An Expert Guide to the Best Mountain Biking in the U.S.Published on 05/19/2023 · 7 min readPlanning some epic mountain biking trips for this summer? Put these spots on your list! Cycling Expert Alex Dolan lists 10 of the best mountain biking areas!
Looking out across the Blue Ridge mountains. Photo by Amy Boissonneault
Is there any better way to explore a new place than via mountain bike? It can take you across mountain ranges, deep into national forests, and across the entire country; it can also zip through alleyways, make pit stops at local pubs, and do it all with zero carbon emissions!
The United States offers some of the best mountain biking experiences in the world, with various terrains, climates, and landscapes. From the forests of North Carolina to the deserts of Utah, there is a destination for every type of mountain biker. In this article, I’ll be taking us on a mountain biking tour across the United States of America. Along the way, I’ll highlight some of my favorite and most famous trails in America and pick out some of my favorite pit stops along the way, so let's GO!
1. Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz is a coastal town with a mild Mediterranean climate, making it an ideal year-round destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. In addition, Santa Cruz is known for its redwood forests, which provide shade and a stunning backdrop for mountain biking.
The terrain features a mix of singletrack, fire roads, and technical descents. The trails range from beginner-friendly to advanced, with options for all skill levels. The trail system is extensive, and riders can choose from over 200 miles of trails, with various challenges and terrains. Santa Cruz is an excellent destination for riders who enjoy technical descents and challenging climbs.
2. Pisgah Ranger District, NC
The Pisgah Ranger District is located in the Appalachian Mountains, with a temperate climate allowing year-round mountain biking. The scenery is breathtaking, with waterfalls, streams, and forests providing a stunning backdrop. I was raised in North Carolina, so it has a special place in my heart. With 100% bias, the Appalachian Mountains have some of the best mountain biking in the world.
Pisgah is a must-visit destination for experienced mountain bikers looking for a challenge, particularly if you live on the East Coast. The trails feature technical singletrack, steep climbs, and exhilarating descents. Pisgah is known for its rooty and rocky terrain, which can be challenging for some riders. However, its terrain is rugged and steep, with plenty of opportunities for technical riding.
The Pisgah National Forest is a much broader region that includes “The Ranger District,” so make sure you are specific when coordinating a meeting location. After, head into Brevard for a post-ride beer and small-town vibes.
3. Galbraith, WA
Galbraith is located near the city of Bellingham, making it easily accessible to mountain bikers from Seattle and Vancouver. Galbraith is known for its well-maintained trails and flowy descents. The terrain is varied, with options for all skill levels. The trail system features a mix of singletrack, flow trails, and technical descents. It is extensive, with over 50 miles of trails to explore.
Galbraith is an excellent destination for riders who enjoy flowy trails and technical features. In addition, multiple access points to the trails are surrounded by friendly neighborhoods on the outskirts of Bellingham, giving it a communal feel.
4. Moab, UT
Moab is known for its breathtaking scenery, with towering red rocks and canyons providing a stunning backdrop. Additionally, Moab is located in the desert of southern Utah, with a dry and hot climate that makes it ideal for winter mountain biking. It’s an excellent destination for experienced riders looking for a challenge.
Moab is a desert paradise and a mecca for mountain bikers, with some of the most iconic trails in the world, including the Slickrock Trail and the Whole Enchilada. The trails feature slickrock, sand, and technical terrain, with options for all skill levels. The terrain is technical and demanding, with plenty of opportunities for adrenaline-pumping descents. In addition, the Colorado River runs close to town and flows through the red rock landscape, making it a great place to take a dip or float between rides.
5. Dupont State Forest, NC
Located in North Carolina, the Dupont State Forest is known for its flowy, intermediate-level trails. The area is accessible by car and is located near Asheville Regional Airport. It’s a great place to ride for any level of rider.
The Dupont State Forest is located in the western part of North Carolina, with a temperate climate that allows for year-round mountain biking with incredible trails: featuring a mix of singletrack, fire roads, and technical trails. The forest offers over 80 miles of trails, including the popular Ridgeline Trail. This area is technically considered a rainforest, so be prepared to get wet. The trails typically drain quickly, leaving tacky dirt that is great for riding.
6. Sun Valley, ID
Located in the high alpine of Idaho, Sun Valley is a popular destination for mountain bikers who enjoy a challenge. The region features various trails, including downhill, cross-country, and freeride options. Sun Valley is known for its steep descents, challenging climbs, and stunning alpine scenery. The area boasts more than 400 miles of singletrack, 30 lift-served trails, and a vertical drop of 3,400 feet. It's best suited for experienced riders who enjoy technical terrain and can handle steep drops.
The town of Sun Valley itself is also a popular destination for vacationers, with plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops to explore after a day on the trails.
7. Fruita, CO
Located in western Colorado, Fruita is a popular destination for mountain bikers looking for a desert riding experience. The region features a variety of trails, from beginner to advanced. Fruita is known for its desert riding experience, with technical terrain and slickrock sections that challenge even the most experienced riders. It features More than 100 miles of trails, including the iconic Kokopelli Trail and the Lunch Loops.
In addition, Fruita is a charming destination with plenty of restaurants, breweries, and bike shops.
8. Leavenworth, WA
Located in Washington State, Leavenworth is a popular destination for mountain bikers who enjoy a mix of terrain, including alpine singletrack and forested trails. The region features a variety of trails, from beginner to advanced, and has more than 30 miles of trails, including the popular Freund Canyon and Ski Hill trails. Leavenworth is also known for its stunning scenery and charming Bavarian-style town.
9. Berm Park, NC
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Canton, North Carolina, Berm Park is known for its technical trails and progressive features.
If you are a fan of the Youtube legend “Seth” from Berm Peak, you may have heard about Berm Park: the mountain bike skills park largely funded by fans of the channel through Patreon. Located at Chestnut Mountain (among the Blue Ridge Mountains), near Canton, the bike park offers big wooden features and a meticulously maintained singletrack. The park is a nice contrast to the rugged and remote trails characteristic of the area.
10. Deschutes River, OR
Located in Oregon, the region is known for its scenic beauty, surrounded by pine forests. It is about 30 minutes form the Bend Airport depending on traffic. The city of Bend is a hub for outdoor adventurers, artists, and free spirits.
The Deschutes River trail system offers 20 miles of scenic trails. The trails offer a mix of terrain and challenges, from rocky singletrack to fast, flowing sections. Most riders only need front suspension to take on the trails in this area.
Honorable Mention: Whistler Bike Park, British Columbia
Quick facts: Whistler has a relatively short summer season from June to September. Whistler is located about a two-hour drive from Vancouver, which has an international airport.
Whistler is known for having some of the most extreme downhill mountain biking trails in the world. It is home to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, which has over 80 trails and is accessed by two gondolas. You're going to want a full-suspension downhill mountain bike for this one. It is considered by many to be the best bike park in the world.
Each mountain biking destination offers something unique and different for bikers of all skill levels. So whether you're looking for a challenging technical trail or a scenic ride, these regions have something to offer.