For a mountain bike destination to bucket-list worthy, there should be high-quality, purpose-built trails, places to stay or camp close by, and plenty of choices for eating after a ride.
Whistler, Moab, and Crested Butte have all topped mountain bikers’ lists for decades. Ten years ago though, places like Arkansas would have been the last place on a lot of mountain bikers’ minds for a vacation, but things are changing.
With mountain bike advocates getting very smart about trail building, partnering with local businesses, and coordinating with land managers, great bike trails are growing like weeds. These days, the newest mountain bike destination might be a lot closer to home.
Yet, there’s good reason to travel farther afield and experience something different, like the trails in Montana that could be impacted by Wilderness designations in the future, or damp, scenic trails across Scotland or Washington state.
We’ve gathered a few timely mountain bike destinations across the world that we think deserve a place on any traveler’s agenda for 2019. Some may be close and some may be far, but all are worth visiting to experience new sights and new trails, even if it takes effort to get there.
See what a new IMBA Silver-Level ride center looks like
We sent Patrick Goral to visit Roanoke last year to learn about what the town has been building. It turns out Roanoke has plenty of classic, prime, east coast riding to satisfy mountain bike visitors.
Mountain bikers will find shaded trails in the woods with rocks and roots that create challenging lines. Roanoke was named an IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center last year following an application and assessment of the city. This means that Roanoke has an extensive network of well-rounded trails, from the 280-mile RockStar bikepacking route to flow trails like the one found at Mill Mountain.
Ride new singletrack built through passionate advocacy
We’ll just leave the city blank here because it’s easy to find somewhere great to ride pretty much anywhere in this small state. I checked out the work the Vermont Mountain Bike Association has been putting in across the state in the fall of 2018 and left impressed. During the trip I rode everything from rough bike park trails in Killington to new-age flow and jump trails in Stowe.
The only thing that rivals the mountain bike trails in Vermont is the farm-fresh food and beer that are within an arm’s reach of most singletrack trails. Look for a new Singletracks ride guide to the state later this year.
Big descents and ancient views
Singletracks contributor Lee Lau spent some time in Peru exploring breathtaking trails and came back with a cache of jaw-dropping photos. About 45km outside of Lima lies Pachacamac, a quarry area with several shuttled, downhill trails. Nearby that is the Amancaes Bike Park, which isn’t a bike park in the traditional sense of the term, but still has some pretty crazy riding with berms and janky drops.
Heli-shuttle to big mountain riding
Whistler of course gets a lot of praise, but interior BC has some insane, big mountain riding. Singletracks contributor Matthew Bonner visited last year and rode some of the most notable trails there, via pedal power and also helicopter.
Bonner treated himself to a heli-bump on Mount Cartier for a 9-mile long, 7,500-ft descent from high alpine to loamy forest. There are still plenty of leg-burning climbs for those who want the burn. Frisby Ridge, Mount MacPherson, and Boulder Mountain are all notorious trail systems located right outside of town. Mount McKenzie in the Revelstoke Mountain Resort is also looking forward to the addition of lift-served mountain bike trails coming this summer.
Go for a festival, ride the classics, and see new trails
Sedona isn’t a new riding destination to anyone by now, but somehow the town always manages to make the experience even better. Mountain bike events like the Sedona and Roam mountain bike festivals are dotted across the calendar every year in the northern Arizona town.
In 2017, the Sedona Bike Skills Park opened and just last year the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition broke ground on a new 29-mile, hand-cut trail system with beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails. The new trail system is expected to take one more year to complete, but riders can ride several miles of new singletrack there in March, including the 2.8-mile Girdner re-route. Mountain bikers should also check out the new skills park and all the classic trails. Spring and fall mark the best times to visit since the temperatures are inviting and moderate.
Bears Ears, UT
Ride before the scenery changes
One of President Trump’s decisions early on in his presidency shook the world of conservation by drastically reducing the size of the Bears Ears National Monument. Although Bears Ears isn’t known for its singletrack, there is still plenty of exploring to be done on two wheels. Western Spirit Cycling Adventures has been leading bike tours in Bears Ears for 25 years and is still at it. Check out one of their beginner-rated trips or plan your own.
The change in designation occurred in response to what some believed was an overreaching of federal government control over local land. It’s not quite clear yet how changes will impact Bears Ears, but it’s safe to say that the purity of the land and experience could change in the future.
“Whistler by the Sea”
Last year the Enduro World Series descended on the seaside commune known as Finale Ligure, giving the world a glimpse of the excellent trails on offer. In addition to the steep, rocky trails captured in race photos and videos, Singletracks contributor Gerow notes there are excellent flow trails to explore as well.
Multiple shuttle companies offer their services to visiting mountain bikers, and the moderate weather in Finale Ligure makes this an excellent place to visit anytime of the year. Gerow says Finale has “some of the best trails in all of Europe” and also the “cuisine is some of the best in all of Italy.” Enough said.
Ride beautiful backcountry while you can
Last year, Lee Lau again brought an epic destination to life on Singletracks. His visit to the Bitterroots in Montana was marked by rugged and rocky trails, leg-breaking climbs, and hand-numbing descents.
The tide changed during his visit though, when 110 miles of singletrack in the area was designated a Wilderness Study Area and became off-limit to bikes. Some trails in the Bitterroots were subsequently re-opened to bikes and then closed again for a comment period. Lau’s story highlights the fact that access is still vulnerable in certain parts of Montana. Read more about the backcountry trails in parts one, two, and three of the series, and plan your trip now in case more trails are lost.
National MTB advocacy
There are mountain bike trail networks dotted around Scotland (and a regular World Cup stop) located in the middle of amazing scenery. Greg Heil visited Scotland at the end of 2016 and wrote about the country’s national mountain bike development strategy. The strategy has helped grow miles and miles of singletrack, and the result is a mix of everything from bike park riding with features to remote backcountry trails.
One of the country’s most profound laws gives all human-powered travel and recreation equal access on all trails. Mountain biking and the outdoors is a cooperative effort throughout Scotland, and visitors will come away inspired to make their own MTB communities stronger.
Bikepack the Oregon Timber Trail
The Oregon Timber Trail Alliance (OTTA) put in countless hours to make this long-distance route a possibility. Singletracks writer Brian Gerow caught up with the organizers of the OTTA to get the scoop on the 700-mile trail, which boasts 66,000-ft of elevation change and stretches from the California and Oregon border up to Hood River, just outside of Portland. The trail is snow-free from late-June to October and can be broken up in different segments or knocked out all at once. The system is roughly 62% singletrack. See the OTTA’s Facebook page for more information.
State level advocacy and new trails
Washington, like a few others states around the US, again proves how strong state level mountain bike advocacy can be. Singletracks caught up with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA) for a story on trail building last year and they have been breaking fundraising records and have been just as busy digging singletrack. This year, EMBA is on track to open 20 miles of new trail in No. 2 Canyon in Wenatchee. The new trails also include a skills park and add to existing trails in the Canyon, with other trails close by at Sage Hills and Devil’s Gulch.
Wairoa Gorge is now in public hands
Many say the best mountain biking in New Zealand is found in and around the town of Nelson, and Wairoa Gorge bike park has to be the crown jewel. Up until a few years ago, the park was held in private hands and access was invitation-only. Now, mountain bikers can experience the unparalleled beauty and quality trails of the gorge and take advantage of regular shuttle service for the experience of a lifetime.
The Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC) builds and maintains miles and miles of quality singletrack in the region, ranging from beginner-friendly flow trails to shreddy DH runs. Visit Nelson now before summer ends to be one of the first to experience the truly world-class trails and scenery.
Which destination is at the top of your 2019 list?
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