missed a hard left leading to the east side of the ridge. It might be easier to spot when the foliage is not so overgrown in the late fall, winter, or spring. Keep this spot in mind if you are a first timer so you don't repeat what we did.

    Side note: While I was searching the ridge top looking for the trail I came face to face with Mr. Bear about 40 yds in front of me. Mr. Bear and I had about a 5 second stand-off while we both wondered what to do next. Luckily for me Mr. Bear decided to turn tail and run. I have seen lots of bears while in the woods but this was the first time the bear saw me too.

    After we found the trail again it was a little more up and down until we reached the down-hill all the way section to the forest service road as layed out in other descriptions. Lots O' fun. After reaching the forest service road it's mostly downhill until you hang a left on 629. Now 629 runs through one of the most beautiful valleys you will ever see and the terrain is not bad, but after everything we just rode that last 12 miles back to the car was a pain in the butt. It was just an arduous slog. When I do this again it will be with a shuttle or maybe an out and back. I will leave the asphalt to the road bikers.

    Our total trip time was 6:15 counting a few short breaks and our 20 minutes of searching for the trail. Total mileage was 36.25
    We were in shorts and t-shirts and the stickers, burrs, briars, and nasty, nasty, nettles got us good. I don't know if long pants and long sleeves are worth it, but it is something to consider. I would like to have had a machete to clear a couple sections especially after Jerkemtight.

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  • stumpyfsr   ✓ supporter

    Rode this trail yesterday. Forest road climb is one of the longest continious climbs I've ever done - great warm up. And after I've reached a trailhead, there was one more even steeper climb on singletrack. Downhills are straight and simple. The only thing that kept my attention was chunky portions with rocks, covered by leaves. Also met a black bear on the top.
    The trail by its remoteness reminds me Maah Daah Hey trail. And it's simple but something makes me to want to ride it again.
    There're two options: ride it out-and-back or park your car along Route 629 and then ride a trail one way and return to car on pavement.* Review edited 10/12/2012

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  • jtorlando25

    I've yet to ride the whole trail because it has kicked my butt every time. Definitely an EPIC trail. Steep climbs here and there. Fast downhills. Technical rock gardens going up and down. All the good stuff is here. Camping in the GW National Forest is a lot of fun as well.

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  • RoadWarrior

    Rode trail for the second time this weekend. Besides being an IMBA Epic, it could also be called a MTB Classic. Trail is as close to riding in the wilderness as you can get on a bike. Steep grade at the beginning, but mellows after that. Trail has seen a lot of bikes recently so has a well defined easy to follow tread (6-12 inches wide). Parts of the trail are in need of some brush clearing, so speed will be limited by your tolerance for brush whipping. Speed is not what this trail is about anyway. The big downhill is clear, so speed away!* Review edited 5/31/2012

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  • johnfrog

    Trail is not well maintained! Many bushes and weeds growing over trail. Uphill climbs are slightly ridiculous in terms of %grade. Also you can't go fast on downhills due to overgrown trails.

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  • GoKite5

    I rode from the parking up the 4 miles of fireroad, then the 10.5 miles of up and down singletrack ridgeline to the mostly 5 miles downhill and had a pickup at Scotchtown Draft Rd. Gave me a fantastic twenty mile ride getting the major climb done at the beginning and enjoyed a downhill ending. If you want to ride an out and back, I'd recommend starting at Scotchtown Draft and riding up to the top of the singletrack about 16 miles and return. Don't run the fireroad then. This trail does have a fair amount of exposure on sometimes narrow trail. Not super technical, but have some moderate experience. Be wary in wet conditions. One of my favoritetrails anywhere.

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