As a family we love Devon. We have ventured there for numerous family holidays. The county has so much variety and so many things to do, it’s impossible not to enjoy the UK’s third-largest county.
If it’s not the wilderness of Dartmoor, it’s the glorious and varied beaches of North and East Devon. If it’s not the city, it’s the forests and woodlands. With so much on offer, it’s little wonder we spend so much time here.
One activity that I especially enjoy is mountain biking in Devon. The landscape here differs hugely in such a small area. One minute you can be trudging up steep climbs in a forest, the next gently peddling along a track next to a river. With such beautiful surroundings, I always take my bike when we go for our regular cabin holiday in Devon.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience mountain biking in several places across Devon and I thought I’d share my experiences.
Mountain biking in Devon - Haldon forest park
Haldon forest park is located about 15 minutes south of Exeter.
The park is set amongst 3500 acres of forest and is one of my favourite places to mountain bike.
The park itself is very welcoming to visitors. With ample car parking, which is pay and display, and a lovely cafe serving delicious cakes and coffee, the whole experience here is well worth it if you decide to go.
Haldon Hill is the perfect place to get yourself and the family outside. There are numerous walks in glorious forestry as well as other activities such as go ape and segway.
I visited Haldon Hill to go mountain biking and I wasn’t disappointed.
The forest park has 4 cycling tracks, each colour coded and all have varying levels of difficulty. They are labelled on posts with coloured arrows, showing the direction of travel.
The first Blue track is great for a warm-up. Without pushing too hard, this circuit isn’t too t as taxing but gets the heart rate up. With a couple of small inclines interspersed with some tricky manoeuvres through the trees, the surface is a mixture of dirt track and gravel. At a steady pace, this track will take you about 15 minutes to get around.
The next track you may encounter is a slightly darker blue. This is one of my favourite mountain biking tracks on Haldon Hill. A combination of faster parts with more technical manoeuvres required, dark blue will take you through the trees, down the slopes, along the gravel, and round a few hairpins bends with a few steady climbs. There’s ample opportunity to stop and have a water break if needed. This track will take about 20-25 minutes, depending on ability.
The red track is for the more able mountain bikers. You will quite often see those with more confidence tearing down the slopes and navigating around the more technical parts. There are some quite steep sections that do take some experience. I probably went too slow, but I wanted to see this track for myself.
There are a couple of other tracks that are great to cycle around. The green track is quite flat and will lead you out overlooking the city of Exeter. I have used this as a cool down track. Take you’re time on this route as sometimes you’ll encounter dog walkers.
Finally, there’s the purple track which has some steep downhills, which obviously means some climbs back up. This is great for feeling the burn and getting that all-important hill climb under your belt.
For mountain biking in Devon, Haldon hill is my favourite place to cycle. Beautiful surroundings and ready-made tracks. Perfect!
Perhaps a little less well known, certainly by visitors to the area anyway is Woodbury common. The village of Woodbury is located approximately 15 minutes from Exeter and not far from the seaside town of Exmouth.
The common is well over 250 acres. It is mainly heathland, with stunning views over the coastline near to Sidmouth.
The land has numerous tracks, too many to count. Although the common is used by walkers and dog lovers, the tracks are perfect for mountain biking and there are rarely any encounters with people being too close to each other.
The tracks are mix of stone and pebble, earth, mud and gravel. The terrain can be difficult in parts, with some arduous conditions; perhaps the reason why the Royal Marines train here.
Nevertheless, for mountain biking enthusiasts, this part of Devon is a real gem. There are several car parks, that don’t charge. Each car park has several pathways and tracks leading off, meaning there are huge variations in rides.
The tracks are not directional however the space around means that you are highly unlikely to meet anyone without first seeing them.
One particular mountain bike ride I enjoy at Woodbury common takes from the car park known as Four Firs.
A steady gradual climb up soon has me looking out over the coast. I then head towards the firing range, which if in use is always clearly marked. I cycle down the stoney hill, which takes some concentration and up the other side, winding through the trees with some downhills and more climbs.
Eventually I prepare myself for the grueling climb up towards what is known as thew castle; and old fort. This ride can take up to 45 minutes and there are ways to make it shorter or longer if needed.
The Tarka trail in Devon is the country’s longest path. Enjoyed by walkers and cyclists the figure 8 loop is approximately 180 miles.
Now I have not completed the full loop however I have cycled a more scenic ride. Starting at Meeth near Okehampton, the ride heads towards north Devon, where I was aiming to get to a place called Fremington Quay. I had been told by locals that the old railway station at the quay is well worth a visit, not only for its coffee and cake but also for the picturesque views.
The track is enjoyable and certainly a ride that allows you to meander through trees and nature.
It’s important to realise that this track is enjoyed by walkers as well and not solely for cyclists. The trail was once a railway line, which is now no longer in use. The paths were converted back in the 1990s and have been enjoyed by visitors ever since.
With easy ground, this mountain biking route in Devon can be enjoyed by all of the family, including smaller children. When they’ve had enough, simply turn around and head back. If some members of your group are without a bike, there are places in Bideford, Barnstaple, and Braunton that hire them out.
The Tarka Trail is a great cycle ride and a really fun day out, especially if the weather is nice, as it usually is during the summer in Devon.
If you are still looking for inspiration for your next Devon break then check out our guides on where to stay –