The Top 10 Best Mountain Bike Destinations in the USA (2016)

The 10 best mountain bike destinations in the USA in 2016 based on the quality and quantity of trails, rider feedback, and other amenities.
Photo: Tal Roberts – Visit Sun Valley
Photo: Tal Roberts – Visit Sun Valley

Editor’s note: Check out our current list of the best mountain bike destinations in the USA.

One of the most beautiful things about the sport of mountain biking is the dedication of clusters of mountain bikers spread around the planet who are constantly building newer and better mountain bike trails for travel-thirsty riders to explore and enjoy. Over the years we’ve drawn on our massive mountain bike trail database, the expertise of our widespread editorial team, survey data from our millions of readers (you), and rumors that our staff has collected from all corners of the nation, in order to assemble lists of the Top 10 Mountain Bike Destinations in North America and the Top 10 Mountain Bike Cities in North America. In the intervening three years since we published those first top 10 lists, the landscape of mountain biking in the United States has changed. Many top-level destinations have continued to build new and better trails, expanding their trail networks even more. Some destinations that didn’t make the cut before have built out astronomical amounts of new singletrack, subsequently building their national profile. And still other destinations have built very few or absolutely no new trails, and have fallen by the wayside as a result.

This latest list of the best mountain bike destinations factors in the changes that have swept the nation in the past three years. Also, you’ll note that we’ve narrowed the focus of this list to just the USA. So without further ado, here are the current top 10 best mountain bike destinations in the USA:

Moab, Utah

Slickrock trail. Photo: Erik Proano
Slickrock trail. Photo: Erik Proano

While Moab is one of the oldest mountain bike destinations on the planet, they refuse to rest on their laurels with the decades-old trails that originally put them on the map. Instead, Moab continues to build more and more bike-legal singletrack, at a rate of about 30 miles per year. And the new trails, quite honestly, are way better than the original classics!

While Moab’s growth in recent years has been incredible, the same iconic factors from 30 years ago are the primary ones that make it memorable today: world-famous slickrock riding, incredible desert views, a great town with excellent bike shops and shuttles, and miles upon miles of trails! It’s no wonder that we awarded Moab the distinctive honor of Mountain Bike Capital of the United States!

Must-ride trails in Moab include The Whole Enchilada, Captain Ahab, and the iconic Slickrock.

Crested Butte, Colorado

Trail 401. Photo: Magua X
Trail 401. Photo: Magua X

Crested Butte is famous as one of the two birthplaces of the sport of mountain biking, but if you compare the current mountain bike trail access in Crested Butte, Colorado to that of Marin County, California… well, there just isn’t a comparison. Crested Butte boasts hundreds of miles of the most picturesque high-alpine trails anywhere, all surrounding a quaint western mountain town with great food and beer.

While Crested Butte hasn’t expanded their trail system as much as other destinations on this list over the past three years, their trail network continues to grow, and regardless of how slow the growth may be, the town currently claims to have over 750 miles of trails. It’d take decades for most destinations to even come close to that number!

Must-ride trails include Trail 401, Doctor Park, and Reno/Flag/Bear/Deadman’s.

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Location: Flume Trail, Nevada From: "Off the Beaten Path" Rider: Anthony Cupaiuolo (and Emmie) Photographer: David Braun
Location: Flume Trail, Nevada From: “Off the Beaten Path” Rider: Anthony Cupaiuolo (and Emmie) Photographer: David Braun

Lake Tahoe is an expansive region that includes the towns of South Lake Tahoe, CA; Incline Village, NV; and Tahoe City, CA; which dot the shores of the largest alpine lake in North America, and one of the clearest lakes in the world. This entire region is renowned for its mountain biking and is stitched together into a cohesive destination by the Tahoe Rim Trail.

While Tahoe has long been known as a mountain bike destination, ongoing trail developments, primarily around South Lake Tahoe, have really pushed the region over the top into a truly world-class riding destination. There’s more trail riding than you can shake a stick at, and even if downhilling is your thang, Northstar Resort has you covered.

The restaurants and bike shops in Tahoe never seem to end, and you can find at least six breweries in the region.

Must-ride trails include the Tahoe Rim Trail, Flume Trail, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Park City, Utah

Wasatch Crest Trail. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Luke F.
Wasatch Crest Trail. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Luke F.

One of Park City‘s many claims to fame is being the first-ever IMBA Gold-Level Ride Center. While other gold-level ride centers have joined the ranks over the years, Park City will always be the first. This gold-level status is thanks in part to an absolutely massive network of trails that’s all accessible from downtown. Most of these trails are classic trail riding or enduro mountain biking territory, but you can get a lift bump in several different places with a ticket. If it’s true downhill that you desire, the Canyons and Deer Valley resorts have gotcha covered!

On top of the epic network that has existed for quite sometime, Park City continues to expand its network both around town, and with private resorts like Deer Valley also working diligently to build more and more singletrack.

Must-ride trails include the Wasatch Crest Trail, Mid-Mountain Trail, and Park City Mountain Resort / Old Town Area.

Wydaho, Wyoming and Idaho

Cache Creek to Game Creek Trail. Photo: justin70
Cache Creek to Game Creek Trail. Photo: justin70

The Wydaho region encompasses Jackson, Wyoming; Jackson Hole Resort, Wyoming; Victor, Idaho; Driggs, Idaho; and Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming. Jackson Hole and the surrounding Teton mountains have long been known as a hotbed for some of the best downhill skiing–especially in the backcountry–in the nation, if not the world. The mountains are massive and steep, and the snow is deep.

Historically, summer tourism in the region has revolved around Jackson’s proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but in just the last handful of years mountain biking has blown up on the Wydaho scene. While there were always decent big-mountain rides to be had, trail development has taken off closer to the town of Jackson. Historically-illegal trails on Teton Pass were adopted into the trail system, and new trails were built. Jackson Hole has also improved its bike park. But most notably, Grand Targhee Resort has developed an incredible array of downhill mountain bike trails, cross country trails, winter fat biking trails–basically, any sort of two-wheeled singletrack route you can imagine. Add all of this epic singletrack to the incredible views of the Tetons, the abundance of majestic wildlife, and the already-existing restaurant and lodging infrastructure, and not including Wydaho on this list in 2016 would be a massive oversight.

Must-ride trails include Grand Targhee Resort, Mill Creek, Cache Creek to Game Creek, and the Teton Pass Downhill Trails.

Sedona, Arizona

Hiline Trail. Rider: Matt McFee / Hermosa Tours. Photo: Greg Heil
Hiline Trail. Rider: Matt McFee / Hermosa Tours. Photo: Greg Heil

While Sedona, Arizona may not boast the sheer quantity of trails that some of these other destinations do, whatever Sedona might lack in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality, accessibility, technical challenge, and drop-dead-gorgeous views. Long known for the incredible red rock scenery and the mystical appeal of the vortexes, now Sedona is just as widely known for the incredible singletrack interlaced around and through the town.

Again, Sedona could just rest secure in the camera-worthy views of towering red rocks but instead, they continue to legalize old social trails and build new singletrack every single year.

Must-ride trails include Hiline, Hangover, and the Hogs.

Brevard, North Carolina

Rider: Neko Mulally. Photo: John Schultz. Photo courtesy of Scott Sports.
Rider: Neko Mulally. Photo: John Schultz. Photo courtesy of Scott Sports.

When we set out to rebuild this top 10 list from the ground up, we made a conscious decision not to include any destination because “we need an east coast destination” or “people will be upset if we don’t have a northwest destination.” Instead, we decided to only include locations on this top 10 list that really can go head-to-head with the best of the best mountain bike destinations in the country.

And we firmly believe that Brevard, North Carolina is more than capable of competing with the nine western choices on this list.

Brevard is home to hundreds of miles of the most technical backcountry singletrack anywhere, gorgeous Appalachian Mountain views, and more mountain biking infrastructure (including bike shops, rentals, guiding, races–you name it) than you can even take advantage of. The eats are top-notch with a unique southern flair, and the beer is world-class, with bigger breweries like Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium having moved into the area, in addition to the numerous local operations.

Must-ride trails include Dupont State Forest, Laurel Mountain, and Black Mountain.

Grand Valley, Colorado

18 Road Trails. Rider: Nancy Anderson. Photo: Scott Anderson.
18 Road Trails. Rider: Nancy Anderson. Photo: Scott Anderson.

The Grand Valley is a geographic region on the Western Slope of Colorado that encompasses the towns of Grand Junction, Fruita, Loma, and Palisade.

On our previous list, we used the label “Fruita” to include all of the Grand Valley, but that’s quite honestly a misnomer, as there are plenty of top-notch trails located in Grand Junction, Palisade, Loma, and in the middle of friggin’ nowhere (Rabbit Valley, anyone?) that all comprise this destination.

While this region has long been ranked as a top-level destination, the folks in the Grand Valley continue to build trails and improve the mountain bike offerings, and as tourism has increased, so has the infrastructure like restaurants and micro-breweries to support it.

The closest ski resort to the Grand Valley is Powderhorn, located up on the Grand Mesa. While Powderhorn doesn’t nearly have the quality of natural snow or terrain that most other Colorado resorts offer, they’ve just opened two brand-new downhill mountain biking trails, to capitalize on the region’s ever-increasing mountain bike tourism… and they plan to build even more!

Must-ride trails include Kokopelli-Area Trails, the Lunch Loops, and 18 Road Trails.

Bend, Oregon

Mount Bachelor Bike Park. Photo: Aran Eversman
Mount Bachelor Bike Park. Photo: Aran Eversman

While some riders can’t stand Bend‘s classic “moon dust” conditions, ongoing trail expansion can’t be denied, and Bend is now, without a doubt, one of the top destinations in the nation.

More singletrack keeps getting added to Bend’s hundreds of miles of trails (which are almost all accessible from right in town… depending on your fitness level), and mountain bike infrastructure like an in-town dirt jump and skills park, expert guiding from Cog Wild, and tons of bike shops are all critical critical to Bend’s success. Also helping put Bend over the top is the inaugural opening of the Mount Bachelor downhill mountain bike park just a couple of years ago, already boasting a wide array of trails.

If you like to drink beer after a ride, as most mountain bikers are wont to do, there’s no better place than Bend: this town of 100,000 is currently home to 22 micro breweries, and there are an additional 7 in the communities that surround Bend.

Must-ride trails include Phil’s Area, Tiddlywinks, and North Fork.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Photo: Ray J. Gadd – Visit Sun Valley
Photo: Ray J. Gadd – Visit Sun Valley

While some of the trail access losses near Sun Valley, Idaho have been well-publicized, the riding closer to the towns of Sun Valley and Ketchum continues to get better and better. According to Ray Gadd of Visit Sun Valley, “Sun Valley offers in excess of 400 miles singletrack within area and upwards of 700 miles if you factor in the surrounding reaches.” While that’s a ton of mileage, development continues in the area, both for classic trail riding and downhilling at the resort.

Mountain bikers can take advantage of the well-developed infrastructure thanks to Sun Valley’s storied history as a downhill skiing destination, with tons of restaurants, bike shops, and at least three breweries.

Must-ride trails include Greenhorn Gulch/Imperial Gulch, Adam’s Gulch Loop, and Fox Creek to Chocolate Gulch.