Chase Trails

Can I hire a bike?

If you don’t have a bike, you can hire one from Cannock Chase Cycle Centre, at Birches Valley. They offer a range of hire bikes and demo bikes as well as buggies or ‘tag-a-long’ bikes for children. Booking is highly recommended and you’ll need a deposit and ID to hire – see their website for more information. Note that Cannock Chase Cycle Centre is closed on Wednesdays.

What do the trail grades mean?

All the trails at Cannock Chase use the green, blue, red, and black grading system. Each trail is signposted with coloured arrows and the Forestry Commission’s grading panels. These are as follows:

Green: Easy. Suitable for: Beginner/novice cyclists. Basic bike skills required. Most bikes and hybrids. The green route can take trailers.
Blue: Moderate. Suitable for: Intermediate cyclists/mountain bikers with basic off road riding skills. Mountain bikes or hybrids.
Red: Difficult. Suitable for: Proficient mountain bikers with good off road riding skills. Suitable for better quality off-road mountain bikes.
Black: Severe. Suitable for: Expert mountain bike users, used to physically demanding routes. Quality off-road mountain bikes.

If you’re unsure which trail to choose, pop into Cannock Chase Cycle Centre and speak to the staff there – they’ll be able to recommend the right trail for you.

How much does parking cost and when does the car park close?

Parking costs and opening times are available on the Forestry Commission website (these can be found under ‘Visitor Information’). Part of the car park income at Birches Valley goes toward the mountain bike trails! Apart from the parking cost, the trails are free to ride and open all year round.

Where can I get a map?

Cannock Chase Cycle Centre stock two maps – one showing the XC mountain bike trails and another showing the green/blue walking and cycling routes. There are also information boards at the start of the trails, and all routes are signposted.

You can also download maps from the Forestry Commission website.

Facilities? Cafe, bike wash, etc?

  • Grounds Café Birches Valley Cafe serves sandwiches, paninis, toasties, soups, cakes, and ice cream, plus hot and cold drinks. Open 7 days a week.
  • Cannock Chase Cycle Centre have a bike wash available for a small fee until around 16:30. Closed on Wednesdays.
  • Birches Valley does have toilets, but unfortunately there are no changing rooms or showers.

What trails are accessible for disabled riders?

The answer to this question will of course vary depending on what type of bike or wheelchair you use – so if you’re unsure please get in touch and we can help you out in more detail. This is just a quick guide as to what you can expect on each trail.

First of all, Birches Valley Forest Centre car park has disabled parking spaces on both tarmac and gravel. Access to the Grounds Cafe is paved and there are no steps between the car park and cafe.

Cannock Chase has four different trail grades. These trails are not paved and at a minimum you will need to be able to get around on unpaved gravel paths, with a wheelchair (or similar) designed for off-road use.

Green: There are two green trails on Cannock Chase – the Route to Health (1 mile), and the Fairoak Trail (2.5 miles). Both of these feature very wide gravel paths, and are mostly flat though do feature some gentle gradients. The Fairoak Trail does feature a stream crossing through around 10-15cm of water (at F1 on the map), however this can be avoided if necessary – instead of turning left through the water crossing, follow the path a bit further on and you’ll see a path running next to one of the Fairoak Pools on your left. There are also large boulders you can walk across (and not get wet), though these have large gaps between them so they aren’t very wheelchair-friendly.
Blue: The blue route is 7.5 or 12.5 miles long, depending on which route you take. The trail is a similar wide gravel trail to the green routes. However, it’s longer, has some steeper climbs, three road crossings (national speed limit roads), and two water crossings. The water crossings are similar to the Fairoak Trail – around 10-15cm deep with stepping stones to get across on foot – though on the blue route they’re unavoidable if you want to complete the full route. They’re located at S3 and S4 on the map. The blue route is bi-directional, so if these pose a problem, you could use that as a turnaround point. In which case, the best route to take is S1 -> S2 -> S3 -> S4 (this one has the best views!) or S1 -> S7 -> S6 -> S5 -> S4.
Red: The terrain on the red route is a lot trickier and extremely varied – with narrow singletrack trail, unavoidable features such as boardwalks and rock gardens, drops, steps, and so on. Some sections may be possible on purpose-built four wheel off-road wheelchairs, but we would suggest getting in touch beforehand to check.
Black: Severe. Once again, these are tricky at the best of times for able-bodied riders, so these are not suitable for disabled riders. Our black sections are very narrow, very technical, and very rocky.

What should I do in an emergency?

All the marker posts (usually at the start of each section and near technical features) have emergency information on them, including the grid reference, nearest hospital, and emergency contact numbers. In case of an emergency you should contact the ambulance service and, if possible, Cannock Chase Cycle Centre and/or the Forestry Commission. Both numbers are listed on the emergency info posts.

For the downhill trails at Stile Cop, there are marker posts located at the top and bottom of the hill – these show the same emergency information including the post codes, grid references, etc.

Will my bike be stolen?

Unfortunately, due to our location we’re a target for thieves and they do hang around, even in winter. We’d recommend always locking your bike up (or have a friend stay with it) when visiting the cafe, toilets, or bike shop. And never leave it unattended in or on your car! Put it another way – if you spent £500 on a bike, would you leave £500 cash lying around on a table unattended?

Both the Grounds Café and Cannock Chase Cycle Centre provide locks if you need one while you’re having a bite to eat or shopping for shiny new bike parts – just ask for a key from a staff member if you need it.

Are there any local pubs or places to stay?

The two closest pubs to the XC trails are The Horns Inn and The Chase. The closest pub to Stile Cop is The Chetwynd Arms.

For accomodation, Follow the Dog passes through Tackeroo Caravan Site, or if you’d prefer to stay in something a little more luxurious, have a look at Cannock Chase District Council‘s website for a list of nearby accommodation, or try the usual places (Trivago, Booking.com, AirBnB etc).

Note: With the exception of Cannock Chase Cycle Centre, Birches Valley Cafe and the Tackeroo Caravan Site, Chase Trails and the Forestry Commission do not endorse or recommend any of these businesses, organisations, or events and the provided links are for information only.