The Best Gravel Bike Trails in the North West!

Here’s a selection of some of our favourite Gravel Bike Trails on offer in the North West!

The Guild Wheel

The Guild Wheel is a Merlin Cycles local 21-mile circular route of Preston, Lancashire ridden in either direction. The route can be used as a stand-alone ride or incorporated into an all-day epic.

With entrances to the trail throughout, you can join on wherever you like and escape the traffic of Preston.

The Guild Wheel is both scenic and accessible for all experience levels, many using it as their introduction to cycling before they take on longer rides. The Guild Wheel is an ideal gravel training ground and perfect for any weekend ride with friends or family. Stops en route include Avenham Park, the perfect place for a coffee stop next to the River Ribble.

The Lancaster Canal

This Canal route gives you the freedom to ride Preston to Kendal whilst enjoying some stunning scenes. The Lancaster Canal passes alongside the coast which gives you options to veer off and visit Heysham and Morecambe.

One of the best parts about this canal is the views throughout, featuring the Lune Aquaduct, historical past of Lancaster and stunning woodlands. I’ve rode this canal throughout the summer months and thoroughly enjoyed it. Staff member Shaun took to the canal this month, but warned us beware the mud in some sections!

The Trans Pennine Trail

This trail features paths and terrain suitable for all skill levels and links both the North and Irish seas. The entirety of the route from Southport to Hornsea is around 216 miles and features many historical towns and cities. I often frequent the route around Spike Island and Hale.

You will ride alongside rivers, canals and there is many cafes and pubs along route to keep you well fuelled. Staff Member Steve has completed the route over a few days or you can choose to do a selection of it at a time. The choice is yours! But don’t miss out on an epic ride which may be on your doorstep…

Delamere Forest

Head to Cheshire’s Delamere Forest and you’ll find plenty of gravel tracks, trails and lakeside routes to explore. There are marked cycling routes which are suitable for all skill levels as well as plenty with more technical terrain.

The forest has it’s own lodges, cafe and facilities allowing you to make a full day of your riding or even a weekend break! Whether you fancy a day of chilled riding with friends or family or tearing up some of the more challenging trails there is something for everyone here!

Sankey Valley Trail

A shorter trail, than the others mentioned, but a hidden gem you shouldn’t miss if you are over in the St Helens or Warrington area.

This trail includes many well paved and mostly mud free gravel which you can cover at a decent average speed from Carr Mill Dam to The Ferry Inn near Spike Island. If you opt for a more leisurely ride there is plenty of wildlife, ponds and seating areas to stop and relax whilst you enjoy a mid ride snack. This trail also features a wide path throughout, which is always appreciated.

The Leeds to Liverpool Canal

The Leeds to Liverpool Canal, is a fantastic option to plan into your rides. Many Merlin staff use it to get off the roads for a shortcut mid route or even to use as a complete route from one end to the other!

With plenty of places to stop for a coffee, pint or ice cream, the route is often close to local amenities compared to the Lancaster Canal. The total canal stretches around 125 miles in total from one end to the other, so would make a true challenge if you hit it all in one day…

Rivington and Healy Nab

A local favourite for Merlin Staff and Customers alike. Many of us grew up riding our 26″ MTB on the trails and now more riders are seen out on a gravel bike here. With countless loops and sections of varying terrain to choose from you can have a grand day out in Rivington and the surrounding areas on your gravel bike.

With stops like the Rivington Brewery, Bowling Green, White Coppice Cricket Club and Barn Cafe nearby you have no excuse for running out of fuel mid ride… Plus there’s plenty of landmarks and views such as The Pike, Reservoirs The Pigeon Tower and Terraced Gardens to see here!

Cuerden Valley Park

This well paved and maintained park is used by many cyclists from beginners to gravel experts alike and has been part of my gravel bike commute for a couple of years now. With generous maintained paths to use throughout and woodland trails which diverge from the main areas of the park, you are guaranteed a beautiful ride. The park includes a cafe, lake (home to Herons and other wildlife) flowing streams, bridge crossings and links onto other cycle networks such as the Old Tramway Cycle Route (National Cycle Network Route 55) heading south to Preston.

If you pass through Chorley or Preston, here’s a suggested route on the map you could follow, approximately six miles, including most of the park which could be adapted into a longer gravel ride. Starting from the Whittle Le-Woods (the birthplace of Merlin Cycles) leading you to the Guild Wheel route in Preston.

Wigan and Ince Grey Hills

Wigan’s Gravel Gems? In Wigan you’ll find many old railway lines and the Grey Hills of Ince which feature many tracks to tackle on your gravel bike. You can find a few shortcuts and escape the busy rounds or simply have a break from the canal if that’s your usual route for Wigan gravelling.

Pincock Brow

Pictured here is the Weir on River Yarrow near Pincock, not far from Merlin HQ. The scenic trails are a nice place to stop and take in the scenery mid ride and definitely worth a visit! Here’s Mike’s Merlin G2X spotted at Pincock Brow!

That rounds up some of our favourite and local haunts on the gravel bike! Let us know which are favourites wherever you live! Perhaps you know some of these like the back of your hand?!


  • Alex Cowie

    Outdoor Leadership and Coaching BA (Hons) Keen cyclist, runner, and outdoor enthusiast. I have been cycling since I was very young and always had a love for the outdoors. I have completed many long distance events including ultra marathons such as the Chester 100, Berkeley Marathons UK and Gravel Century rides.

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