Beginning January 1, 2010, anyone bicycling or riding horses on trails in any of Virginia’s 19 State Forests is required to have a valid State Forest Use Permit. The permit is required for persons aged 16 years or older where these activities are allowed.
Permits are not required on State Forest roads that are open to motor vehicles.
Anyone caught without a valid Forest Use Permit may be ticketed and convicted of a misdemeanor.
Forest Use Permits (currently $16) may be purchased wherever hunting and fishing permits are sold, or through the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Virginia State Parks do not require this permit.
According to State Forests Manager Gary Heiser, the Forests with the greatest bike use are Conway and Matthews in the Galax area. Other Forests get little or moderate use by bicyclists.
“Cumberland State Forest, 17,000 acres, has a 16 mile multi-use trail, and Appomattox Buckingham State Forest, 20,000 acres, have a lot of potential for mountain biking, but are somewhat remote from population centers and there has been only sporadic bike use,” says Heiser.
It is these lightly-used Forests that we’re most concerned about, as word about the new permit might not get out to local cyclists.
The Department of Forestry website has a map of Virginia State Forests. Click on the location of each Forest to get more information about it, including general location and driving directions. If you’re riding your bike off-road in the vicinity of these State Forests, you should figure out where the boundaries are so you don’t get caught out without a permit.