Door County is home to many excellent silent sports opportunities – we have world-class kayaking and standup paddleboarding, championship golf courses, great fishing, hiking trails galore, very nice skiing and snowshoe trails, and plenty of back-roads cycling opportunities. Mountain biking, though? Not so much. Two of our county’s four state parks do have mountain biking trails, but largely they are the same as the cross country ski trails – wide, level, and without much “terrain” designed for the mountain biking experience that many of the more experienced riders are looking for.
Don’t get me wrong. My very first mountain biking experiences were in Newport and Peninsula State Parks when I was in my early teens, and I loved those early rides and experiences very much. Now that I have traveled and lived in places with more narrow “singletrack” and more technical trails, purpose-built for mountain biking, though, the trails in Door County have lost some of their lustre.
I would like to point out that this is changing. Through the efforts of the Door County Silent Sports Alliance and other involved individuals, some new trail has been built, others have been altered, and our MTB trails are shaping up a bit. With the parks’ master plans coming up for review this fall, we are hoping to be able to get even more bike-specific trails into the parks.
If you want to try the mountain bike trails but don’t have the right bike, rentals are available from Edge of Park Rentals and NorDoor Sport & Cyclery, which are both located right at the entrance to Peninsula State Park. They will also be able to provide great first-hand knowledge of the trail system, and current trail conditions. For a really fun experience, try renting one of NorDoor’s fat tire bikes. They ride surprisingly well on dirt, and make the ride totally different and a ton of fun!
The Map & The Route
In order to maximize the quality of my ride time, I have a nice route in Peninsula State Park that I like to ride which links up both sections of singletrack, and gets in a bit of climbing and descending as well. I think it’s easiIy the best route in the area’s state parks.
I have made up a map that gives you the basic route. I honestly don’t know the distance, but for me it is a ride of about an hour to 1:15 at a comfortable pace.
- I start at Gibraltar School. Enter the trail network from the wooden gateway behind the school and turn right. This trail will intersect with several others, but keep following this one. After about 3/4 of a mile, the first section of singletrack will split off to the left. You will pop out by middle road.
- Look for the trail to your right and follow it. This will put you on a pretty wide trail with a lot of roots and loose rocks and a series of short, fairly steep climbs. Many of us in the area refer to these as Hillbilly Hills. At the bottom of the last hill, you will take a sharp left.
- This trail will cross Middle Road and put you into Kodanko Field. There will be a short, steep climb followed by more grassy area, and you will ride back into the woods. Veer right, following the bicycle signs, and this is where the bigger section of singletrack begins.
- This area is pretty rooty and rocky, and the most technical part of the ride. At one point, you will very briefly be shot out into a field; there is a new section of bike trail here that is not on the maps. It is smoother with some berms on the turns, and should be pretty fun! You’ll end up pretty much back where you began this section of trail.
- Turn right back onto the singletrack, and continue along. This trail ends in a “T”. If you go left you will wind up on Highland Road. Follow the trail right toward Lot 5. You will come to a short, steep climb followed by a fairly fast, fun downhill. You will cross Middle Road and end up near Lot 5. Keep to the right here. You will come back to Hillbilly Hills, and you should be able to retrace your steps back to the school.
The nice thing about Peninsula’s trail system is that it consists of a series of big loops. You will always end up back at an intersection, and there are trail maps at almost all of them. Please, do ride only on the designated trails, and don’t forget to buy your annual trail pass at the park office!