The top 9 mountain bike destinations in the United States are, at this point, widely known. This widespread knowledge is thanks in large part to lists like ours detailing the best places to ride across the nation. The thing is, this list doesn’t really change from year to year. Generally speaking, the best just keep getting better–the singletrack-rich towns get a massive influx of tourism revenue and in turn, they build even more trails.
But that doesn’t mean that the small guys, the startup MTB destinations, are destined to lurk in obscurity. No, many long-time mountain bikers have already ridden most, if not all, of the destinations on our top 9 list over the years. While traveling to 9 destinations flung across the country may seem daunting, when you start looking at your mountain bike career in terms of decades instead of months, it seems much more attainable.
To keep your MTB travel thirst slaked, we started digging to find out what the next 9 best mountain bike destinations are that you need to add to your bucket list. Consider these destinations numbers 11-20, if you will.
Quite honestly, building this list was much more difficult than creating the first top 10 list. While some destinations were shoe-ins since they were in the running for the initial top 9, others required some soul-searching about what exactly makes a mountain bike destination national-caliber versus simply regional-caliber. But in the end, we asked ourselves the question, “would I fly across the nation to ride here?” The answer, for every single one, was yes.
These next 9 destinations haven’t been ranked against each other and instead have been listed in reverse alphabetical order:
St. George / Hurricane, Utah
While it takes close to a half an hour to drive between St. George and Hurricane, they aren’t far apart as the crow flies and together, these two towns create one of the greatest mountain biking destinations in the desert southwest! Here in the southwest corner of Utah you’ll find “fantastic quantity and consistent quality across a great variety of singletrack and slickrock, all in the shadow of magnificent Zion National Park,” according to Singletracks contributor John Fisch.
This area of Utah is home to the biggest pockets of fundamental Mormons anywhere, so don’t expect much out of the beer scene. However, according to DMBTA, the bike legal singletrack totals at least 120 miles of seriously entertaining trails. And in my experience, the views from the tops of the mesas are second-to-none.
- Gooseberry Mesa: 30 miles, advanced
- Little Creek Mountain: 20 miles, advanced
- Guacamole Mesa: 10 miles, advanced
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is renowned as an art mecca and a foodie’s paradise, but it also ranks high on most mountain bikers’ bucket lists. According to the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society, the county is home to about 175 miles of bike-legal singletrack trails, with most of that singletrack being ideal for the classic “trail” rider. While there are a couple of shuttle rides, most notably Winsor (accessible via a $5 bus ride), the majority of the singletrack consists of pedal-driven trail systems of intermediate difficulty. With an elevation of 7,000 feet in town, many of the low trails are dry all year ’round, with the trails higher in the mountains only being accessible mid-summer.
“What Santa Fe has that no other prime destination has is the quality and variety of the food,” says long time local and Singletracks contributor Bob Ward. “Nothing comes close. I am so missing the Southwest-style fare, but it is also home to perhaps the best burger in the world. Seven months back in California and I have yet to find a burger that is even close.”
- Winsor Trail: 10 miles, intermediate
- Dale Ball Trails: 30 miles, intermediate
- La Tierra: 15 miles, intermediate
The Arkansas Valley in which Salida lies is home to one of the most diverse climate zones imaginable, compressed into an extremely small area. You can literally begin pedaling above treeline in the high alpine (maybe even off the top of one of the 14,000-foot peaks) and end in the desert environment on the valley floor. Thanks to this diverse ecosystem, there’s always great singletrack to be ridden–in the middle of winter, or during the heat of summer.
During the winter, you’ll be treated to rocky, sandy desert trails that alternate between bermed-up flow lines, uber-technical rock drops, and boulder-filled gardens. During the summer, steep climbs lead to flowy high alpine trails and eventually, vision-blurring descents filled with endless rock gardens and challenge.
Within a 45-minute drive of downtown Salida (it takes over an hour to get to a town bigger than Salida) you’ll find over 500 miles of excellent bike-legal singletrack, plus thousands of miles of jeep roads and doubletrack, if that’s your thing. With three major long distance trails intersecting in Salida, as well as a slew of bikepacking race routes (including the Tour Divide and Race Across America), this small town nestled in the Heart of the Rockies functions as a hub for all things mountain biking.
- Monarch Crest: 35 miles, advanced
- Arkansas Hills: 20+ miles, advanced
- Canyon Creek: 20 miles, advanced
Oakridge is a sleepy mountain town in the middle of nowhere that has transformed “from ‘Heart of the Timber Empire’ to ‘Mountain Bike Capitol of the Northwest,’” according to Benjamin Beamer, long time local and board member for the Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards (GOATS). According to Beamer, Oakridge is home to over 300 miles of bike-legal singletrack, most of which can be classified as classic backcountry trail. Indeed, while many trails begin and end in the town of Oakridge, in moments it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, pedaling deep below the canopy of the massive forest.
While there isn’t much in the town of Oakridge to support mountain bike tourism, you will find two separate shuttle companies (Oregon Adventures and Cogwild) and a massive MTB festival by the name of “Mountain Bike Oregon.” Also, Oakridge is home to a quality local shop and some good brews (see below), but don’t expect to be brewery hopping like you can in nearby Bend.
- Alpine Trail: 20 miles, intermediate
- Middle Fork Trail: 20 miles, intermediate
- Waldo Lake: 22 miles, intermediate
East Burke / Kingdom Trails, Vermont
Mountain biking in East Burke is synonymous with the Kingdom Trails trail system, home to “110 miles of cross country trails for all levels of ability,” according to Executive Director Tim Tierney. Generally the Kingdom Trails offer flowy singletrack with perfectly-sculpted berms and rollers, but you can find some more challenging sections as well. The greater East Burke areas is also home to the Burke Mountain downhill park, although whether or not the Burke DH park is still open depends on which day you check the news.
Tim expounds on the facilities available at the Kingdom Trails network itself:
“We have many group lodging facilities that have catered to the MTB crowd, including several restored post and beam barns. We have trailhead showers and bike shops. We also have an on-the-trail backcountry food cafe on the weekends. There is a tiki bar with 27 taps and a farm-to-table food truck, as well as several other quality restaurants at [the] central trailhead. Also a bike shop/craft beer cafe at another midway location.”
- Kingdom Trails: 110 miles, intermediate
- Q Burke Mountain Bike Park: 10 miles, advanced
Durango is one of the original mountain bike towns, hosting the first-ever UCI mountain bike world championships, and is home to one of the oldest mountain bike shops (Mountain Bike Specialists). According to the local advocacy group, Trails 2000, there is over 300 miles of trail accessible within 30 minutes of downtown Durango, with that number rapidly growing as you draw the circle wider and wider. That 300 miles contains everything from dry, deserty in-town trails to high alpine singletrack above treeline. The incredible diversity is similar to that found in Salida, just a bit more spread out.
Fort Lewis College in Durango is one of the most esteemed MTB race programs in the nation, consistently producing incredible athletes. Add in over 20 trailheads located right in town, a BMX track, skate park, bike paths, a new bike park in the works, six bike shops, five local breweries (recommendations below), shuttles and guiding, and much, much more, and Durango can easily compete with the top 10 destinations are on our original list.
- Colorado Trail: Kennebec Pass to Junction Creek: 20 miles, advanced
- Telegraph Trail System: 20+ miles, intermediate (notable sections exceed)
- Hermosa Creek Trail: 19 miles, advanced
Yet another town that can easily square off with any of the locations on our top 10 list, Downieville is a favorite destination for mountain bikers all across California. According to Greg Williams of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, “There is currently over 150 miles of multiple-use singletrack in the Downieville area, including the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. We have plans to add an additional 30+ miles to the Downieville Trail System by the year 2020.”
Most people know of Downieville due to the Downieville Downhill route, and the race by the same name (the entire festival is known as the Downieville Classic). If you want to sample the goods, show up for the festival, or grab a shuttle any time the trails are snow-free at Yuba Expeditions.
- Downieville Downhill: 16 miles, advanced
- Pauley Creek: 18 miles, advanced
- Big Boulder Trail, 5 miles, expert
Breckenridge / Summit County, Colorado
Widely known for some of the best skiing in the nation, Summit County is also home to a seemingly endless array of incredible high alpine singletrack. While we’ve selected Breckenridge as the epicenter of this destination, you can easily ride between the towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, Silverthorne, Keystone, and (if you’re feeling adventurous) Leadville and Copper, on singletrack. When questioned about the actual number of singletrack miles in Summit County, it was tough for the Summit Fat Tire Society to put a number on it, as it’s difficult to know where to stop drawing the circle. According to the Society, Summit County has about 250 miles of singletrack inside its borders. However, on Singletracks we count at least 812 miles of mountain bike trails within a 25-mile radius of Breckenridge, making it the #1 mountain bike destination ranked by the Singletracks database!
Long story short: however you slice it, Breckenridge has an incredible array of mountain bike trails!
Factor in multiple skills progression bike parks and pumptracks, dirt jump parks, lift serviced DH trails, and everything from low-lying beginner trails to mountain top-scaling black-diamond singletrack, and the variety available in Summit County is staggering. As for amenities, there are more than you could begin to enjoy in a month of vacationing (see below for highlights).
- Colorado Trail: Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge: 33 miles, advanced
- Peaks Trail: 9 miles, intermediate
- Keystone Resort Bike Park: 20 miles, advanced (notable sections exceed)
Bentonville, Arkansas has exploded onto the mountain biking scene with a massive influx of trail building funds from the Walton family. IMBA has gotten completely on board with this trail development, choosing Bentonville as the location for their 2016 World Summit. As of press time, there are currently “210 miles of soft-surface trails” in Northwest Arkansas, according to Bentonville Tourism. Of those 210 miles, a whopping 52 of them were built last year (2016) alone.
Ready to have your mind completely blown? On top of the current 210 miles of trail, there “are nearly 100 miles of soft-surface trail planned for development over the next 18 months.” Yes, over the next year and a half Northwest Arkansas plans to increase their singletrack mileage by 50%!
Plans are all well and good, but according to our contributor Scott Cotter, Bentonville doesn’t need any more trail to qualify for this list. “Bentonville has really come roaring onto the scene with about 100 miles rideable from town (which has great food/beer, a cool paved trail circling the community, and awesome art),” said Cotter. “Also, within half an hour to 45 minutes you can find tons more trail to ride of all types–dirt jump parks, trials, downhill, and enough cross country to eat up days and days of your well-earned time off. Some of it gets pretty remote.”
- Slaughter Pen: 18 miles, intermediate (notable sections exceed)
- Blowing Springs: 7 miles, intermediate
- Mt. Kessler: 10 miles, advanced