Hockley Valley Resort is developing 10.5 kms of new MTB track that features tough climbs and speedy descents for a few hours of twisty, fun-filled excitement on your steed. What a great initiative!
Just NE of Orangeville, Hockley Valley is an easy drive from the GTA. Originally a ski destination, it now has a fancy hotel and golf course. Bike trails zig-zag up the ski hill, then follow the perimeter of the fairways through the woods and fields to the very top. Here it levels out and you can ride around the Adamo Winery, then back down you go.
I was invited to Hockley last week and I am pleased to say it has a lot of potential to become a favourite once it is finished and tweaked just right.
My riding buddy Beri and I headed up counter-clockwise that day (they alternate directions daily). This was the 2.2 km West Trail. Although it’s rated as a green trail, it soon became apparent, through climb after climb, that no beginner is going to dig this.
It felt like we rode up two hills, then down one—over and over again. So the total climb was definitely more than the official 90 metres of elevation gain.
Once at the top of the hill, we did the 1.9 km Winery Loop. Rated a blue Intermediate, it’s actually easier than the climb: a green spin, in my opinion.
As the path cuts by the front door of the wine-tasting bar, you might feel inclined to go in for some samples, but if you do, you may end up kissing a tree on your journey down the steep, twisty 4.6 km East Trail. Maybe save it for later. Another option is to have lunch and a beer back at the resort on their relaxing patio.
Back to the state of these new trails. Observing their trail-building techniques, I’d say they half got it. The route has been newly cut, benched, bermed, and levelled with an excavator. The track is still wide, with bare soil, and needs to grow in. Users will eventually set the proper lines for these loops.
What is hard to believe is that they cleared all the rocks, boulders, roots, and logs. The trail is void of any fun stuff riders want to take on or ride around! My hope is that they strategically put back the rocks and add log hops to the mix.
On the ride I saw three stone structures to ride over, so that’s a start. Perhaps more are coming.
Also, some of the switchbacks are too steep and tight and will need to be extended. Grades up to 20% are far too high to climb and sustain the sandy soil. Erosion is already becoming a problem and they are adding gravel to fix it, which makes it worse to ride on. Less than 10% grades, using flat stones and/or mixing in topsoil to firm up the track would be a better idea, please.
These loops have some nice sections that flow well and can get you moving, but we were always touching our brakes on the banked turns, unsure if the sand/gravel was going to wash us out.
The 1.4 km Lookout Trail, set to open August 2022, will give riders another hill climb, a shortcut, and a lookout, one of many. Most MTB rides offer little to stop and gaze at, but Hockley has beautiful scenic views across the valley every few minutes!
Fatbikes in the winter will use a portion of these trails (to be determined).
Hockley has a fleet of mountain bikes available to rent (eBikes, too) so they seem committed, though unsure where they will fit in as a MTB destination. That will come, and they may switch to running the loops only in one direction which would make it easier to design a good ride.
If you do the loops, let them know your thoughts (as we did) and leave a review below. Feedback will make this place rock. I am sure this review will change a few times as it matures, but for now, even with its flaws, I am excited to welcome a new opportunity to MTB in Ontario.
This new ride review is not yet published in my book. But 55 other great MTB destinations are with better topo maps and tons of riding tips. Available as an eBook or paperback.