In general, mountain bike trail systems are not static entities. Most trail systems morph and change, continuing to develop over time. As we zoom the lens out, we see that even mountain bike destinations continue to grow and change, with most destinations getting better and better as the years pass.
We’ve written numerous articles about the best mountain bike destinations across the United States (and beyond), but as I talk to fellow riders about these top destinations, I often hear responses like, “I rode Moab a bunch of times back in the 90s. I’ve ridden everything there is to ride there, so I haven’t been back in 20 years.”
Oh, how wrong you are my two-wheeled compatriot! Not only have all of the top destinations in the nation changed dramatically since the 90s, but even in just the past year or two we’ve seen dramatic changes in the mountain bike landscape, with new trails being constructed all around the planet.
I’m always shocked when I hear that Moab is past its prime and that it’s time to look elsewhere for great singletrack. On the contrary, the folks in Moab build new singletrack so routinely that an annual visit to this great destination, which we chose as the Mountain Bike Capital of the United States, would yield a new trail–or even a brand-new trail system–every year.
The newest singletrack in Moab is the Rodeo trail, completed in May of 2017. This new singletrack forms a loop off the Chisholm trail, south of Horsethief Campground. Despite being just a single loop within an existing trail system, this trail is over 9 miles long–a complete ride unto itself for many people. With a beginner to low intermediate difficulty rating, this could be the perfect trail to challenge new riders with short technical stretches, and a slightly longer ride than they might be used to.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Most of the singletrack trails in Crested Butte date back decades (or longer), which is one reason why Crested Butte can claim to be one of the birthplaces of mountain biking. Due to the hundreds upon hundreds of miles of singletrack that already surround Crested Butte, not nearly as much singletrack gets built here year in and year out as it does in places like in Moab. “With the amount of trails we have, ranching and private property, along with wildlife and other environmental concerns, we don’t have hordes of new trails planned as much as we have connections and opportunities to make loops and stay away from pavement/roads,” said Dave Ochs, Executive Director of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA).
Baxter Gulch Trail
That said, one new trail that is almost complete that will form one half of a burly from-town loop is the new Baxter Gulch Trail. Currently, 5.5 miles of the trail has been completed, and it is rideable as an out-and-back. Once the snow melts this summer, CBMBA needs to finish the last 0.5 miles to connect it to the Carbon Creek Trail. Once connected to the Carbon Creek Trail, riders can then pedal over to the Green Lake Trail, which drops into downtown Crested Butte. All told, once Baxter Gulch is connected it will help form a roughly 12-14 mile loop from downtown Crested Butte that’s almost 100% singletrack.
Here’s how Ochs describes the trail:
“The trail is a bit of a beast — as in it does a good bit of climbing right off the bat. Not for the wary of climbing, she goes up! Leaving from town/trailhead, the trail needed to gain elevation immediately in order to avoid private property issues. So up and away it goes, switching back quite a bit along the southeastern flanks of Gibson Ridge in fields of aspen, remnants of the mining past, and across open fields with amazing views of Mt. Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley.
Once above the private parcels below, it traverses across Gibson Ridge, then descends into Baxter Gulch in order to cross sides of the drainage where the trail truly resides — on the lower flanks of Whetstone Mountain. From here, and now in the dark timber along Baxter Gulch itself, again the trail climbs to gain elevation in order to reach federal lands. Traversing across the hillside, bench cut trail has been tediously put in through drains and steep embankments over the course of 6 years to get to the USFS boundary and some more tame terrain to work with. 3.5 miles in you hit public lands and are staring at the beautiful flanks and talus fields of the mighty Whetstone Mountain itself.
Now the real fun begins, as the trail meanders through aspen forests, dark timber, [and] beautiful open meadows while skirting the talus fields and tree line on Whetstone. The trail then makes a final push up through the dark timber to gain the saddle itself and [a] view down on the Ohio Creek Valley.”
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Like many other destinations on this list, the Lake Tahoe area is home to a longtime classic: the Flume Trail. Nowadays, the Flume Trail might be one of the least interesting trails in the Lake Tahoe area, as the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA) has radically expanded the network with bike-optimized singletrack.
Angora Ridge Trail and Mule Deer Trail
TAMBA oversees the mountain bike trail development around Lake Tahoe, and in 2017 they “partnered with the US Forest Service to build 5 miles of brand new singletrack around Angora Ridge near South Lake Tahoe,” according to Ben Fish, President of TAMBA. “TAMBA granted funds to the Forest Service to rough cut the trails, then held more than 60 volunteer trail days with about 150 volunteers contributing 2,000 hours of trail building.”
The two new trails are known as Mule Deer and Angora Ridge. Mule Deer is a smooth trail that’s very approachable for all riders, whereas Angora Ridge is very rocky, due to following the spine of a glacial moraine. “Both trails offer expansive views of the mountain ranges, Fallen Leak Lake, and Mount Tallac,” says Fish.
TAMBA plans to build another 3-5 miles of singletrack in this same area in 2018, “by connecting from Angora Ridge to Fallen Leaf Lake. We are also taking on trail projects in Kings Beach and Tahoe City on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe along with two trail projects (Tamarack Lake and Belli Front) in the mountains between Reno and Tahoe,” says Fish.
Park City, Utah
Park City, Utah was the first destination to be granted IMBA’s coveted Gold-Level Ride Center designation. While it has since been joined by a few other destinations, gold is still a rare label, with most destinations receiving silver or bronze status, if they qualify at all. In order to stay on top, Park City has kept building singletrack, with numerous different entities contributing to the overall breadth and quality of the trail network.
Wasatch Over Wasatch (WOW) Trail
Since our previous article was published, the Wasatch Over Wasatch Trail (WOW Trail) has been the biggest singletrack development in Park City. The WOW Trail “starts in Bonanza Flats on the backside of Empire pass, and finishes in Midway at the bottom of the Guardsman Pass Road,” according to Scott House of Jans/White Pine Touring in Park City.
The trail is about 12 miles long and begins with a roughly 800-foot climb. “After that it’s close to a 2,500’ descent into the Heber Valley/Midway,” said House. “It’s a machine-cut trail but already has an incredible riding line in it. It travels through a couple different environments from aspen groves and pine forests to high desert and scrub oak forests. Lots of flow with just the right amount of tech and challenge to keep it fun for most abilities. The trail offers some of the best views you can find on a ride, including the southern Wasatch, Mt. Timpanogos, Cascade Peak, and even gets views on turns back up Snake Creek canyon and into the central Wasatch. It’s easy to shuttle, from Park City or Midway, but you could also pedal up from Park City to the top and get a ride back from Midway. At the bottom, the trail connects into Dutch Hollow, which has some fun singletrack as well.”
High Star Ranch Trail System
While technically located outside of Park City proper, High Star Ranch is a new trail system that was built by Sagebrush Trails from the ground up for mountain biking. “The uphill routes are well-graded and get you up the mountain fast without zapping your legs,” says House. “The downhill options were obviously built by people who ride bikes, with lots of line choices and fun features. It really is one of my favorite new spots to ride.”
Coming Soon: Deer Valley Flow Trail
Deer Valley Resort is planning to build a new flow trail from Silver Lake Village to the main lodge below. “This will connect the main bike park to the lower lots and will be an awesome addition to riding in Park City,” says House.
Wydaho, Wyoming and Idaho
Wydaho is a relatively large area spanning from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Driggs, Idaho (and beyond) that still manages to function as a cohesive destination. Like Park City, the trail development in this area isn’t the result of just one organization working really hard, but rather the collective achievements of all the builders and trail developers in the region. Everyone benefits from more singletrack!
Rocky Mountain Way
Grand Targhee Resort continues their never-ending trail development on the Teton side of Wydaho, and the newest addition in this area is the Rocky Mountain Way trail. This new three-mile section of singletrack connects to the Mill Creek Trail, which is a must-ride. “From the base area of the resort, you can hop on AJ’s Trail at Grand Targhee Resort and access the 3 beautiful miles [of] Rocky Mountain Way descending into Mill Creek to the Teton Canyon floor,” says Mitch Prissel, Manager of Habitat Bike Shop in Driggs. “My favorite [route] with time is climbing up from Teton Canyon on Mill Creek to Rocky Mountain Way and descending back down Colter’s Escape to Mill Creek and the Canyon below. You’ll earn it and you’ll love it. So much more can be added to this ride but this is a good start.”
On the Jackson Hole side of the mountains, the new Skyline Trail, just completed last year, offers up 7 miles of singletrack “overlooking [Jackson Hole] and the Tetons that you grunt and rally down, earning every bit of a smile,” according to Prissel. This trail can be connected to the Cache/Game network of trails, which is one of the highest-rated trails in Wyoming according to Singletracks reviewers.