The Ardennes landscape is what mountain bikes were made for. Its endless forests and deep valleys carved out by fast-flowing rivers offer a multitude of mountain-biking trails, including long-distance itineraries and beautiful paths and trails in Belgium, France and Luxembourg, plus events such as the Grand Raid Godefroy, the Roc d’Ardenne and the Semoy Enduro, which are peaks of the sport in the Ardennes.
1. Luxembourg, land of mountain-biking
Luxembourg has a network of 700km of waymarked mountain-bike trails. For example, in the East of the country is the Mullerthal, an area of irregular landscapes which are great for mountain-biking. The region is irrigated by streams and rivers which have carved out deep valleys, characterised by fantasmagorically shaped rocks. To explore the Mullerthal, we were particularly drawn to two waymarked circuits at Beaufort and Larochette., which really get away from it all. The steep slopes with sandstone outcrops give the the Mullerthal an Alpine character. This mosaic of rivers, deep valleys and windswept plateaux was made for mountain-biking. The diversity of landscapes and the dense network of paths and trails make the Mullertahl a veritable Eldorado for mountain-bikers. You could join them there this summer.
Waymarked trails: The Mullerthal has four waymarked mountain-bike trails at Bech, Beaufort, Echternach and Larochette.
2. Kaul Bike Park
The Kaul Leisure Centre in Wiltz has a bike park, as well as a skate park and a watersports area. From the launch ramp, there are three circuits of increasing levels of difficulty. It's a fun recreational space that's ideal for budding mountain-bikers to perfect their riding techniques. From Wiltz, several waymarked mountain-bike routes lead to local trails or the long-distance RAVeL cycle path towards Bastogne.
3. The 5 mountain-biking hotspots in the province of Belgian Luxembourg
The province of Belgian Luxembourg offers infinite opportunities for mountain-biking. Here are our five special favourites.
47.6km long, it climbs to one of the highest points in Belgium, La Baraque de Fraiture.
La Croix Ranson
18.7km long, it runs along paths through the huge Gaume forest.
Grand Raid Godefroy circuit
A circuit for real fans, at 40.5km long, it follows part of the famous Grand Raid Godefroy race course.
A 42.4km trail that plunges you deep into the Saint-Hubert forest.
22km along trails demanding considerable skill that have given Houffalize its reputation as the capital of mountain-biking.
Access: From the centre of each village
Level of difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Location: Vielsalm, Houffalize, Bouillon, Nassogne and Etalle in Belgium
4. La Baraque de Fraiture Bike Park
ADEPS (the Walloon Region's PE, Sport and Outdoor Activities service) has teamed up with the highly-experienced and successful BMX rider Arnaud Dubois, to create this new BMX bike park. Dubois worked with designer Fabrice Bastin to create this 360m circuit, with an 8m change of levels. You can attain a good speed while riding it thanks to its bends covered in asphalt which gives a good grip. It feature 12 obstacles and three raised bends, and demands a good technique.
The electronic start system conforms to the UCI's standard and so the track can host international BMX competitions. BMX is a brilliant way of learning riding technique that can be used on a mountain-bike. Coupled with the recent renovation of the waymarked mountain-bike trails at Lierneux and Vielsalm, the presence of the BMX track and its neighbouring trial zone has made La Baraque de Fraiture an unmissable spot for cycling.
5. Electric mountain-bike trek
This accompanied 4-day circular trek travels from Houffalize, to La Roche-en-Ardenne, to Champlon, to Nadrin and back to Houffalize. Participants face the challenge of an exhilarating ride with breathtaking views. With its deep valleys and steep hills, the trek offers little respite to those who take up its challenge. But the game is certainly worth the candle: each kilometre opens another page of the region's book of images, including sumptuous panoramic views of the River Ourthe, as you cross some of the most beautiful countryside in Belgium.
Price, from €425 per person, including daily luggage transfers from hotel to hotel, an accompanying guide for the four days, hotel accommodation with dinner and breakfast and a picnic lunch each day. Departure scheduled for 22 April 2020.
6. Mountain-biking across the Ardennes on the GTA (Grande Traversée de l’Ardenne)
The GTA takes riders across an ancient mountain range where magnificent rivers flow and majestic forests grow. For mountain-bikers, it's best to split it into stages: two of these give a typical flavour of the route. One in the North, 102km long, which links Malmedy to La Roche-en-Ardenne, is not waymarked but is available as a GPS file.
The other, in the South, 170km long, links La Roche-en-Ardenne to Bouillon and is waymarked. The Ardennes, ranging from Malmedy to Bouillon is an inexhaustable reservoir of freedom and will endlessly enchant you. Set aside a few days for these journeys at the heart of the Ardennes. You will see that a real adventure can start and that mountain-biking will feel different for ever.
7. Mountain-biking trails in the Ardennes Regional Nature Park
Between Charleville-Mézières and Givet, the River Meuse crosses the French Ardennes in delightful meanders: a promised land for hikers and mountain-bikers! In the Meuse and Semoy valleys are 22 well-maintained and waymarked mountain-bike trails, developed in collaboration with the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
The 350km trail that links Givet to Nouzonville, glides over the arabesques of the Meuse and the Semoy, between steep cliffs and huge beech forests. Although some parts are deliciously easy, others are very physically demanding. Spread out along the route are five specialist hostels, offering welcome breaks for mountain-bikers.
8. The Semoy Enduro
Welcome to the land of the Semoy where life flows to the rhythm of the wild river. The region hosts a high-level mountain-bike race, the Semoy Enduro. Roc-la-Tour, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the region, is where you'll also find one of the most difficult stages of the race, where the road becomes a track that demands considerable technical skill to ride. Steps are followed by hairpin bends that are difficult to negotiate. From steps over rocky outcrops the track runs over tree roots and huge granite boulders.
These exceptional trails led to the creation of the Semoy Enduro, one of the most technically demanding tests of mountain-biking skill. It will be held on 13 and 14 June and brings together more than 350 riders. On a course over 65km long, they must go through 12 time-trial sections and changes in altitude of 2,500m: a worthy challenge for the most skilfull!
9. La voie vive
This "Lively Way" is 27km long and runs from Rocroi, with its star-shaped fortifications, to Montcornet, a stone colossus which rivals Bouillon Castle for strength and power. From the Harcy woods, it runs next to the sparkling waters of the Vieilles Forges lake, set in the middle of a huge forest. A ride along this trail is to sniff the scent of adventure: these trails are the soul of this countryside.
At Renwez, our wheels lead us to the Forest Museum, which bears vibrant witness to the lost occupations of charcoal burner, clog-maker and animal-skinner. A few kilometres further on, the intimidating fortress of Montcornet comes into view on the horizon. The trail ends here, but could be extended to the banks of the Meuse and the Trans-Ardennaise green route if time permits.
10. Le Bannet mountain-biking space at Givonne/Sedan
100km of waymarked circuits! From the wide meadows of the Meuse valley at Sedan, you can glimpse far away the Ardennes hills where you'll find the Le Bannet Leisure Centre, ideally located surrounded by greenery. There are many trails available here for all tastes and for everyone. We pick one intended for mountain bikes which takes us to Olloy, a former frontier post surrounded by forests.
Today's peace and quiet contrasts with the frenetic activity that would have been seen here in the nineteenth century when the train disgorged its cargo of tourists who had come to experience the charms of a forest walk or simply to enjoy a beer in one of the cafés.
The journey to Bouillon from Sedan by train took two hours along a tortuous route. The train also served the industries in the Givonne valley: the ponds and millstreams along the trail bear witness to them. From the former railway station, the trail dives into the lost valley and has remained wild and isolated. Animal tracks are mixed with footprints. Alternating shade and daylight depend on the whether the tree canopy is conifers or broad-leafed trees, the forest around Givonne offers us a wide variety of biotopes.
Here, we feel like we're riding through a huge wild garden that is a sensual pleasure. The path running along the river bank is a marvel and has remained wild.
11. Mountain-bike circuits in the Pre-Ardennes ridges
14 mountain-biking circuits criss-cross the South of the département. From Thiérache to the outskirts of Argonne, these trails cross a landscape steeped in history and a rich heritage. We leave Venderesse and ride for 19km across open countryside. La Domaine, an enclave in the Elan, La Cassine and Mont-Dieu forests, remains one of the most beautiful destinations in this less-well-known region of the pre-Ardennes ridges.
These wooded hills herald the Argonne Forest ("argonne" means "land of woods" in Celtic) which is one of the most beautiful in France. It's a real pleasure to ride along next to the estate's ponds and past the Romanesque church at Malmy: serenity and fullness are what we feel as we ride along to the song of skylarks. As we approach the ruins of the sixteenth-century Château de la Cassine, we realise how sumptuous this residence of Louis Gonzaga, father of Charles Gonzaga who founded the city of Charleville, must have been. At the height of its splendour, the immense French-style garden extended towards the Ardennes canal.
12. La Ferme Libert Bike Park
Created for ski-ing in the 1970s, the dry ski slope at La Ferme Libert was converted in 2020 to a bike park, that has been a real success judging by the crowds of users having such a good time there. Located in the hills above Malmedy, it attracts riders from Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France each weekend who have fun at one of the most beautiful bike parks in Belgium.
The bike park has four DH (downhill) tracks, mixed with bump fields, banked bends and a pump track. Each rider chooses the track that most appeals to them, whether they be a beginner who uses the cross-tracks to avoid the most striking zones, or a more experienced rider who wants jumps, like the wooden bridge thrown across an impressive void! The park is open to all, free of charge. If you want to use the mechanical lift, you need to buy a card for €10. The La Ferme Libert Bike Park demystifies the lesser-known DH mountain-biking discipline.
Everyone can come and ride here without limits. A great idea would be to come with a group of friends to try DH mountain-biking, and to get the adrenaline flowing…
13. At the foot of the Fagnes
Compared to the inhospitable Fagnes plateau, mountain-bikers find in Sart-lez-Spa a completely different atmosphere at the foot of the plateau. Villages have developed there and people living in the meadows and forests has changed the wild landscape. Many streams and rivers have their sources on the high plateau, and flow off it at speed, forming valleys and canyons. The four waymarked mountain-biking circuits at will introduce you to this majestic setting.