“A hearty mix of rocky and fast singletrack characteristic of the Appalachian mountains.”
— Leslie Kehmeier
Douthat State Park (pronounced "doubt-that") is a gem in the Appalachian Mountains of south central Virginia. The park encompasses more than 4,500 acres and, in addition, is surrounded by the George Washington National Forest, offering many opportunities for backcountry exploration. Within the park boundaries, you'll find over 40 miles of trails to match whatever level of challenge you choose.
For what the Douthat Epic lacks in mileage, it more than makes up for in elevation. The park is essentially a tasty bowl of singletrack connecting the park from bottom to top.
Need to Know
Cost: $5 entry fee
Douthat State Park is in a somewhat remote location but does provide a host of different lodging options from camping to cabins with full kitchen facilities and linens provided.
Boating and fishing are also popular activities at Douthat State Park.
Start at the lower end of Douthat Lake and roll out to main road. Take a left and enjoy a short warm up on pavement before turning left onto the Wilson Creek
trail that gradually climbs its way to a road winding up to the cabins and guest lodge. Pedal steeply up the pavement to a hairpin turn.
Notice a trail sign on your right and head this way up Guest Lodge
. Pass the first intersection on your right and then take a left at the next intersection onto Mountain Top
. Continue the grinding climb up; there is a viewpoint that awaits. After checking out the dense forests surrounding Douthat, descend past an intersection with Mountain Side and then onto another intersection with Beards Gap. There is a small shelter here with a place to sit and rest before continuing.
Stay straight at the Beards Gap intersection on Brushy Hollow
and climb again (thankfully a short ascent) to another viewpoint. Take advantage of another opportunity to rest before finishing the climb. Now its time for a much deserved, long descent. The trail is fast but has many switchbacks so be aware of your speed going into turns. Nearing the bottom of the valley, youll encounter eight rock-armored creek crossings before reaching the swing bridge over Wilson Creek
. Bounce your way across the bridge and then roll out to Douthat Road.
Take a right and pedal just over half a mile to Stony Run
. Take a left here and start the biggest climb of the ride. The grade is not steep at first but after the first intersection, the trail begins to ramp up. Stay straight at the next intersection with a horse sign and begin the real climbing. From here to the turnoff for Tuscarora Overlook youll experience several switchbacks through mature forest.
The best views of the park are available from the cabin at Tuscarora Overlook, the out-and-back should not be missed.
From the overlook continue up to Middle Mountain
Trail where youll reach the high point of the ride. The last bit of the climb takes you into moss and lichen covered rocks and trees, a surreal landscape. Once you top out, Middle Mountain
is a fast cruise across the ridge through the trees. You might feel like youre riding through a scene from Lord of the Rings.
Take a right at the intersection with Salt Stump and enjoy and fast, rockin descent through big trees and dense forest. Continue straight through the first intersection and then bear right at the next junction.
is a slightly downhill route over relatively smooth trail with a few roots and rocks traversing lower slopes.
At the third intersection, take a left to work your way to the start of the ride at the bottom end of Douthat Lake.
History & Background
Beginning with Douthats creation in 1936, many of the trails and park infrastructure were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and still bear the CCC's signature handywork. Miles of well-executed bench cut trails leading from cabins to vistas are the trademark of a ride in the park.