Ahh, there’s nothing like waking up at the trailhead in the morning! Camping at the mountain bike trail with friends is truly one of the greatest ways to spend a weekend, and this list should help you plan your next summer or fall adventure.
While many mountain bike trails may offer primitive backcountry camping nearby, the picks on this list won’t necessarily leave you roughing it. Most offer drinking water, fire pits, toilets, and in some cases, even showers. And don’t forget your lights–many of these trails allow night riding.
Buffalo Creek (Colorado)
The mountain bike trails in the Buffalo Creek area are some of the best in the US and lucky for you, there’s also a campground located just off the trail with running water, vault toilets, and grills for cooking. Ride a loop on the Green Mountain trail, stop for lunch, then head down the Colorado Trail to Shinglemill or Gashouse Gulch.
Tsali (North Carolina)
The campground loop at Tsali in western North Carolina is well maintained and there’s even a shower house with flush toilets and running water in summer. Since the trails alternate between horse and bike use, you’ll want to stay at least one night so you can ride all the trails!
Santos in Florida is another spot with an excellent campground attached to even more excellent mountain bike trails. The campground features showers and flush toilets plus a general store within walking distance for picking up extra supplies. The local mountain bike club also puts on a big spring break fat tire festival in March each year complete with camping, demos, and food.
Warner and Oowah Lake Campgrounds (Utah)
Camping in Moab? Take our advice and drive past all the RV parks on the main drag and past the primitive campsites off Sand Flats Road to the cool, lush Warner Lake or Oowah Lake alpine campground. At the Warner Lake campground you’ll find less than 2 dozen campsites and also a small cabin that’s available for rent. The best part: when you wake up you’ll be close to the top of the Whole Enchilada and an even shorter pedal from the start of Hazard County. From there, it’s a mad rush as you drop down to Kokopelli’s, UPS, LPS, and finally Porcupine Rim. Just be sure to arrange a shuttle back up to your campsite.
Henry W. Coe State Park (California)
Henry W. Coe State Park (known to locals as Henry Coe or just Coe) features at least 9 miles of official singletrack but many, many more miles of fireroads and trails to explore. In fact, it’s easy to get lost at Henry Coe, so be sure to bring a map, and plan on staying for at least a couple days. Henry Coe also happens to be a major proving ground for Specialized mountain bikes, as their HQ is just across highway 101 from the park. Each of the 19 park campsites features a picnic table and fire ring and there’s a central bath house with flush toilets and sinks.
Dirt Rag holds their annual DirtFest at Allegrippis and with good reason: 30 miles of undulating singletrack plus a campground right on the lake. Bring your bike, boat, and swimsuit to take advantage of everything Allegrippis has to offer!
Big Bend State Park (Texas)
Big Bend State Park is, like the state of Texas, massive, and while there may not be a lot of singletrack, there are dozens of miles of jeep and gravel roads to explore the rugged environment on your mountain bike. The Big Bend campground features drinking water (a big plus in the desert!) and sites are just $5-8 per night. This is adventure, Texas-style.
Pinckny State Recreation Area (Michigan)
Mountain bikers will know it as Potawatomi, but the Pinckny State Recreation area has more to offer than just singletrack (though that would have been more than enough). The 24-ish miles of trail includes tech challenges and sustained climbs, while the Pinckny campground features running water, electricity, and “modern restrooms.”
I got a chance to camp and bike at Switchgrass last summer and was blown away at the quality of both the singletrack and the campground. The trails are officially world-class with a recent IMBA Epic designation, and the campground facilities include showers, flush toilets… and very few crowds during the week. Plus, you’re on a lake, which makes for a refreshing place to cool off after a hot ride!
Bent Creek (North Carolina)
Asheville, North Carolina’s flagship trail system, Bent Creek, surrounds the scenic Lake Powhatan Campground. But if you want to camp at this popular campground, you’re going to have to plan ahead–Lake Powhatan fills up regularly on weekends with beautiful weather. It’s easy to see why: complete with bathrooms, showers, potable water, and other amenities, this campground is the perfect place to stage several days of MTB adventure on the neighboring 30+ miles of perfect singletrack.
There are so many great places to bike and camp that we couldn’t include them all here. If you’re still looking for something a bit closer to home, here are a few more options:
Tanasi’s Thunder Rock Campground (Tennessee)
Levis Mounds [primitive camping only at trailhead] (Wisconsin)
Montana de Oro State Park (California)
Pocahontas State Park (Virginia)
It’s no coincidence many of the trails on this list are also among the most popular in the US. Clearly, camping and mountain biking is a great combination!
Your Turn: Where’s your favorite place to camp and mountain bike?