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Stretching from Baltimore in the East to the great Southwestern plateaus, Interstate 70 spans a broad range of American geography—and provides easy access to some of our most excellent singletrack.  While the trails in this edition of Riding the Interstate aren’t as evenly spaced as those in the I-40 edition, there are more of them encompassing the full gamut of mountain biking experiences.  If you have occasion to travel across this busiest of east-west interstate routes, be sure to bring your rig with you as there is no shortage of opportunities to decompress from the frenzy of high-speed cross country travel.

1st Stop: Gambrill State Park, Maryland
1-70 Exit: 42. Trailhead distance from exit: 6.6 miles
At this point, you’ve only been on the road a short time, but it’s never too soon to stop and hit some quality singletrack, and this superb and rugged trail network beckons to passersby. There are a variety of trails for all experience levels, but the emphasis is on more challenging riding. If the trails within the park aren’t tough enough, the Blue Trail exits the park and passes through the Frederick Watershed, a mostly secret collection of informal trails providing everything from the merely tough to full-on freeride opportunities. If you’ve got access to local info or the time and skills to explore, this makes a great, unique add-on.

Rippin' downhill at Seven Springs (Singletracks Photo by element22)

2nd Stop: Seven Springs, Pennsylvania
1-70 Exit: 110. Trailhead distance from exit: 15.8 miles
Just because you’re still out east doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of some lift-assisted riding. The Seven Springs ski resort in Southeast Pennsylvania is a great place to cut your teeth on gravity riding. There are a number of downhill trails that are accessible to a gravity noob and others that graduate to seriously scary stuff. If you don’t have a downhill rig, rentals (along with body armor) are available at the base. If you don’t want to ride downhill at all, fear not; there is plenty of entertaining cross-country singletrack as well, much of it at the top of the ridge with occasional views of the surrounding hills and valleys.

Twisty trail in John Bryan State Park, (Singletracks photo by Trail Jogger)

3rd Stop: John Bryan State Park, Ohio
1-70 Exit: 52. Trailhead distance from exit: 9.7 miles
This is a mostly flat, beginner-friendly network that packs maximum mileage into a minimal area—which means there’s a lot of tight and twisty. So even though there’s not a lot of physical or technical challenge, you still have to be on your toes if you want to ride it fast. In fact, the local MTB club runs time trails on these trails, putting a premium on cornering skills—how fast can you take it without eating bark?

Elevation gain, Indiana style (Singletracks photo by Bubblehead10MM)

4th Stop: Westwood, Indiana
1-70 Exit: 123. Trailhead distance from exit: 7.2 miles
One doesn’t usually expect to find quality singletrack in the middle of an area famous for cornfields, but here it is. There’s a tight and twisty 10-mile circuit around Westwood Park Reservoir. Like the rest of Indiana, you won’t find any big climbs here, but there are plenty of little ones, over and over throughout its length. Between the up n’ down and the left n’ right, this is a surprisingly three-dimensional ride.

Decision time in Southern Illinois (Singletracks photo by RoadWarrior)

5th Stop: SIUE Trails, Illinois
1-270 Exit: 9. Trailhead distance from exit: 4.6 miles
After crossing a whole lot of Jack and Diane heartland, here lies another six miles of tight and twisty singletrack. Like Westwood, this isn’t a destination ride, but it’s still the best, easily accessible quality trail in this neck of the woods.

Are you ready to "step up" to the challenges at Landahl? (Singletracks photo by Bubblehead10MM)

6th Stop: Landahl Mountain Bike Park, Missouri
1-70 Exit: 24. Trailhead distance from exit: 4.9 miles
After so much hardpacked and smooth riding since leaving Pennsylvania, you’re going to love this one if you’ve got a yen to get technical again. While the overall topography here is pretty flat, this is a rocky, ledgy place that will test your technical ability on many of its trails. There’s plenty of easy stuff as well. In fact, there are more miles in this network than most folks could ride in a full day. This is an IMBA epic as well as a former host of a 24 hour race series. It’d be a shame to pass by without stopping at this one.

Are you SURE we're still in Kansas? (Singletracks photo by Sucio Sanchez)

7th Stop: Switchgrass, Kansas
1-70 Exit: 206. Trailhead distance from exit: 1.5 miles
Logging a few miles on the trails in the Wilson State Park will have you saying “Gee, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” But indeed you are. A recent IMBA epic, the Switchgrass trail serves up plenty of fast, flowy, and sometimes techy singletrack for your riding pleasure. For more info, check out Jeff’s article here.

Off camber rocks and exposure in the shadow of Denver (Singletracks phot by MarkZahn)

8th Stop: Dakota Ridge, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 259. Trailhead distance from exit: 0.3 miles
Before you leave the Denver Metro area, just a football field’s length off the interstate lies a most worthy local favorite. The Dakota Ridge, sitting across the road from the world famous Red Rocks, gives you the opportunity to channel your inner rock hound. The initial climb is smooth and short, but quite steep, accelerating your heart rate at this new altitude. Then the fun begins as you face another two miles of continuous rocks, ledges, stairs and more rocks. It’s kinda short, but quite intense and, given its proximity to the I, a must stop.

High altitude scenery on the Peaks Trail (Singletracks photo by utedude)

9th Stop: Peaks Trail, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 201. Trailhead distance from exit: 0.8 miles
Okay, so it hasn’t been long since the last stop, but again we have a Colorado classic less than a mile from the I. This was one of Colorado’s earliest MTB epics and remains an excellent choice to this day.

Although the name may sound intimidating, most of the climb up the Boneyard is rather gentle

10th Stop: The Boneyard, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 147. Trailhead distance from exit: 1.2 miles
This one doesn’t have the historical lineage of the Peaks Trail, but it is destined to be equally classic. This is the quintessential Colorado Western Slope ride. The Boneyard beckons you with a long but manageable climb through pinion forest and then gives you a number of downhill options, including the way fun Redneck Ridge or the somewhat overstated “World’s Greatest Downhill.”

It's hard not to get excited about singletrack like this--especially when the trailhead is right next to the interstate! (Singletracks photo by lostcause)

11th Stop: Kokopelli Area Trails, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 15. Trailhead distance from exit: 0.8 miles
This has to be the ultimate combination of world-class riding and interstate access. The parking lot is literally just a stone’s throw from I-70 and yet you get one of the most famous and popular trail networks in the world. Novices can hang on Rustler’s Loop, rock hounds can practice their trials skills on Moore Fun, and everybody can enjoy the likes of Mary’s, Steve’s, Horsethief (after the short initial hike-in for all but the most elite), Lion’s, or Troy’s–and the Colorado River scenery is spectacular.

This is the easy part! (Singletracks photo by UtMtnBkr)

12th Stop: 5 Miles of Hell, Utah
1-70 Exit: 131. Trailhead distance from exit: 7.7 miles
This isn’t a trail so much as it is a route through some of the meanest rock desert on the face of the planet. Looking around here, you’ll see where Hollywood got the inspiration for the sets depicting the most hostile, forbidding planets in the bleakest science fiction movies. This truly is no-man’s land. There is no water, no medical services, or anything resembling civilization for many, many hostile miles in any direction. If you come here, bring a buddy, be self-sufficient, smart, and free enough of ego so as to not push yourself beyond your limits or get frustrated by the many, constant obstacles you will face. This route was originally designed for the throttle twisters, and even they have a tough time with it. This one is more masochistic than fun, but makes quite a badge of honor if you complete it.

After this, there’s not much before I-70 terminates at its junction with I-15, possibly the best mountain biking north-south interstate in the country.

Do you have any “go-to” rides along the I-70 corridor?

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# Comments

  • jeff

    I just added two more trails to my wishlist–Landahl and the Peaks Trail!

    I drive I-70 from Illinois to Colorado about every other summer and can definitely vouch for picks like Switchgrass and the Boneyard. There’s also Clinton State Park in Lawrence, KS not too far off I-70 but it’s so close to Landahl and not nearly as epic.

    It’s surprising there’s nothing between Denver and the Kansas border. Yes, it’s flat… but so is Kansas and they’ve got Switchgrass! I also expected there would be more inside Utah, too bad the really good stuff is a bit of a haul from I-70.

    • skibum

      The problem with Western Kansas to Denver isn’t just the flat–that whole territory is developed farmland–there’s just no public property for development of a trail system.

      As far as Utah, I thought about including the Klondike Bluffs area as it’s the closest Moab area ride to the interstate, but that area was already rather crowded with my Fruita and 5 Miles of Hell entries. The Westwater Mesa ride just over the Ut border from Fruita would also have made a good entry.

      Interestingly, there is a ride west of Green River, Ut called Devil’s Racetrack that starts right next to the interstate. Unfortunately, there’s no exit in the area; you have to exit over 20 miles away and follow a poorly marked maze of backroads that wander away from and eventually back to the interstate. So, even though it’s right next to the I, it takes a long time to get there and back. It’s on my wish list as I’ve never had the time to hit it when passing through. Hopefully I’ll get to it in the future and be able to post a ride report.

  • mtbgreg1

    I rode Switchgrass this summer as well… what an AWESOME trail!

    Also, Dakota Ridge is one of my Front Range favorites. I highly recommend it.

    Now I need to take the time to check some of these others out!

  • Bwpaulk

    Great write up. I live in the Kansas City metro and can attest that Landahl is a full day of riding. If you’re passing by the area I would also highly recommend Swope Park Trails (6miles south of I70)
    http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/swope-park-trail.html or on the Kansas side either Shawnee Mission Park http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/shawnee-mission-park.html , 9 miles south or Wyandotte County Park, just 5 miles north of I70. Kansas City has a dedicated, thriving mountain bike scene and the local club members; http://www.earthriders.com are always ready to show out passer’s by the local dirt. Come get some.

  • RoadWarrior

    Switchgrass is defintely a gem in the middle of the state. Landahl had been on my list for years, but keep bypassing it till this fall, big mistake. Klondike Bluffs is one of my favorites for a quick ride, the view from the bluffs is awesome. A little creative routing can have you hitting prime trails every few hrs. between Maryland and Kansas.

  • mtbikerchick

    What a cool idea for a blog post and road trip! Definitely going to have to try something like this this spring…

  • Bubblehead10MM

    I can’t believe I hadn’t even noticed the ride off I-270. That’s so on the list. Landahl was way cool with plenty of nice pleasant trail and parallel low trail that’s very technical. Westwood for what it’s worth gps put at just over 2K vert. and when your at the far side of the lake you can start to feel like your really out in the wild wood.

  • SilverHeiHei

    Great write-up! It makes me want to get the bike out of the garage right now and hit the trail!
    Too bad you weren’t able to ride the trails inside the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana, Mohican, Alum, Dillon S.P. or Momba in Ohio (which are all better choices than John Bryant). This just gives you a reason to do it again!

    • skibum

      I’ve ridden Alum a few times–it was always intolerably muddy. The place retains water worse than any other venue I’ve ridden. It takes days to dry out and by then it’s usually rained again. Of course, that seems to apply to much of Central Ohio. MOMBA wasn’t yet open when I moved Ohio and every time I passed through since then, I didn’t get to Dayton until nightfall, so I had to scrap the ride. My favorite ride in the Dayton area was Ceasar Creek, but that was a bit far off the interstate for this article, so I omitted in favor of the more accessible JB.

      I do regret not having made it to Mohican or Hooser during my time there. Doubtful I’ll get back at this point–one doesn’t usually make a MTB trip east when living in Colorado.

    • mtbgreg1

      Re: Not making a trip back east when you move out west: I’m a little worried about this, as I still haven’t ridden in the Northeast yet…

    • SilverHeiHei

      It always takes a few days for Ohio dirt to dry out! Ceasar’s Creek is a great ride because it is unlike anything else in SW Ohio and the ride at Brown County State Park is one of the best rides I have done yet. Hopefully you can make your way to the Hoosier Forest and ride BCSP sometime in the future. Greg, if you haven’t been to Brown County you’re missing out!

    • mtbgreg1

      @Silver Hei Hei, I’ve wanted to hit Brown County for a long time now! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make it happen. Almost did it this past December on my way up to Wisconsin to visit family, but the weather turned to crap.

    • skibum

      Not sure how soon you’re planning to go–maybe you’ve got time to swing through NE before the move–or even take the long route during the move–then you could hit all kinds of great stuff.

      Despite their Easterly longitude, I’ve always wanted to hit the Kingdom Trails in Vermont.

    • mtbgreg1

      YES, Kingdom Trails is top of my list if I ever head to the Northeast!

      I’ll need to connive some way to make it up there this year…

  • Stl_Greaser

    Now if you take Hwy 40 once you cross the Mississippi into Missouri you can hit up a trifecta of trail right off the hwy and Then 40 turns back into 70 a few miles down the road!

    The trifecta is three trail networks (Lost Valley, Matson and Klondike) that are all connected by a rials to trail route along the Missouri river. It is some of the best single track you will find in Missouri. And Klondike has some nice manmade skills structures built up also.

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