Pitfichie Forest Mountain Bike Trails
Pitfichie Forest mountain bike trails, or as they used to be known - Whitehills Cycle Trails, covering the flanks of Pitfichie Hill and the adjacent Cairn William are a Forestry Commission success.
Lots of imagination, and hard work, have gone in to make the Pitfichie mtb trails some of the best mountain bike trails in Aberdeenshire, especially the red routes.
There are two way marked cross country trails, a suicidal downhill course and a host of unofficial trails and routes to explore.
Testament to the challenges presented by Pitfichie, if any were needed, is the inclusion of trails in the Scottish Enduro Series and the frequent inclusion of the downhill course in the Scottish Downhill Association's championship series.
The way marked trails offer two grades of riding, both challenging but one that wee bit harder than the other.
The car park at Whitehills is the best start point for the cross country routes. A notice board provides a last minute reminder of the routes - however you can either print off a map before you go (click on image to the left), or remember to take a photo of the map as you leave the car park.
Alternatively, consider buying one of the new active OS maps, recommended if you want to get off the way marked trails and explore a bit more of the surrounding forests including nearby Bennachie - see link on the right hand side.
Cairn William Trail
The Cairn William trail (classed as a white route) is an 11 mile way marked trail around the lower edges of Cairn William and Pitfichie Hill.
Leaving the car park you head up Tillyfourie Hill on a fire break road, and as the hill flattens out the road forks right. Take the right fork and pass the well hidden Whitehills recumbent stone circle on your left before reaching a Tee junction. Here you have the choice of completing the Cairn William route either clockwise, by heading right, or anti-clockwise by heading left.
The right immediately offers great views of Bennachie, the Vale of Alford to the east, and the Don Valley to the west. The left is the shortest way to the start of the red Granite Top Trail.
On this white route you can expect wide firebreak roads, long steep slopes - both up and down, a few grassy sections (especially behind Cairn William) that can get muddy in wet weather, and some exposed tree routes in places.
The Whitehills Recumbent Stone Circle, about a mile from the car park is a convenient stopping point for a breather. It's not manicured like many of the other stone circles in the north east so can be difficult to spot, look out for the little sign next to the trail. The circle is about 20m in diameter, however only the grey granite recumbent, its West flanker and 2 other stones are in their original positions, although a number of fallen stones remain.
Pitfichie Red Trails
There are 3 red routes: the Granite Top Trail which incorporates the Devil's Staircase is the main XC route, the unnamed trail that passes between Pitfichie Hill and Cairn William Hill, and the short climb up Pitfichie Hill leading to the Downhill course.
The Granite Top Trail branches off the Cairn William trail at marker number 16, close to the King's Stane - it's a one way route, so don't try it the other way! You are immediately on to a long, steady, strenuous climb with some rocky obstacles and slabs to negotiate. The man made descent, known as the Devil's staircase, is a great reward for the climb. Expect fast free flowing sections, tight switchbacks, and a few wee drops. At the bottom you are spat out onto the unnamed red trail. All in, the Granite Top Trail is about 4 miles long.
The Unnamed Red Trail passes between Pitfichie Hill and Cairn William Hill. It branches off the Cairn william Trail at marker numbers 10 and 13 and serves as access to the Pitfichie Hill trail, a way to return to the car park after riding the Devil's Staircase, or if you are feeling energetic a longer way to get to the start of the Granite Top Trail.
The Pitfichie Hill Trail is a short sharp climb taking you to the start of the downhill course.
Pitfichie Downhill Course
The recently improved course is worth the hard climb to the top. The first section is fast, following an old 4WD track over several sections of granite slab and purpose built jumps. It then plunges into the forest via an awesome step down, continuing through a selection of roots, rocks and berms before reaching the new bottom section. This is smoother than the top, boasting several small man made drops before another massive step down brings you to the finish some two hundred meters in elevation below the start.
The downhill trail starts from the summit of Pitfichie Hill, see Pitfichie Hill trail above for directions.