Hardrock Trail Stats
Grade: Red - Difficult
Singletrack: 65% (black-graded sections are 100% singletrack)
Estimated Time To Ride The Route: 1.5 - 3 hrs
The Hardrock Trail is a classic red-graded route that includes miles of singletrack and some very challenging black-graded features.
The hard granite surface makes the trail one of the most resilient in the country and provides good grip in the wet, so the route is fantastic to ride all year round. Attack it in cross country racer style or at a more leisurely, playful pace.
A highlight of the route is the Slab - sheer granite lying at a steep angle - but there are plenty of other sections on the Hardrock Trail to excite and test the skills of any mountain biker.
Skills Loop and Cloak Hill
From the car park you head out into the skills area, hone your riding skills on all grades of trail, from green to black. Look out for the steep rock (mini slab) on the black loop.
From the skills loop join up with the blue route for the long straightforward sections of raised timber trail that take you across the bogs of Richorn Plantation. Continue climbing on forest road up the side of Cloak Hill, heading towards Moyle Magic. Take a rest whilst viewing the 'Heart Stane'.
As you reach the start of Moyle Magic the view opens out, but keep your eye on the trail as it ducks and dives around the open hill before climbing into the trees. A steep snap leads to the high point before a downward rush into the open again (and a great view towards the coast if you dare to take your eyes of the trail). Continuing round the hill takes you on to the technical rocky singletrack of the Barnbarroch Loop.
Tight, twisting and rocky this classic piece of trail is challenging but never excessive, with many short step-ups, step-downs, and small rock outcrops to negotiate. Watch out for harder options near the start. The technicalities ease when you enter the Beech Wood but the effort continues as you carry on climbing. When you reach the road you’ll gain a welcome rest and another fine view.
The most talked-about section at Dalbeattie, this daunting 15-metre section of sheer granite lies at a steep angle. From the top the Slab can look terrifying – but as countless mountain bikers will say, to ride it is a thrilling experience and you'll find your heart rate starting to rise as you contemplate your choices here:
The red-graded route continues along the road a short distance to a rocky, descending traverse that is full of interest. It leads below the Slab (watch out for Slab slayers joining from the right as they can’t stop) and down to the bottom road. If, however a descent of the Slab is your goal you first have to tackle the Qualifier - a very steep drop on 'pitched' rock demanding a cautious approach.
If you pass the test the Slab awaits with a choice of entries – left is level but rutted, to the right over the highest point is bolder but smoother. Both lead to the point of no return. Weight back, feather the brakes and i’s soon in the bag - you can make it sound as easy or hard as you want later! If the Slab is too daunting for this visit take the easier (but still black-graded) bypass to the right of its crest. Either option joins back into the red route midway down.
After the rigours of the Slab the trail continues easily for a while before more singletrack, the first section tricky, the second very rough leads to a road climb. This steepens near the top and leads to the descent around Smithlands Hill. Again the view may distract you, but the going is challenging with rock, rock and more rock delivering you shaken (but not stirred) back to the road.
Barcloy Hill and The Terrible Twins
Barcloy Hill presents another black-graded option – the Terrible Twins: two slabs of granite lying at a steep angle (but not as long as the Slab) provide the technical challenge but they are easily bypassed to the right if desired.
Spooky Wood II and Jacob's Ladder
After the Twins, a stretch of forest road leads back into the dark dankness of Spooky Wood II, then out into an open woodland corridor for a fast run down to Jacob's Ladder. This one goes down not up. It’s tricky at the top and requires caution until the lower paved section is reached where you can ease off the brakes again.
Rock don't Roll
More fast, easy forest road and a lovely flowing singletrack section of the blue route leads to Rock don’t Roll. The gradient is quite level and this trail is best attacked as hard as you can until some giant boulders block the way ahead. They require momentum and balance to clear successfully.
A spell on forest tracks will have you hungry for more singletrack and technical challenge - and The Instigator will not disappoint. The easiest line is on flowing trail through an interesting area of rocky crags with nothing more than a square-edged stepdown near the end, but the black-graded options of Log on Log Off, Shaky Jakey and The Eye of the Needle are there to tempt you. These are all tricky log rides off to the side of the main trail, linking together some of the rocky outcrops and you need to be confident of your skills before attemping them. If in doubt, try the long log ride at ground level towards the end of the section and leave the others for another time.
You’re well on the way back now and only Volunteer Ridge and the final section of twisting trail are left to take you back to the car park.
Here a final black grade option presents itself, so assess your performance so far and if confidence is still high you may wish to attempt the narrow ridges and rock steps that branch off to the left. Alternatively, just speed on by and back to the start.