Technical trail obstacles are the difference that separates mountain bikers from road bikers, sort of in the same way that opposable thumbs separate humans from, say, turkeys. Of course not all mountain bikers enjoy technically challenging trails, but for those who do, we put together a list of some of the most technical MTB trails the USA has to offer!
For this list we surveyed Singletracks members and asked this simple question: “What is the most technical MTB trail you know of?” The answers tended to cluster around a few spots, which makes us think a good follow-up article could be about the top destinations for finding gnar. But for now, here are the trails Singletracks members report are the most technical in the USA:
Farlow Gap (Pisgah Forest, NC)
The Singletracks team recently spent a long weekend in Pisgah, and during our uber-challenging Laurel Mountain / Pilot Cove ride, we asked our extremely fast and capable guide, Megan, which trail in Pisgah she thought was the most technical. Her response: Farlow Gap. Well, it turns out Singletracks readers agree, and they mentioned Farlow Gap more than any other trail in our survey. This trail drops 2,000 feet in just 3 miles and is littered with rocks and roots pretty much the whole way down. The second part of the descent, down Daniel Ridge, is no picnic either.
For the record, Megan said she thought the Laurel Mountain / Pilot Cove ride was the second most technical ride in Pisgah.
Portal Trail (Moab, UT)
There are a number of factors that make a mountain bike trail “technical,” including things like the width of the trail, steepness, the size of rocks and roots, man-made features like ramps, and exposure. That last factor, exposure, is on full display on the Portal Trail in Moab. Even if you’re not familiar with the name of this trail, you’ve probably seen a photo of the (very real) sign on the trail that states, “Dismount now! Do not attempt to ride the next rock. 200 foot cliff. Three riders have died here.”
The Portal Trail is a part of the Mag 7 trail system and features plenty of rocks and vertigo-inducing exposure, if that’s your thing.
Dakota Ridge Trail (Denver, CO)
The Dakota Ridge Trail is located just outside of Denver, making it a popular destination for many riders. But don’t let that accessibility fool you! Dakota Ridge features insanely-chunky rocks, steep climbs, and ridge line exposure on both sides of the trail. I’m sure there are folks who can ride the whole thing but most mortals will walk some–or heck, most–of this trail.
Blackjack / Raspberry Ridge (Pine, CO)
Blackjack and Raspberry Ridge are two short connector trails within the Buffalo Creek trail system near Pine, CO. Buffalo Creek is one of my favorite trail systems in the world, and many others enjoy it as well due to the number of expansive, flowing, XC-style trails available. But Blackjack in particular is best described as anything but XC-style or flowing. The technical highlight of the trail is a feature known as the Slot Machine, a 20-ish-foot rock waterfall with lines that are as slotted as they are steep.
True story: Greg and I rode Buffalo Creek a few years ago, shortly after the Blackjack and Raspberry Ridge trails opened. When we got to the “Slot Machine” we surveyed the line, and I quickly decided I wasn’t going to attempt it. But Greg really wanted to ride it. He even went so far as to make a few approaches before stopping short. Finally I told him not to attempt it if he was hesitant in any way, because I didn’t want to be the one dragging his potentially-broken body back to the road!