The U.S. has no shortage of great mountain biking rides. From north to south and coast to coast, we’re spoiled with miles of twisting routes offering scenic, varied trails for adventurous riders of all levels. Here, we run down 10 of the most fantastic places for an awesome MTB ride. Where will you go next?
Monarch Crest Trail
Location: Salida, Colorado
About: Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, this 35-mile intermediate-level trail starts above the treeline at around 11,300 feet in elevation. From there, the climbing is minimal (just 2,300 feet) and the descents generous (about 6,000 feet total). Along the way, you’ll see panoramic vistas of alpine meadows, forests, and some of Colorado’s tallest peaks. Two pro tips: Scope a map beforehand, as there are multiple routes you can take on portions of the descent, and make sure to plan your ride during a snow-free season-July and August are your best bets.
Palo Duro Canyon
Location: Canyon, Texas
About: Billed as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” this historic, sprawling land mass features more than 10 trails covering 15,000-plus acres. Pay the $5 park entrance fee to pedal atop red claystone and white gypsum as you travel the same routes once used by Native Americans, buffalo hunters, and pioneers. The signature trail is Lighthouse, a 5.4-mile novice-friendly path that weaves around the vibrant canyon walls and across sandy creek beds. For a more challenging singletrack with technical sections, check out the 6.2-mile Givens, Spicer, & Lowry Running Trail (also open to bikes).
DuPont State Recreational Forest
Location: Brevard, North Carolina
About: Essentially one big playground built for mountain bikers, the 10,400-acre DuPont State Recreational Forest houses nearly 100 miles of bike trails charting through dense forests, past riverside waterfalls, over slickrock (a rarity in the east), and atop granite domes. For a fast, flowy downhill ride, try the 6.3-mile Ridgeline Loop. For a more challenging and visually varied ride, try the 6.3-mile Slickrock Loop that traverses Big Rock Traill (a step, technical climb), Cedar Rock Trail (a moss-lined path to a sprawling summit), and Burnt Mountain Trail (an easy- to intermediate-level loop).
McKenzie River Trail
Location: Eugene, Oregon
About: You may forget the outside world when riding this 25-mile singletrack through old-growth forest, across streams, and past cascading waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes. Though the trail is mostly downhill, this isn’t a beginner-friendly ride. The upper end contains technical challenges-mainly, sharp volcanic rock fields-and the lower part is primarily flowing forest gliding. Fair warning: A swim in the trail’s namesake river may seem appealing, but it’s cold-as in high-40s-to-low-50s cold. It’s also dangerous (and potentially deadly) if you jump in from the surrounding cliffs, so stick with a bankside toe dip.
The Whole Enchilada Trail
Location: Moab, Utah
About: This really is the whole enchilada, and then some. The 33-mile journey-consisting mostly of challenging downhills for a total combined 8,000-foot drop-includes an alpine mountain singletrack, high-altitude evergreen forests and aspens, and a final push through the Utah desert. Pedal extra carefully during the Porcupine Rim section, where the exposed trail wraps around a sandstone cliff. You’ll know you’ve made it through when you catch a glimpse of the snaking Colorado River as you descend toward the canyon floor.
Mohican State Park MTB Trail
Location: Ashland County, Ohio
About: This 25-mile path, Ohio’s longest singletrack, loops the Clear Fork Gorge charting through both the 1,110-acre state park and adjacent 4,525-acre state forest. The first 20 miles are a mix of flowing singletrack and climbing plus the occasional technical challenge (think logovers and bridges). Along the way, keep an eye out for the park’s signature gnomes tucked into a tree-they’re typically between miles 7 and 8. Around mile 20, you’ll come across rock gardens and pumptrack-like stretches of trail that continue the rest of the way before you traverse one last bridge that will spit you back onto the road.
401 Trail Loop
Location: Crested Butte, Colorado
About: In a state rife with fantastic MTB routes, this 13.6-mile loop through the Central Rockies tops the charts. You’ll wind your way around alpine lakes, atop a snowfield, and through aspen groves while soaking in pinch-me views of Colorado’s rugged Elk Mountains. The primarily singletrack trail-good for advanced riders-includes short-yet-tough climbs (made tougher by the fact that you’re more than 2 miles above sea level), steady downhills, and several switchbacks. Make the trip in midsummer to see the kaleidoscope of knee-high wildflowers that explodes on the mountain meadows.
Double Oak Trail at Oak Mountain State Park
Location: Pelham, Alabama
About: Also known as the Red Trail, this 22-mile rolling loop in Alabama’s largest state park caters to intermediate-level riders. The tight singletrack (and occasional doubletrack) course varies topographically, covering gnarly rooted sections, rock gardens, sand pits, difficult uphills, and steep downhills. Ride the whole loop and you’ll cover about 1,600 feet of combined climbing. It’s easily accessible through the park’s campground, in case you want to make your trip an overnight bikepacking experience.
Harold Parker State Forest
Location: Andover, Massachusetts
About: This central hardwood, hemlock, and white pine forest, comprising more than 3,000 acres about an hour’s drive north of Boston, is home to 30-plus miles of old wood roads and singletracks of varying difficulty. For a moderately challenging route, follow the trail from Harold Parker Road, which circles four ponds. You can also cruise south of the road that loop around north of Field Pond. Whatever route you select, be sure to bring a map-once you’re in the woods, the labyrinth of options can get confusing.
Location: East Burke, Vermont
About: You’ll need to purchase a $15 day pass to access this sprawling trail system, but once inside, the quality and quantity of routes is impressive. Options abound for all types of riders, from the old cart roads and doubletrack trails for beginners to the tight, fast, flowing singletracks for riders of varying abilities. Head to Darling Hill (as picturesque as it sounds) to access a cluster of trails that wind on wooded paths. If all these options overwhelm you, stop at the welcome center on your way in for a customized recommendation from the staff.
Tahoe Rim Trail
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada and California
About: The 168-mile Tahoe Rim Trail wraps the entire perimeter of Lake Tahoe. On the route, which has varying terrain appropriate for all levels of riders, you’ll see unparalleled views of the shimmering lake and the wildflower-dotted alpine meadows, waterfalls, and various peaks and vistas that surround it. Though wheels are welcome on much of the trail, certain portions are off-limits to bikes and will be noted with signs along the way. Consult a map beforehand to learn exactly where you can and can’t pedal.
Mescal Mountain Bike Trail
Location: Sedona, Arizona
About: Don’t let the short distance fool you-this 2.4-mile one-way route is expert-level only. Most of the path traverses a continuous slickrock edge, with certain portions that demand riding off-camber and exposed moves. But the scenery is seriously worth it. On a sunny day, you’ll pedal under deep blue skies past striking red rocks and panoramic views of Sedona. Per a biking guide with the local Enchantment Resort, spring and fall are the best times of year to ride, with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to the mid-70s.
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