Vernon's gravity playground
Photography & Words: Andy Vathis
Not far off the I-87 buried in the northern tip of New Jersey state, lies Mountain Creek Resort and Bike Park. The mountain itself is located in Vernon, a small town in Sussex County that is primarily rolling hills and agriculture. The grounds are roughly 167 acres of skiable terrain, however only the main peak is currently being used for chair accessed trails with eventual plans to expand. Mountain Creek also hosts one of the country’s first water parks. Action Park opened its doors in 1978 with slides integrated into the forest and other natural features. Much of the success to this destination is thanks to its proximity to the bigger North-Eastern U.S. cities. The resort is an hour’s drive from New York City and 60kms from Newark Liberty International Airport with many shuttle services available from both.
When thinking of New Jersey, most assume the shore as an obvious destination but looking inland, beyond the turnpike, can very well be just as exciting. Along with the riding and waterpark, there is the famous Appalachian trail if you’re into hiking that runs through the north end of the town. There are also a couple of diners and steakhouses worth checking out that come with an authentic Jersey attitude. Fun fact – you can sing karaoke every night of the week somewhere in Vernon if you choose to.
Mountain Creek Bike Park
Mountain Creek has been passed through a few hands since 1999, and with that came a few hardships and identity changes. After a fire and suspended operations, Clay Harper and partner Shawn Orrechio proposed and leased the land from the then owners and created Diablo Freeride Park in 2003. The Diablo days saw a slew of high-profile events, the birthplace of the U.S. Open series, and of course growth in the mountain bike community for the area. It was known to be hardcore with drops and rocks everywhere. Eventually, in 2012, the resort took back the land, restored the name, and with that began cutting trails that would cater to a much larger demographic of riders with the help of George Ryan as lead trail builder and machine operator. The history of the bike park is truly embedded in the town. Along with George, other veteran pros, such as Aaron Chase, Lars Tribus, Eric Porter, Jurgen Beneke, and Jeff Lenosky to name a few, made their marks there early in their careers.
If you're into something a bit bigger, Covenant is just the trail for you. Bigger drops and Cannon jumps.
It's easy to hike laps of the three big and perfectly sculpted tables in Lower Dominion since the jump line runs parallel to the fire road.
Mountain Creek has always featured rocky terrain and recently now added a freeride flavor. When Hugh and the crew took over in 2012, beginner and intermediate trails were the main focus. The gnar is alive and well but now everyone can ride the mountain. George has shaped a handful of trails that encourage progression all the way to the top.
Hugh Reynolds, VP of Marketing and Sales and Park director, and Clay Harper pinned in the perfectly sculpted berms.
George Ryan is no stranger to the Mountain Creek community. He was a member of the race team at 17 years old before competing professionally in downhill, slopestyle, and in dirt jump competitions. He’s now the head of the Trail Crüe and continues to shape the future of the park.
Jeff Anderson, one of Mountain Creek's main trail crew, picking his lines through the rocks.
If you're looking for a good time in the boulders, check out Bushwack and Exodus and keep your speed up.
A Glimpse of the Resort
I guess you can say Mountain Creek Resort has been in good hands since 2012 when Hugh Reynolds took over as Bike Park Director and George Ryan began on the trails. The park is certainly catering to every level of rider. Whether you're just starting out or need some help, bike camps are run all summer long to help you meet your goals. The rock gardens are properly technical and the flow tracks will have you in the air most of the way down. Once you're done with your ride, you can check out the water park or the town. Vernon is said to be the Vermont of New Jersey and it sure welcomes you in that sense. There's the Mixing Bowl diner to give a try and don't forget the Dairy Swirl ice cream shop. The mountain is always changing and adapting to give its visitors the best experience this side of NYC with a great riding community to go with it. Come for the perfect lips and landings, stay for the karaoke.
Need a bike for your visit or a tune on your current rig? Visit the bike shop for all your needs.
Long before the bike park days, Mountain Creek's only summer attraction was its unique water park which opened in 1978. Most of its slides and pools were built into the side of the mountain with a concrete base through the trees. Now, only the lower portion of the original rides are still in operation offering a number of options and even a cliff jump area. It's a great way to cool off with friends and family.
The Dairy Swirl is definitely a place to check for that post-ride reward. It's just a couple minutes down the road has tons of flavors and specialties.
The Biergarten is ready to serve your meals and post-ride cold ones. It is also the meeting place for podiums and karaoke after some fun at the Thursday Night Race League held, you guessed it, every Thursday on a section of trail picked the day of.
Mountain Creek Bike Park mountain biking trails
Local KnowledgeGetting Here:
Mountain Creek is located in the northwest corner of New Jersey. Just an hour’s drive from New York City and easily accessible from most points in the northeast. It’s an easy hour and fifteen minute drive from Newark International Airport to get to the resort with many companies offering daily shuttle service to and from the airport. Bike Shops and Repairs:
Mountain Creek offers a full-service bike shop where you can purchase any riding gear you may need to replace or items you may have forgotten, as well as downhill mountain bike and equipment rentals. Their bike mechanics are always at the ready to assist with any unexpected repairs that may come up during your riding day. Additional shops in the area include: Ridetopia
(Vernon), Sussex Bike Shop
(Sussex) and Ride Bike Shop
(Andover).Lessons & Tours:
The certified instructors of Mountain Creek Bike School offer a full range of lesson and private coaching options daily. The resort also hosts monthly women’s and kid’s beginner and intermediate downhill skills clinics. See a complete list of lessons and camps here
. Food & Drink:
The Biergarten services Mountain Creek Park guest’s food and drink needs daily. This outdoor patio bar and grill offers burgers, sandwiches, salads, tacos and like for lunch as dinner, as well as seasonal selection of more than 40 craft beers and ciders. If you’re looking to head off property while visiting check out [L=https://www.penningscidery.com/]Penning’s Farm [/L](Warwick) or Warwick Valley Winery
(Warwick) for food, drink and live entertainment. If you’re looking for an authentic Jersey breakfast experience, head over to the Mixing Bowl Restaurant
(Vernon) and say hi to the girls. Where to Stay:
Mountain Creek offers onsite accommodations at the Appalachian hotel and Black Creek Sanctuary condominiums. Additional lodging in the area includes: Minerals Resort & Spa (Vernon), Holiday Inn Express (Newton) and several smaller motels and bed and breakfasts to fit all budgets. Campers should check out Toye Recreation (Vernon) or Waywayanda State Park (Warwick). Local Mountain Biking and Clubs:
Outside of the Bike Park, there are numerous options to get your pedal on at anyone of the many cross-country trail networks within a 30 minutes drive of the resort. Some notable riding locations include: Jungle Habitat (West Milford), Waywayanda State Park, Kittatinny State Park and Port Jervis Watershed Trails. In addition to cross-country riding there are two pump tracks within a short drive from the resort, the West Milford Pump Track and the brand new Port Jervis paved pumped track. Learn more at: JORBA
and Outdoor Club of Port JervisNon-Bike Activities:
Besides riding there are tons of other great things to do in the Vernon area. Mountain Creek Waterpark
offers 20+ rides, slides and water attractions for hot bikers or families to enjoy. Golfers can catch 27 holes at Great Gorge Golf Course
or you can challenge yourself at Treescape
Aerial Adventure park on their 100+ high ropes obstacles. If fishing is your thing, the Vernon Valley offers some of the best freshwater fishing in New Jersey including the mountain top lakes and nearby Black Creek and Waywayanda Creek.
For more information, visit mountaincreek.com
Presented by Mountain Creek Resort