About 50 bicyclists took a ride through Prince William’s best kept little secret Sunday to raise money for Prince William Forest Park.
“This is a great little park,” said Louis Rowe, who rode in the annual Chopawamsic Cycle Challenge.
“It’s kind of a little hidden gem,” the 48-year-old Lake Terrapin man said.
Bikers set their own pace over the 12-mile challenge sponsored by the Friends of Prince William Forest Park. Some finished in less than an hour. Others came in a little more than two hours.
All came back smiling.
“It’s a great place for bikers because you can get out and not worry about cars running you over,” said Rowe, a National Park Service deputy for risk management.
Jennifer Cunningham, who rides her bike about once a month, came in with the bulk of the riders who started at 9 a.m. and finished at about 11:30 a.m. in her second Chopawamsic Challenge.
“It was a good ride, real good,” the 25-year-old said as she strapped her bike to a rack on a sports utility vehicle.
The riders talked of a creek crossing and a pair of hills they encountered at the end of the challenge course.
“After you hit this great splash of water, you’re going straight up hill,” Cunningham said.
“I just walked the last two hills at the end. They’re awful,” the Woodbridge woman said.
Julie Phillips, who finished in about an hour with her 14-year-old son Max Torney, said the hills at the end didn’t take away from the fun of riding through a creek.
“They’re a small pittance,” the 46-year-old Phillips said.
Max’s 12-year-old brother Emmett Torney and their father Vern Torney followed.
The family rides at other area parks.
Emmett said he prefers paved bike trails.
“I didn’t like this one particularly because it was too gravelly,” he said.
“The creek was nice,” Vern Torney said. “Nice little refresher.”
William Harris, of Woodbridge, came in a little behind Cunningham.
Harris, a park service volunteer, Prince William Forest Park cheerleader and veteran challenge rider, said people can choose between paved and unpaved trails.
The park has 14.2 miles of fire roads and about 16 miles of paved roads, Harris, 67, said.
“If you’ve got a hybrid bike or a mountain bike, this is one of the best places in the world to come out get some good exercise,” Harris said.
It costs $5 for a seven-day pass to the park. A yearly pass costs $20, Harris said.
There are free maps at the park’s visitor center on Va. 619, just west of Interstate 95 at exit 150, Harris said.
The visitor center is open daily between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Harris said.
Kevin Plasse, 36, recommends training for a couple of weeks before hitting the challenge course that begins and ends at the park’s Cabin Camp Four, off Va. 234.
“There are few hills that are pretty tough, but you can always walk ’em,” the Fredericksburg man said.
Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063