East Coast Girl Goes West: A Mountain Bike Road Trip from Pennsylvania to Colorado

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be making the trip from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania to Salida, Colorado for a Singletracks Editorial Team Meet-Up. I decided to take a little extra time off and drive out instead of flying. I love road trips, and this would give me an opportunity to stop and see other places along the way. I’ve driven across the country once before, and mostly stuck to Rt. 80 and 90, so this time I decided to head south and pick up Rt. 64 and then 70 for a change of scenery. Since I’ll have my bike anyway, I’m planning on stopping to ride as much as I can.

My planned route.
My planned route.

I used the Singletracks trail database to find spots to ride that would be close to the Interstate and convenient to get to. I then narrowed my list down to those that seemed most interesting based on reviews, trail descriptions, and pictures. And here’s what I’ve come up with. Ideally, I’d love to hit all of them. Realistically, that would take way more time than I have, so I’m going to have to make more decisions. I’ll only be able to hit a couple of these en route to Colorado, but looking at my options is always fun, and I’ve added a lot of places to my trails wishlist for future trips!

Big Bear Lake – Hazelton, WV

Well, that looks fun! Photo: The Void
Well, that looks fun! Big Bear Lake, WV. Photo: The Void

I’ve heard a lot about Big Bear Lake, and as it’s ranked #3 in West Virginia, I’d be excited to see if it lives up to the hype. The reviews give it 4.82/5 stars, and everyone had a lot of very positive things to say–sweet singletrack, amazing scenery, well-maintained, and fun trail features to ride. It sounds like there are enough miles of trail to ride all day and not get bored.

As Dave Hunt says in his trail review, Singletrack heaven. Bury me and my salsa el mariachi here. Sounds like I have to check this place out!

Luckily, it isn’t all that far from home, so if I don’t hit it on this trip, I might just have to come back and spend some more time exploring, as it sounds like it would be worth it.

Ferny goodness at Big Bear Lake, WV. Photo: kellyrides
Forested goodness at Big Bear Lake, WV. Photo: kellyrides

Coopers Rock – Morgantown, WV

Photo: Outdoornut
Coopers Rock, WV. Photo: Outdoornut

A couple of the reviews about Big Bear Lake also mentioned Coopers Rock, which also gets very high ratings. There are also many miles of trail to explore at Coopers, and reviews suggest it could offer a full day of riding, with more great scenery and views. It sounds like “Rock City” is a must-do, and the photos on the site of that trail look pretty cool. TrailAPI says, Something for everyone: tough hills, sweet downs, or you can just tinker around the flats on top of the mountain.” 

It looks like there's some good views at Coopers Rock, WV! Photo: malva
It looks like there’s some good views at Coopers Rock, WV! Photo: malva

Kanawha State Forest – Charleston, WV

There isn’t a whole lot of info on Singletracks about these trails, except that there are nine designated mountain bike trails amidst a lot of hiking-only trails, but it seems like a neat spot. I’d be interested in checking it out and adding more info to the database! I found some trail descriptions and info here, but it seems like for the most part, I’ll just have to go exploring.

Cave Run Lake – Owingsville, KY

It seems Big Limestone Loop is aptly named. Photo: RoadWarrior
It seems Big Limestone Loop is aptly named. Photo: RoadWarrior

Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Cave Run Lake offers camping right next to the mountain bike trails, so I was thinking this might be a good spot to spend the night on my trip. There also seems to be an extensive enough network to keep me occupied for a day. The listing for Big Limestone Loop on Singletracks is also included in this trail system, and seems to be only a short bike ride to the other side of the lake from the campground. One thing to be aware of: not all the trails here are open to mountain bikes. This map and trail guide seems to be a good resource for figuring out which trails allow bikes. The Sheltowee Trace Trail, which runs north to south and spans most of Kentucky, also passes through this area, and is open to mountain bikes in some sections.

Louisville Mega Cavern Bike Park – Louisville, KY

The Louisville Mega Cavern. Photo: Sean Foster
The Louisville Mega Cavern. Photo: Sean Foster

The name caught my eye more than anything. When I pulled up the map of bike trails in Kentucky and clicked on this one, I discovered that the name indeed says it all. This is an underground bike park built in a limestone cave–way cool! There are pump tracks, jump lines, and a variety of trails for all different skill levels. This seems like a really neat place to check out for the novelty alone, as well as a fun spot to spend an hour or more stretching the legs before jumping back in the car.

Landahl Park Reserve – Kansas City, MO

Jumps at Landahl Park Reserve. Photo: A_Day_2_Remember
Jumps at Landahl Park Reserve. Photo: A_Day_2_Remember

Breed007 said, “this is a must-stop along Rt. 70, and many other reviewers agree. So does John Fisch, as he states in his “10 Trails I Like More Than You” article. As it’s only 10 minutes off the Interstate, it’s certainly a convenient stop. It looks like this park has a bit of everything, from easy, flowy trails to more technical stuff, including a fun downhill section with rollers and jumps, stream crossings, rock gardens, skinnies, and drops. Earthriders Mountain Bike Club provides a decent map and trail descriptions, which can be found online here.

Swope Park Trail – Kansas City, MI

Swope Park is also in the KC area, only a short drive off Rt. 70. Reviewers say it’s pretty similar to Landahl, with a mix of flowy and technical. The park offers about 11 miles of trail, which breed007 said, will change the way you think about Midwest mountain biking.” 

Switchgrass – Wilson, KS

Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect from midwest riding, and I hope that breed007 is right, that my expectations will be changed. I didn’t expect to find much singletrack in Kansas at all. I started digging around, and I found Switchgrass. John Fisch thinks it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Others disagree. I guess I’ll have to find out for myself.

Switchgrass offers over 20 miles of riding, which many reviewers say can be done in about 2-3 hours. Some of the trail runs along sandstone bluffs overlooking a lake, which seems to be the scenic highlight. Much of the riding is flowy, but there also is plenty of technical riding consisting of rock gardens and drops.

f2.5 said, Epic. Great great trails. Some very technical rock gardens, flowy singletrack made for speed, beautiful vistas. Couldn’t ask for anything more. I will be back to ride Switchgrass every time I’m in the area.

Sounds promising to me! This is one I’m definitely hitting, as it’ll be a good way to break up the long and boring drive through Kansas. Read more about it here.

Switchgrass, KS. Photo: inchmile
Switchgrass, KS. Photo: inchmile

After hitting Switchgrass, my plan is to keep on driving to Boulder, where I’ll meet up with some friends for a couple days, and then head down to Salida. Once I’m in Colorado, I’ll have plenty of locals to show me around, so I’m leaving the planning up to them. I trust they’ll show me an epic time!

These trails listed are just a few of those that are on my way out west. I chose them to include on my list of potentials based on distance from the Interstate, reviewer ratings, photos, and in some cases, distance apart and whether or not there seems to be promising camping nearby. I am open to suggestions, and I would love your input! I welcome any and all advice, as I’ve never done a trip like this before, or ridden mountain bikes outside of the northeast.

Your Turn: Which trails on my list are definitely worth hitting? Which trails did I not mention that you think I should consider?

More information