Mountain Biking Mecca: Dark Peak

by Richard Jones

It’s no overstatement that the trails around the reservoirs of Ladybower and Derwent, along with those south of Kinder Scout, close to Edale and Hayfield, give some of the most rewarding mountain biking in the country. Our 60-mile Dark Peak mountain biking route is designed to take in the lot, ridden over three or four days. You can try it in two days if you’re particularly hardcore, although with over 10,000 feet of climbing, that’s no small undertaking.

Mountain Biking in the Dark Peak

The trail begins at Bamford, circling Win Hill for a strenuous climb to Hope Cross. From here, two fantastic descents bring you to the Snake Road: the Beast and Potato Alley. The former is a rocky, boulder-strewn descent that will challenge even experienced riders as it drops steeply through the trees, while Potato Alley is a longer run, slightly less technical but still providing a rocky and exhilarating challenge.

This multi-day route incorporates both, and your initial descent is via the Beast, heading off alongside the south-western end of Ladybower Reservoir at the bottom, to a climb back onto Hope Brink and a descent into Hope itself.

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Hope to Hayfield

From Hope, another demanding but doable climb up Pin Dale brings you towards the next black-graded descent, down through Cave Dale. The initial grassy bridleway dumps you on top of a rock field where, once you’ve picked a line, you’ll skilfully/terrifiedly navigate down below Peveril Castle and into Castleton.

The old Mam Tor road, damaged by a succession of landslides until it was finally abandoned in 1979, leads to Rushup Edge, the highest point of the whole route at over 540m (1,800ft). Another excellent descent meets the start of the remote moorland track across The Roych. Civilisation is reached once more in Hayfield, and a superb loop across Middle Moor, below Lantern Pike and Chinley Churn brings you back to the village via a cracking descent down Foxholes Clough.


Jacob’s Ladder and the Descent Into Edale

Heading back east takes in a long climb up to Edale Cross, leading to the superb downhill of Jacob’s Ladder and into Edale. There’s a choice of three routes up to Hollins Clough, a col between the peaks of Mam Tor and Lose Hill on the Great Ridge. Climb the road to Mam Nick and take either the Great Ridgeway below Mam Tor or the Cold Side descent to Greenlands Farm. The alternative, and mapped, route takes you along the road and up to Greenlands Farm, with a tough climb from there.

Personally, if I was staying at Edale and my energy levels allowed it, I’d take the road climb up to Mam Nick, west of the Mam Tor summit, for that superb descent down into Edale and a climb back up to Hollins Cross the next day.

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Potato Alley and the Lockerbrook Descent

From Hollins Cross, a sketchy descent drops you back onto the road to climb once more to Hope Cross, this time a steep haul up from Jaggers Clough. The aforementioned Potato Alley descent lies ahead this time, crossing the A57 at the bottom to climb through Rowlee Farm to the outstanding Lockerbrook descent, which sees you racing down through the trees on a trail that begins as singletrack before widening out into a rocky and rooty surface, with natural berms and kickers, to spit you out at the bottom alongside the Upper Derwent Reservoir.

9b-long haul up to Edale Cross.jpgAfter passing Fairholmes Visitor Centre and the Derwent Dam, the final climb of the route takes you up onto Whinstone Lee Tor, affording a spectacular view up Ladybower. The long descent down to the Ladybower Inn follows a bridleway that has been superbly repaired and maintained by Peak District MTB volunteers. After passing the pub, a short cruise along the A6013 brings you back to Bamford and the end of this fantastic adventure.

Book your Dark Peak mountain biking holiday.

More to Ride in the Peak District

If you are a reasonably experienced rider and are looking for a few days of unsurpassed mountain biking, with big but mostly doable climbs and absolutely fantastic descents, then the Dark Peak Mountain Bike route would surely take some beating.

But, if when you picture your perfect ride, you imagine a flowing ribbon of dirt snaking through woodland or a serene, laid-back pedal along quiet bridleway in stunning countryside, our holidays in the White Peak may present the perfect alternative. Try the flat-out fun to be found dropping into Monsal Dale, Calver and Darley Bridge on our White Peak Mountain Biking Holiday, or enjoy the sheer beauty of the landscape with a gentle ride on our White Peak Leisure Cycling Holiday.

We’ll be covering both with two more posts over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes on the blog!

Contours Holidays pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of the UK’s trails. We regularly set out to check our routes and directions and to make improvements on the holidays we offer. You can find several write-ups of staff expeditions in our Trail Diaries.

Originally published 06/07/20

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