Ten years of riding the Cannock Chase MTB trails at Birches Valley
After a decade of shredding the single track MTB trails of Cannock Chase, I’ve learned the ways of the forest at Birches Valley. In this article, I share an overview of each trail including Follow The Dog, Monkey Trail and Stile Cop to inspire you to get out on these epic off-road routes.
A Cannock Chase Adventure
When my parents moved to a sleepy farming village a few miles outside of Stafford town centre I was secretly excited. Their new home was just a short cycle from the iconic mountain bike trails at Birches Valley.
I knew of the Cannock Chase MTB trails through friends and had ridden them a few times in the summer months. My folks moving practically next door to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was a major upside to their relocation. A new bike-based adventure was about to begin.
Cannock Chase Bike Trails
Cannock Chase bike trails at Birches Valley are among the best in the country. I’ve ridden mountain bikes at Penmachno, Betsy Coed, Penicuik and Dalby Forest. Cannock Chase trails are right up there with them. As a destination centre, it’s arguably England’s most well resourced and caters for the widest range of riders.
Green & Blue Routes
The Cannock Chase bike trails include easy green and leisurely blue routes for cruising along; perfect for families with young children and those seeking a relaxed day riding through the forest.
There are two green routes and an extensive blue trail. Each starting from the Chase Cycle Centre at the far end of the car park.
The green trails are one and two and a half miles respectively. Perfect for families seeking a simple leisure ride in the fresh forest air.
Sherbrook Valley Trail is a picturesque 12.5 mile route through a vibrant mix of woodland and open heathland. A pdf map of these family friendly leisure routes is available here.
Follow The Dog
Follow The Dog was, for many years, the most celebrated singletrack in the Midlands. Known to locals simply as The Dog, this 6.7-mile mountain bike trail is for competent riders seeking a fast and furious spin through the forest.
The beauty of The Dog is that it can be ridden alone for a post work evening romp or when time is more spacious, coupled with the Monkey for a longer, more challenging day out.
Happily, at Cannock Chase all the trails are well signposted. But for those visiting for the first time here’s the Follow The Dog map via Trailforks.
At a whisker over 10km, the Cannock Chase Follow The Dog MTB trail is one of the countries most popular red routes.
Cannock Chase Monkey Trail is arguably the regions most challenging red route. The quirk with the Monkey is that a full lap includes riding The Dog.
At 14.2 miles, this Cannock Chase red route is a decent few hours in the forest. I usually ride down to the trails and shimy back home via one of the many pubs en route.
As a local rider with intimate knowledge of the trails, it is possible to ride the Monkey in its entirety without the additional sections of The Dog.
There’s a break in the trails where the single track crosses a main road. This is where the Monkey proper begins. And that’s all the clues I’m giving 😉 My preference is to ride the whole thing as a loop.
Here’s the complete Follow The Dog & Monkey Trail Loop map.
Stile Cop Downhill Trails
Stile Cop is a collection of a dozen elite-level downhill MTB trails built and maintained by the Racers Guild.
Expect these trails to be exceptionally challenging. You’ll need a good level of fitness and solid technical skills including the ability to jump.
I only ride these trails occasionally since it’s a higher level of technical skill than I currently possess. I’ve hit these trails in the past and enjoyed them but I get my kicks on the cross country routes.
Browse the Stile Cop map for full details of what you’ll find at Cannock Chase downhill trails.
Cannock Chase MTB trail map
I’ve shared links to the most detailed maps already in this article, including the Cannock Chase blue trail map and the Cannock Chase dog trail.
But if you’re planning for a Cannock Chase adventure and just want to see the ‘big picture’ I recommend the Chase Trails pdf Cannock Chase MTB Trail map with the gradient profile, sections and Birches Valley Forest Centre information.
Camping at Cannock Chase campsite
Fortunately, if your trip is a weekender, there is an excellent campsite at Cannock Chase called Tackeroo. Camping at the Chase is an excellent way to make the most of your time in the forest and to get out to ride extra trails.
Despite my folks living just up the road, I’ve camped in the forest at Tackeroo and other local places plenty. There’s something special about camping out under the stars alongside the trees. I usually sling my hammock away from the main camping ground.
Tackeroo is basic. There’s running water and space to pitch a tent. And that’s it. The visitor centre is a short cycle over a few sections of The Dog or a couple of miles along Penkridge Road.
Cannock Chase Pubs
Cannock Chase Forest in Staffordshire has no shortage of good pubs. I tend to stick to the pubs on the ride into and out of the trails which means I pass through the Haywoods.
That means I could call in to the Lamb and Flag, which I often do, then there’s the Red Lion with its benches out front, popular with local riders passing through the village. Further along, there’s The Clifford Arms with a neat beer garden serving pub grub.
If you happen to leave via Rugeley, there’s The Wolseley Arms for a relaxed meal or the whole of the town centre which includes a Wetherspoons amongst the many and varied local watering holes.
Cannock Chase Cycle Centre & Bike Hire
Cannock Chase MTB shop caters for all your mountain bike needs from bike hire to cycle repairs to new bikes to spares and essentials.
Cannock Chase bike shop is run by the Swinnertons, a local cycling dynasty. These folks have been riding bikes of all kinds for a very long time so you’ll get expert advice and excellent service.
There’s a bike wash, hot drinks and usually a sale basket out front for a bike based bargain. I tend to have my bikes serviced here and the rates are reasonable and work is first class.
Birches Valley Forest Centre Cafe
After a hard day in the saddle, there’s nothing better than a tasty treat from the Birches Valley Forest Centre Cafe. The ice cream is delicious, paninis fill a hole til the pub grub and the coffee is strong enough to get you around the trails in double-quick time.
Picnic benches are laid out in an enclosed area outside the cafe with toilet facilities including baby change on hand for those all important pee-pee stops.
Support Chase Trails
All the routes at Birches Valley Forest Centre are built and maintained by a dedicated group of local volunteers. Chase Trails is funded by donations and relies on its membership for financial support. Fees are used to provide practical things such as tools and equipment.
Please consider becoming a member if you have enjoyed the trails at Cannock Chase. Share your stories below in the comments: