As a former distance runner turned wanna-be enduro rider, this is what I enjoy: a ~2.5-hour ride (for me, depends on your pace) which lets you build your endurance while encompassing some steep climbs and descents, some loose rocks, and a few technical spots. Not for first-timers.
Bring plenty of water and nutrition, and whatever you need to keep running for minor repairs, since it is a long walk back to the car, or even to roads in some areas.
Respect any posted signs about park and trail closures. There is much construction in the Round Valley Recreational Area, so be advised. Try to swat as many spotted lanternflies as you can, since this harmful invasive species is unfortunately all over the park.
When it comes to pushing my limits, I love the loop route, with no shortcuts back. This route starts very easy with ~5.3 miles of roads to connect from the parking lot to Round Valley Recreation Area's main entrance. (Due to dam construction and path closures, this is the most direct route I can find that respects all boundaries).
This route then follows the perimeter of the lake, first with the Water Trail loop on the peninsula, before joining up with the Cushetunk Trail
. The crowds at the Recreation Area in summertime quickly disappear as you traverse the trail, which starts as some easy to moderate climbs and descents, as you get deeper into nature.
When you get to the road entrance to the summer camp (past the small pond at the base of the un-forested section of dam), you can escape back to the roads to turn around if you are feeling winded, but be warned that it is a long climb in the sun on the road (I learned this the hard way).
After here, it gets to "real" mountain biking, with some long climbs. The climb to Cushetunk Peak does not reveal any nice views in summer as the trees block the water, but the descent is enjoyable if you are not under-biked.
If you are a really advanced rider looking for a challenge, you can cut north from my route onto the Red Trail
, which follows the ridge line to the next peak, but has some big rock gardens. Staying on the Cushetunk Trail
does not spare you from some steep climbs and occasional rock gardens, but nothing as demanding.
The White Trail - Ridge Pass
has one of the steepest ascents and descents in the trail network, and I found myself walking up to the top (where the Red trail - Cushetunk Mountain Preserve intercepts). Note that the trails north of here in Round Valley are closed due to the construction work (as of September 2020).
The good news - it's almost all downhill from here to the parking lot. The descent on the White Trail - Ridge Pass
I really enjoyed, but might be too steep for some. The long descents on the Blue Trail
are the way I like to finish it, cruising right back to the parking lot.