Pitfichie Forest mountain bike trails, or as they are sometimes known - Whitehills Cycle Trails, covering the flanks of Pitfichie Hill and the adjacent Cairn William are another Forestry Commission success.
There are two way marked cross country trails, a very challenging downhill course and a host of unofficial trails and routes to explore responsibly. Testament to the challenge of the downhill course, if any were needed, is its frequent inclusion in the Scottish Downhill Association's championship series - only one of the half dozen or so that they use.
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 before you head up Tillyfourie Hill on a fire break road. As the hill flattens out the road forks right. Take this and continue to you meet the blue route at a Tee junction.
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.
The white route is the longer (roughly 9 miles) but easier of the two waymarked routes. It leads the cyclist around the lower edges of the forest and around Cairn William and Pitfichie Hill, mainly on fire break type roads. There are some sections which tend to be muddy in wet weather. You are rewarded with great views of the Vale of Alford, Bennachie and the valley towards Monymusk.
These trails (3 in total) lead off the white cycle route - look out for the Red chevron way markers. Pitfichie red routes tend to be singletrack, and are more demanding than the white route; testing both your fitness and your bike handling skills as they take you onto the hill tops of Cairn William and Pitfichie. From these hills you'll have excellent views of the surrounding countryside. The new red cross country trail takes you off the fire break roads on to mainly smooth fast trail with a few fairly tight bermed switchbacks, a steeper section over some large granite blocks with a few small drops.
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.