Trails for Everyone in Rockwood Park

The team discussing the next trail to explore in Rockwood Park under a blanket of fog.

Saint John’s Rockwood Park is a mountain bike destination you won’t want to miss. From smooth wide gravel trails to rocky, rooty ribbons of singletrack, Rockwood Park caters to all manner of two wheeled travellers. 

Rockwood has everything you need for a complete mountain bike experience

Located in the Port City of Saint John, Rockwood Park has been a fixture of mountain biking in the Maritime Provinces for the better part of three decades. Hosting over 50km of trails, a skills park, and a whole host of other amenities, Rockwood has everything you need for a complete mountain bike experience. 

Chuck Sutton, Laurie Robichaud and Sean Driscoll discussing the Mackay Skyway trail in Rockwood Park.

Chuck Sutton, Laurie Robichaud and Sean Driscoll discussing the Mackay Skyway trail in Rockwood Park.

 

Like the emergence of so many other grass roots trails, Rockwood’s trails began with the efforts of riders seeking to fill a void in their community. These riders however, were not riding bikes. It was the equestrians that first blazed trails through the forest of Rockwood Park. It was the 1970s and mountain biking hadn’t completely found its way into Marin County, let alone Saint John. 

Fast forward to the 1990s when the park saw a second surge of trail development – this time with mountain biking in mind. With an ever-growing network of trails and wooden structures popping up all over the park, Rockwood became a hub for mountain biking in Saint John. As the years rolled by, the park saw a steady increase in both the number of trails and riders. As such, the city began to take a more active role by recruiting the park’s resident naturalist, Emilie Murphy to oversee trail development and maintenance in the park. Taking a proactive approach, Emilie met with members of the mountain bike community to discuss the potential for moving forward in a sustainable fashion. From this relationship, the Saint John Cycling Trail Miners were born and have been working with the city as trail stewards in developing and maintaining the now 50kms of park trails.  

Sean Driscoll rounding a corner on the Mackay Skyway trail at Rockwood Park.

Local rider, Sean Driscoll, rounding a corner on the Mackay Skyway trail at Rockwood Park.

 

In addition to mountain biking, Rockwood Park hosts plenty of other opportunities for outdoor recreation. Covering 2200 acres and home to a significant lake system, paddleboarding, swimming, fishing, climbing, and trail running are all activities to compliment your ride. And if you’re visiting with young riders, there’s a huge multi-structure playground, horse stables and a UNESCO Stonehammer Geopark site to keep little ones entertained while you’re out shreddin’ the gnar.

Fisher Lakes were manually dug out by prison inmates

The history of the park is as varied and diverse as the trails that run through it. Designed in the mid 19th century by Calvert Vaux, one of the planners for Central Park in New York, Rockwood Park was first approached experimentally in an effort to see what would attract users. Originally an unsightly bog, the 5 lakes comprising the Fisher Lakes were manually dug out by prison inmates and early park offerings included such attractions as a Ferris-wheel, merry-go-round, and a giant wooden slide down which wooden boats would plummet, skimming onto the lake below. In the pre climate-change era of the early 1900’s, the park hosted two International Speed Skating Championships in 1923 and 1926. Athletes from as far away as Finland came to Saint John to compete on the world stage.

destination for oldschool trails featuring plenty of chunk and gnar

Long known as a destination for oldschool trails featuring plenty of chunk and gnar, the introduction of new school, machine built trails, has made the park a destination for riders of all abilities. From beginners to advanced, riders can enjoy Rockwood’s trails while advancing their skills to the next level through progressively more challenging and diverse terrain. With a wide range of trail difficulties, technical trail features, wooden structures, a pump track, and the aforementioned skills park, Rockwood allows riders to build their skills in a safe and progressive fashion.  

Putting lights on bike helmets as we prepare for a sunrise ride in rockwood park.

Local rider, Shaun Wilson, sets up lights for an early ride in Rockwood Park.

 

Trails can be accessed from countless spots around the park. If travelling with young riders, enter off Mt. Pleasant Avenue and park at the stables. Here you’ll find easy access to the Saint John Cycling Skills Park, Kiwanis Play Park as well as the trailhead for Millenium Falcon – one of the park’s newer beginner level machine built flow trails. 

the park hosts plenty of opportunities to keep even the most seasoned riders entertained

If riding with your crew, options for trails increase significantly as Rockwood plays host to an abundance of more advanced trails. From old school jank to new school gap jumps, the park hosts plenty of opportunities to keep even the most seasoned riders entertained. Classics like Sweetness and Carnage come to mind as must-do trails but other notables include Mama I’m Comin’ Home, Mackay Skyway, It’s Gotta Go, Bunny Rampage, Our Compliments and for those looking for a bit more heat, Skywalker provides plenty of spice. For 2021, Rockwood has plans for even more trails. With funds raised by Saint John cycling, Shoreline Dirtworks will be back to the park building new gravity trails to add to the mix.

As Saint John’s uptown core lies just moments from the park, choices for pre and post ride food and bevy abound. Start your day with a dark and delicious beverage from Rogue Coffee. Postride, the Pomodori-Picaroons combo has become an apres favourite for delicious wood-fired pizzas and locally crafted beer. Place your pizza order at Pomodori before settling in to Picaroons General Store for locally crafted suds while you wait. The two locations are conveniently located in adjacent spaces and cater to both kid-toting and beer-swilling patrons alike. Had enough pizza on this road trip? Britts Pub and Eatery has become a goto spot in the city with locations both right in the park at Golf Rockwood as well as in the city’s uptown. Barring those options, head down to the waterfront where Market Square’s boardwalk hosts yet another full selection of options for dinner and drink.

Bikes and Picaroons Beer in Saint John NB

Saint John Cycling Trail Miners enjoying the post-ride scene at Picaroons in Saint John NB

 

To add, no visit to Saint John is complete without stopping by the City Market. Designated a National Historic Site in 1986, the Saint John City Market has been a fixture in the Port City since the 1870s. With countless vendors serving up all manner of delicious lunch fare, produce, meats, cheese and artisanal offerings, the city market is worth dropping by.

a destination catering to all riders and their families

Saint John has you further covered for all your maintenance and gear needs when visiting with bikes. Both Bike Works and Hayward’s Bike Shop are located close to the park while Bikes and Beans and Millennium Cycle and Sport are located east on your way out of town in Quispamsis. And if you’re looking for mountain bike instruction or a tour of the trails, be sure to hit up Be Rad Adventures to further hone your skills or to help you find your way.

 

The team discussing the next trail to explore in Rockwood Park under a blanket of fog.

Rockwood Park has been welcoming mountain bikers to its trails for the better part of three decades. With huge improvements in trail infrastructure and a full complement of related amenities, the park has grown into a destination catering to all riders and their families. The park, coupled with all the city has to offer is well worth incorporating into your next road trip through Atlantic Canada. When you next find yourself in New Brunswick, drop by the Port City and put your tires to dirt in Rockwood Park. 


Contributed by Chuck Sutton, Advisory Committee Member and Community Advocate for Mountain Bike Atlantic

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