Washington state is chock full of amazing mountain bike trails, though unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re a local) Washington’s northern neighbor British Columbia seems to get all the mountain bike tourism love. But travelers would be wise to consider all the excellent mountain biking opportunities Washington has to offer, including two IMBA Epics (Skookum Flats and the Smith Creek Epic) and some of the best dirt on the planet.

Much of the riding in Washington can be found in the Cascades and points west where dense, lush forests await singletrack adventurers. This part of the state is generally blessed with a coastal temperate climate which means riding happens year round at many trails, even if it’s raining. There is also excellent riding to be found in the eastern part of the state, with a notable cluster of trails in the Colville National Forest along the Idaho border.

Beyond the “epics,” here are five trails you need to check out in Washington.

Galbraith Mountain, Bellingham

Photo: Eric Brown / WMBC

Photo: Jason Matkowski

Galbraith Mountain is located in Bellingham, roughly 90 miles north of Seattle and only about 20 miles from the Canadian border. The trail system features about 50 miles of trails that have been maintained by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition¬†for more than 30 years. The best part: the trail system is accessible from downtown–no car required! Ranked among the top 20 trails worldwide by Singletracks members.

“Amazing trail system 5 minutes from downtown Bellingham. I believe there are over 50 miles of singletrack on Galbraith. The climb is not too strenuous, and there are (ride-arounds) for all the big features. Great place to ride!” -gromdog37

Duthie Hill, Issaquah

Photo: Dennis Crane

Photo: Dennis Crane

The Evergreen Bike Alliance opened the Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park back in 2010 and it’s quickly become one of the most popular places to ride in the state. Located in Issaquah, a Seattle exurb, the park has something for riders of all abilities including progressive jump lines, XC trails, and tons of skills features.

“Drenched in awesome sauce! The most fun I’ve ever had mountain biking. Beautiful park and magnificent trails. Always busy. Parking lot is on the north side (is) small (~30 cars). Busy most days to very busy on weekends. Trails for all experience levels.” -JeeBs

Buck Mountain, Winthrop

Photo: Ken Barker

Photo: Ken Barker

If you’re looking for a scenic backcountry ride in Washington, look no further than Buck Mountain. This 10-mile route takes riders along challenging singletrack high above the Methow Valley below. A fire road climb at the beginning is rewarded with incredible vistas and excellent riding to complete the loop.

Wow, such a fun trail. A short (~4 mile) ride up a fire road and then you get on the singletrack for miles of ridgeline, mostly in the sun, with some tree cover in places. Excellent panoramic views along the way. This trail is what I call a Giggler, because the vast majority of the ride I was giggling at how much fun I was having. – ryanfred

Tiger Mountain, Issaquah

Photo: Kelly Nowels

Photo: Kelly Nowels

Tiger Mountain State Forest offers a network of trails with a backcountry feel less than 30 miles from downtown Seattle. Bring your climbing legs–some of the ascents can be steep, but well-worth the effort. Riders shouldn’t miss the Preston Railroad trail, the highlight of the Tiger Mountain trail system. This is another excellent Issaquah area trail maintained by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.

“I LOVE this ride!! Preston RR gets advanced rating due to all the rocks and roots, especially when they’re wet, which is most the time. Preston RR has new section, which (is) smooth and flowing. NW Timber is intermediate except for one short section. Overall, great two hour ride!!!” -Mtn_Biker_C

Ape Canyon/Plains of Abraham, Cougar

Photo: aabiking

Photo: aabiking

Riders rave about the variety and quality of mountain bike trails in the Ape Canyon/Plains of Abraham area outside Cougar, WA. Here you’ll find backcountry riding: everything from forested climbs to volcanic formations and–on good days–incredible views of Mount St. Helens.

“Where else in the World can you ride through the blast zone of a dormant volcano and see life slowly crawling back in a high alpine ecosystem? Truly a unique experience and a wonderful, rideable, and fun trail too.” -blp99x

Your turn: What is your favorite place to ride in Washington? Which part of the state has the best riding?

# Comments

  • Chris Daniels

    Cold Creek/Thrillium. SW Washington just NE of Vancouver 30-40 minutes from town. Singletracks lists this area as Pyramid/Sturgeon Rock. The trail is actually called Tarbell which is an epic 25+ mile loop. The topo map for Pyramid/Sturgeon only highlights half the loop (the less ridden half). Cold Creek and Thrillium are on the west side of the Tarbell loop and are both a freaking riot! How are the topos generated? I see there are dashed and highlighted portions… Love to see an update on this place. Thanks Jeff!

    • Jeff Barber

      Based on your description, I’m thinking you should add a separate listing for Cold Creek/Thrillium. Pyramid/Sturgeon only lists 10 miles which seems like it’s really just covering a portion of the 25-mile loop.


      Topo maps are based off GPS data collected by members and the background tiles (I believe the dashed lines you’re referring to) are licensed from Neotreks.

  • Michael Paul

    Very cool. I have been to WA several times, but always when it’s raining! My advice, plan a trip from late June to August… drive the state and rip it!

    • Reimiraa

      or come out and visit Central WA we get 300 days of sunshine. just a risk of getting smoked out from wildfires.

  • ACree

    It rains a lot here….in fact it’s misty right now.

    Personally, I’d have put St. Helens at the top of the list for WA. Not because it’s THAT awesome of a ride, but because it’s pretty good, with post eruption scenery like no other place I know of. Next would be Orcas Island, again because of how unique it is to take a ferrry to an island, where a state a park has smooth, swoopy, singletrack dating to the CCC days, and also, views from the top of the mountain. Also, the Kettle Crest area in NE WA, somewhat reminiscent of Sun Valley, but with much, much less use. It needs more use, as it’s threatened with Wilderness. Duthie, Tiger and Galby are great local rides, but not destination worthy IMO.

  • Salsa29errider

    One of my favorite rides–it was actually one of the first big rides I ever did back in the early-90s–is the Sand Creek Trail in the Little Naches River area. The loop is variable. Starting at Crow Creek Camp Ground, you can ride 12 or so miles up Forest Service Road 1902 and jump on the trail from near the top of Raven’s Roost. This is a long, fairly challenging climb. There are some steep sections, but also quite a few sections that are fairly flat or have a mellow grade. After making the climb, you are rewarded with around 11 miles of single track with some sections of double track mixed in. The top half of the descent is mostly a fast and technical and is not a ride for beginners.

    If you aren’t into a full day ride with a 12-mile fire road climb, you can cut the ride in half and access the Sand Creek Trail from a camp ground roughly 5 miles up FR 1902. From there, the trail takes you on a steep climb for about a mile of nice switchbacks that wind through old growth forest. Once you reach the top, you’re in for around 5 miles of fast singletrack with some very technical and rocky sections that make full-suspension a definite plus! There are a couple short climbs in this last section, but they are only challenging because of the amount of climbing you’ve already done by this time.

    Of course, if you’re pressed for time and just want to ride the trail, you can cheat and do like a group of us used to and shuttle to the top of Raven’s Roost, park the trucks at the radio tower, and drop in from there. However, in reality, it really isn’t much of a time saver, as driving to the top will take around a half hour and then the round trip to get the cars after the ride will take another hour. So, if you’re in good shape, you could probably ride the 12 miles up in about 2 hours or less.

    Unfortunately, these trails are also open to motorcycles, so there are times when you have to share the trails and watch for uphill traffic. However, in all the years I have ridden this trail and those in the surrounding area, there have been very few times when it has actually been an inconvenience.

    This trail is much less manicured than other trail systems that I’ve ridden, simply because it’s also open to motorcycles. However, especially when the soil is still on the damp side, it is an epic ride if you enjoy technical section that test your skill.

  • TetonReef

    I’d drive the 15 hours from Wyoming to the Olympic Peninsula to rip the Dungeness and Gold Cr. Trail any day! Off the beaten path and epic single track you won’t forget!

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