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Technical trail obstacles are the difference that separates mountain bikers from road bikers, sort of in the same way that opposable thumbs separate humans from, say, turkeys. Of course not all mountain bikers enjoy technically challenging trails, but for those who do, we put together a list of some of the most technical MTB trails the USA has to offer!

For this list we surveyed Singletracks members and asked this simple question: “What is the most technical MTB trail you know of?” The answers tended to cluster around a few spots, which makes us think a good follow-up article could be about the top destinations for finding gnar. But for now, here are the trails Singletracks members report are the most technical in the USA:

Farlow Gap (Pisgah Forest, NC)

Leafy rock drop. Photo: Foxlake64.

Leafy rock drop. Photo: Foxlake64.

The Singletracks team recently spent a long weekend in Pisgah, and during our uber-challenging Laurel Mountain / Pilot Cove ride, we asked our extremely fast and capable guide, Megan, which trail in Pisgah she thought was the most technical. Her response: Farlow Gap. Well, it turns out Singletracks readers agree, and they mentioned Farlow Gap more than any other trail in our survey. This trail drops 2,000 feet in just 3 miles and is littered with rocks and roots pretty much the whole way down. The second part of the descent, down Daniel Ridge, is no picnic either.

For the record, Megan said she thought the Laurel Mountain / Pilot Cove ride was the second most technical ride in Pisgah.

Portal Trail (Moab, UT)

Talk about exposure! Photo: paradix

Talk about exposure! Google Earth screenshot from paradix

There are a number of factors that make a mountain bike trail “technical,” including things like the width of the trail, steepness, the size of rocks and roots, man-made features like ramps, and exposure. That last factor, exposure, is on full display on the Portal Trail in Moab. Even if you’re not familiar with the name of this trail, you’ve probably seen a photo of the (very real) sign on the trail that states, “Dismount now! Do not attempt to ride the next rock. 200 foot cliff. Three riders have died here.”

The Portal Trail is a part of the Mag 7 trail system and features plenty of rocks and vertigo-inducing exposure, if that’s your thing.

Dakota Ridge Trail (Denver, CO)

Photo: James S

Photo: James S

The Dakota Ridge Trail is located just outside of Denver, making it a popular destination for many riders. But don’t let that accessibility fool you! Dakota Ridge features insanely-chunky rocks, steep climbs, and ridge line exposure on both sides of the trail. I’m sure there are folks who can ride the whole thing but most mortals will walk some–or heck, most–of this trail.

Blackjack / Raspberry Ridge (Pine, CO)

Photo: Michael Paul. Rider: Mark.

Photo: Michael Paul. Rider: Mark.

Blackjack and Raspberry Ridge are two short connector trails within the Buffalo Creek trail system near Pine, CO. Buffalo Creek is one of my favorite trail systems in the world, and many others enjoy it as well due to the number of expansive, flowing, XC-style trails available. But Blackjack in particular is best described as anything but XC-style or flowing. The technical highlight of the trail is a feature known as the Slot Machine, a 20-ish-foot rock waterfall with lines that are as slotted as they are steep.

True story: Greg and I rode Buffalo Creek a few years ago, shortly after the Blackjack and Raspberry Ridge trails opened. When we got to the “Slot Machine” we surveyed the line, and I quickly decided I wasn’t going to attempt it. But Greg really wanted to ride it. He even went so far as to make a few approaches before stopping short. Finally I told him not to attempt it if he was hesitant in any way, because I didn’t want to be the one dragging his potentially-broken body back to the road!

Click here to read about the next 4 uber-technical trails!

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# Comments

  • Greg Heil

    Pretty stoked on these survey results! I’ve ridden 5 of the top 8 and yes, they’re gnarly! I personally wouldn’t have included Captain Ahab on a “most technical” list, but it definitely IS technical, and as you noted in your conclusion, lots of people ride (or have heard of) the trails mentioned above. The more obscure ones that might be certifiably insane? People tend to avoid those 🙂

    • John Fisch

      I agree. I have ridden six of the eight and also wouldn’t put Ahab in league with the others. When I rode Ahab for the first time this spring, I somehow blew right by that “Caution, Walk Your Bike” sign without even seeing it. I knew it was out there, but once in the flow, I somehow whizzed by without noticing it. It wasn’t until I merged back onto the bottom of the original Amasa Back route that I realized I had missed it.

      To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t put Porc on this list either. It has spooky moments on account of the occasional exposure, but as for what’s actually under the knobbies, it’s hard to find that as challenging as most others on the list. As much or more fun, definitely, but not quite as challenging.

      Other great high-tech routes I’ve encountered include:
      Arizona — Phoenix — South Mountain (Mormon, National, Geronimo)
      Arizona — Tucson — La Milagrosa
      Colorado — Colorado Springs — Palmer Park (Templeton)
      Colorado — Salida — Arkansas Hills (Uncle Nazty)
      Maryland — Frederick — Frederick Watershed
      Missouri — Blue Spring — Landahl Preserve
      Nevada — Boulder City — Bootleg Canyon (the downhill routes)
      Utah — Moab — Flat Pass
      Utah — St George — Zen Trail
      Virginia — Strasburg — Elizabeth Furnace

    • Greg Heil

      This is a great list!!

    • wilsonm73

      Great list John. Having just ridden Mormon in AZ, that’s a great trail. One that I rode a few years ago is Raider Ridge in Durango. I ride Dakota Ridge regularly and this was harder. I think Free Lunch in Grand Junction and Pucker Up fit on here too. Greg showed us Vitamin B, that thing is killer too.

    • Greg Heil

      Surprised you found Raider’s Ridge harder than Dakota Ridge. Guess I need to go ride Dakota again (it’s been like 8 years since I rode it), but I rode Raider’s Ridge at enduro race pace, sight unseen, a couple years back in the BME with no issues. Maybe now I’ll be able to clean Dakota?!

    • wilsonm73

      Maybe I am just used to Dakota. After riding Vitamin B with you I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t able to clear it. You’re a better rider than I am. I rode Raider Ridge by myself from the newer singletrack switchbacks. There were times I wondered if I had wondered off the trail. Maybe I did and raised the level of difficulty? We’re going back again in September so I’ll ride it again. Could be my impression was off.

    • Greg Heil

      Nah could be totally valid. And again, it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden Dakota, so (hopefully) I’ve gotten much better since then!! I really need to get back there and ride it again 🙂

    • John Fisch

      Wilson,
      I thought about Free Lunch but ultimately decided against it since it really is a dedicated freeride trail. If I was to consider all such routes, then nothing that didn’t have huge air or deadly gaps would make my list. When I think of techy trails, I think of actual trials rather than collections of man-made stunts. Although Free Lunch is kind of unique in that regard since it isn’t prepared jumps so much as it is incorporation of natural features, so maybe it belongs after all, even by my preferred criteria.

    • wilsonm73

      Sure John that makes sense and is a good division between man made and natural. I think its similar to Black Jack in some ways where they mostly used the natural features. Pucker Up below Free Lunch has a few more man made things but again its mix like you said. Good list and alternates.

    • Smoke4ndmears

      The ‘shed. Oh yes 🙂 Home!

    • Rusty Garduno

      Yeah those (certifiably insane) are what I’m looking for.

  • Alpine rider

    done most of them by view! and you call them techy rides?? come on guys come in the Alps and you ‘ll see what techy terrain is really like!!

    • wilsonm73

      By view? Google translator fail? You know what they say, video or it didn’t happen.

  • Michael Paul

    With the exception of Farlow Gap I’ve done all of these multiple times and they are truly a gut-check. I’ve done a few on the #9 list too, and would add that a Holy Cross to Pucker Up to Free Lunch would be one of the most technical trails you can encounter with natural features. Hoping to get the guts to do Psycho Rocks this weekend while in CB with a legit DH bike..but we’ll see 🙂 The lower half of Hall Ranch in Lyons is also a respectable trail, and there are so many to mention in Moab the list would have to be a lot longer (Dave’s trail comes to mind). You could make the argument for several trails in NM to be on this list. It’s fun to explore areas like this and continually try to ride them…after riding Blackjack a few times I can clean everything except for the 8 ft drop (and yes, the first couple times I backed away from the Slot Machine too, Jeff, only to realize later that it is actually one of the easier features out there–ha!)

  • k2rider

    I’ve done 4 of the 8…Moore Fun, Porcupine Rim, Captain Ahab & Hangover. Of those, Hangover was by far the toughest. I’ve seen videos of the The Portal Trail and I will NOT be attempting that one anytime soon. Just based on the photos, that Dakota Ridge trail look just like the type of trail that eats me alive.

  • Joshua Ziemski

    How is French creek, PA not here? I have ridden some of these in Arizona and Colorado and found French creek to be more technically difficult!

  • williedillon

    I’ve done Black Mountain, but I don’t recall if I’ve done Farlow Gap. Reading this makes me want to ride it, though!

  • trollanski

    Sounds like ya’ll can do some travel. Might want to include Juneau Ak. on your list. If you can ride East Glacier trail clockwise with 0 dabs, you have ascended to the GODS. Throw in an out and back on Nugget Creek in the middle of it for truly epic tech-grar. Makes Moab (scenic-boring) look like child’s play. You can forget cleaning this trail if its wet (whole seasons this way some years…) as the stairs wont dry out enough to slow down btwn the sections. This trail has been ridden clean. Lenoski, if you read this bring your lighter setup as the climb is consistently steep. Thanks for word on the trails to hit now that im in the lower 48!

  • Jim Cummings

    I think people confuse technicality with difficulty. I would rate Captain Ahab as superbly technical and Moore Fun as technically inept.

    • Jim Cummings

      The most difficult trail I attempted in the US was the Canyons Downhill in Park City. Technically it was garbage – just an unimaginative series of very steep rock falls.

    • dieter_be

      Doesn’t technical mean difficult? Can you elaborate? Thanks

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