If there’s one thing that makes mountain biking such a special sport, it’s the opportunity to experience the complete breadth of ecosystems and landscapes the world over from such an intimate perspective. If you’re anything like me, traveling to different destinations ignites your passion for life and makes you feel like a giddy kid on Christmas morning!

Choosing the top 10 mountain bike destinations in North America was no easy feat. To start with, we decided that this was to be a list of true destinations: not residential areas with good mountain bike trail access, but rather destinations that you could plan your entire year’s worth of vacation time around. While one could argue that the people who actually liveΒ in these places are truly doing it right, we realize that not everybody can make that happen, so stay tuned for our top 10 list of mountain bike towns, coming soon.

When we sat down to make these careful choices,Β we called on the expertise of the entire Singletracks blog team. Narrowing the list down to justΒ 10 places was a very difficult, controversial process. There was quite a bit of disagreement, even internally, about which towns should make the list, and which ones weren’t deserving. Regardless, each of the 10 locales listed below is more than worthy of dedicating a week (or a month) of your vacation time to exploring on the back of your mountain bike.

Whistler, British Columbia

Top of the World Trail, Whistler. Photo: Mike Crane.

Whistler is the true mecca of all things mountain biking. While Whistler is perhaps best-known for its world-class downhill mountain bike park, the surrounding area is covered in excellent cross country and all mountain singletrack trails, such as Comfortably Numb, that aren’t served by the lifts.

We admit: British Columbia itself could arguably envelope this entire top 10 destinations list with such fantastic locales as Squamish, Fernie, Nelson, Golden, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Revelstoke, and many more. Consider Whistler our nod towards everything BC. -mtbgreg1

# Comments

  • jeff

    To be honest I had a beef with this list during the draft stage since 9 out of 10 picks are located out west. But it’s hard to argue for making the list more balanced at the expense of including destinations that aren’t truly better than those already on the list.

    Outside of the west, I think the following are great locations worthy of a long weekend or even a week of riding. Each of these has roughly 100 miles (or more) of singletrack in the vicinity.

    – CAMBA trails (northern WI)
    – Kingdom trails (Vermont)
    – Augusta, GA
    – Santos, FL
    – Harrisonburg, VA

  • treky92

    Looks like I need to either
    A) move out west or
    B) take one heck of a road trip.

    • mtbgreg1

      You’ll probably A) take one heck of a road trip, and then B) move out west so you don’t have to drive so far next time.

      At least, that’s what I did πŸ™‚

    • maddslacker

      +1 for moving out west. I miss the great pizza, bagels, and seafood, but I’ve gotten over it.

    • GimmeAraise

      Wait Sea food and Pizza. Don’t know about you but the only good pizza is in Chicago, and they don’t have good seafood! Thank you very much!

  • delphinide

    I bet it is really hard to get that list down to 10…I can’t say I disagree with any of them except maybe Banff, and that is only because I don’t know anything about it. What’s more is that there are plenty more West Coast trails one could easily argue onto that list. There are great East Coast systems out there like Santos and Alafia/Boyette, and some that are developing like Coldwater Mountain, but the only other East Coast area I would argue might elbow it’s way into that list is the Ellijay/Dahlonega area. You have a TON of singletrack within and between those two cities, and within an hour-ish you can drive to places like Blankets Creek, Tsali, Jackrabbit, and Tanasi. I think it is interesting that the more populated, high volume East has far fewer epic places to ride than the west…there is still plenty of land to ride one, and they have had 100+ more years to develop it. It will be interesting for someone to see in 50-100 years to see if that remains the same as mountain biking continues to evolve.

    • mtbgreg1

      Yeah, it was undoubtedly tough. There are so many fantastic destinations that leaving any out seems like a travesty!

      Very interesting that you chose Ellijay/Dahlonega as one of your choices for a top East Coast destination, since I lived there for the past 4 years πŸ™‚ The riding in that area is definitely great, but like you said, there are just fewer epic places to ride in the East, and those “epic” places just aren’t as “epic” as most Western destinations.

    • delphinide

      I knew you’d identify with that area, and unless someone goes there you just cannot appreciate it. I love, love, love riding here in Colorado, but I miss the deep green forests and the flora and fauna that you just won’t see if one’s list is mostly west coast and Canada. Pinhoti 1,2,3 and 4 has to be one of the best rides out there….

  • dgw2jr

    How about a top 10 least congested mountain bike destinations in North America?

    • mtbgreg1

      But if we published just such an article, would they still be the least congested? πŸ™‚

    • skibum

      Well, most of the least congested areas are the least congested for a reason: they don’t have much great biking! Where would we draw the line between what is and what isn’t a mountain bike destination?

      Fortunately, this list as published has some great recommendations for least congested. First among these is Banff. There’s a good deal of tourist traffic in the area due to Lake Louise and Banff National Park, but the lion’s share of the best, most epic, and unbelievably scenic mountain bike routes are quite uninhabited. This is a place that really rewards the adventurous and those willing to take the trail less traveled.

      Even a place like Downieville, which has but a couple marquee routes, thins the people out pretty quick. Once everybody disperses off the shuttle on the Downieville Downhill, you’re not going to see each other much, even on the classic route. If you’re willing to take an alternate route, you’ll have even less company.

      For less congested routes in traditionally packed venues, check out this article:

  • k2rider1964

    I’m not going to knock your list because I haven’t been everywhere and I’d hate to have to narrow al the areas down to such a small list. That being said, I’ve been to most of them + Tahoe, Bend, Oakridge and the St George/Hurricane areas that didn’t make the list. The only one of your choices I disagree with based on your own criteria of “the area had to be a true destination”. I personally don’t think Downieville qualifies.

    Of the major areas out west that didn’t make the list, I think Tahoe is the best “destination’ area worth spending your valuable vacation time. That being said, I think the St George/Hurricane area tops *my* list for the riding that can be found nowhere else. I’ve ridden all over the West and I hear “this is the best place I’ve ever ridden” every time I ride with new people at Gooseberry Mesa. It just happened last week when I hooked up with two dudes from Revelstoke.

    • skibum

      Living in the middle of Colorado, I’m spoiled by being surrounded by excellent singletrack and having some of the world’s best (Fruita/Moab) within a reasonable drive. Having said that, if there was one place I could pull in closer to home, it would definitely be St George/Hurricane. The only drawback is the place is just too blasted hot about 8 months out of the year. But then, St George is a reasonable day trip from Brian Head during those hot months, so it’s still all good!

  • k2rider1964

    Greg, I have read that article and even forwarded it to some friends that I’m trying to get to join me at Hurricane’s MTB festival next March. These same guys were supposed to meet me last weekend In the area but thought Gooseberry Mesa was in Moab so they flew into Denver and drove to Moab. When they realized their geography failure, they stayed in Moab so I was stuck in Hurricane with a bunch of hikers!! πŸ™‚

    It all turned out well as I hooked up with those guys from BC to ride Gooseberry and then did the shop ride with Over the Edge and Quinton to Guacamole. Great times!! Can’t wait to go back. The local trails just suck after riding at a “destination” area.

    • mtbgreg1

      Haha wow, that’s just a little difference geographically! Where did they fly in from?

    • k2rider1964

      Dallas….crazy, I know! I had told them to fly into Vegas but for whatever reason, they went the Denver route. Getting them to Hurricane is going to be an uphill battle. I had met these guys on a Cog Wild trip in Oregon and they loved the views in Moab but like the foresty, flowy trails in Oregon more than riding on the slickrock variety of Moab.

  • blackandblue

    For us senior types who can still get a little adrenaline flow going but may not be up to the most epic challenge, the Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe (GREAT scenery, four mile climb in the sand) was great. Closer to where I live is the Tsali trail system. I recommend the left and right loops for excellent scenery and fast, flowy riding. Ridden together (closed to bikes a couple of days a week, check before going) adds up to about 17 miles. Plenty in one day for an old grey mare like me:-)

  • williedillon

    The only place I’ve been on this list is Brevard, and it’s definitely pretty awesome. I wish the Southeast had more like it. The main thing I don’t like about living in the Southeast is the lack of mountainous state owned land. At least where I live anyway. There are virtually no trails for MTB (only 2 trails that amount to about 16 miles within 30 minutes of my house, and maybe 4 more not so great trails under an hour away), ATVs, and off roading in your SUV/truck. I feel like there could be some really awesome stuff in Pine Mountain, GA (about 30-40 minutes from me) as there is the FDR state park, but there are only hiking and horse trails currently.

    • mudhunny

      Yes, Roosevelt State Park would make an excellent place for MTB trails!

  • ethanm

    This is a well done list and this site is a great resource for information. Nearly everyone probably has a different list. I have been to 9 out of 10 of the places on this list and the one I feel definitely does not fit is Banff, as otherworldly beautiful as it is. My list would include many more BC locations as an American who moved here for the riding. I believe Rossland, Nelson and Fernie all would potentially land on the list if the authors of this article were to ride them. Squamish and Pemberton are world class as well but could easily be combined with the Whistler pick as they are immediate neighbors. In fact, I can think of another half dozen Canadian towns, mostly in BC, that rival many on this list. My list would also include Bend, Oregon just beating out Bellingham, WA and Hood River, OR. I would have to knock off Santa Fe to make room although it is one of my fave towns regardless of the great biking. My advice, everyone make it a priority to get to the top 20 places you have heard about and have never been, no matter the sacrifice. Looking very forward to seeing the 10th on the list that I have not been to as I am there in three weeks!

  • ethanm

    Geez, then there is Sun Valley too. A top 10 list is so difficult but fun to think about.

  • Trish Brown

    I’m in Ocala Fl about 15 mins from Santos and love it! Recently while vacationing in Gatlinburg TN I found CLIMBWORKS, which is an adventure park that offers mountain biking, zip lining and rafting. They have bike rentals on site (a little pricey since it’s near the tourist area, but the bikes are top notch.) Their 1.5 mile singletrack loop mountain bike course consists of the first 1/3 uphill, second 1/3 smooth flow, last 1/3 downhill, with a built in wooden downward spiraling ramp feature called “The Curliest”. The 1.5 Mile course might not sound like it’d be tough, but trust me you’ll get a good workout on the uphill portion! They take nice advantage of being in the Smokies! Likewise you’re able to get an awesome adrenaline rush as you speed through “the Curliest” on the downhill portion… Sure to put a grin on your face!
    I’m use to the more technical courses at Santos (FL), so the speed you gain at CLIMBWORKS (TN) was a completely different experience for me. So much fun!

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