Poll Results: The Top 5 Scenic Mountain Bike Trails in the Western USA

Exactly what makes a mountain bike trail beautiful is largely a matter of opinion. For some people, it’s great high-alpine views. For others, it’s the barren desert. For some, it’s massive forests with huge trees. And for many, it’s beautiful high-alpine lakes, rushing rivers, and remote waterfalls.

Honestly, we expected the poll attached to our list, “20 of the Most Scenic Mountain Bike Trails in the Western USA,” to garner a lot more debate. And while there were plenty of opinions presented with close to 1,300 survey responses, there were several clear winners that rose above the rest

#1: Tahoe Rim / Flume Trail, Incline Village, Nevada

2014-06-06 2Tahoe-flume-ositoking-2
Photo: ositoking.

Gathering a massive 290 votes, the Tahoe Rim/Flume Trail route on the Nevada/California border rose above the rest as a clear winner in our poll! Readers clearly still haven’t gotten over the crystal-clear waters located seemingly directly below a sheer drop off from the trail, ringed by massive mountain peaks in the background, despite this trail’s rich and storied legacy.

#2: Trail 401, Crested Butte, Colorado

2014-06-06 Trail401-mtbgreg1-2
Photo: mtbgreg1

With 257 votes, Trail 401, with its chest-high wildflowers and humungous rocky peaks is clearly still a crowd favorite, despite, again, being a classic route. However, the beauty that 401 provides inspires some riders to come back year after year to bask in the wonder of the mountains!

#3: The Whole Enchilada, Moab, Utah

Photo: mtbgreg1
Photo: mtbgreg1

With 226 votes, the Whole Enchilada’s veritable buffet of epic scenery, from high-alpine tundra to a variety of forests to massive desert cliffs, obviously appeals to a massive spectrum of riders.

#4: Sweetwater Preserve, Tucson, Arizona

2014-06-06 Sweetwater Preserve-jared13-2
Photo: jared13

The gigantic saguaro cacti obviously appeal to the masses, as Sweetwater Preserve narrowly edged out 5th place to grab #4 with 180 votes. While this is a trail that I’ve personally wanted to ride for years, out of all the trails on this top 5 list this is the only one I’m a bit surprised to see here. Now I’m more excited than ever to check this trail out!

#5: Monarch Crest Trail, Salida, Colorado

Photo: highcophoto
Photo: highcophoto

Very near-and-dear to my heart is my new local epic, the Monarch Crest Trail. But it’s good to know that I’m not the only one that thinks this is one of the best trails anywhere, as it gathered 173 votes and claimed 5th place in our poll, thanks to its million-mile high alpine views.

More Scenic Mountain Bike Trails: Write-In Submissions

There were a plethora of write-in submissions to our poll, and it would be impossible to recognize all of them here! However, after reviewing the submissions, there were a couple of trails that came up again and again. And, interestingly enough, they were all locations that we considered as we put together our top 20 list…

The Colorado Trail

Colorado Trail: Molas Pass, Durango. Photo: brown_m
Colorado Trail: Molas Pass, Durango. Photo: brown_m

Tons of people mentioned the Colorado Trail in one way or another in the write-in comments, and as an editorial team we discussed the Colorado Trail in detail during the selection process. Now, the Colorado Trail is undoubtedly scenic, but at over 500 miles long choosing it as a top scenic trail kind of feels like cheating. 😉 However, technically we did highlight a section of the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail already: both of these long-distance trails run together and form the Monarch Crest route.

Colorado Trail: Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass, Fairplay. Photo: Colin 1983
Colorado Trail: Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass, Fairplay. Photo: Colin1983

While choosing the entire Colorado Trail would be a bit of a low blow to the rest of the nation, there are two sections that have been called out regularly by our writers and via the write-in section in the poll. First and foremost, the Molas Pass section near Durango is extremely popular, and is, reportedly, extremely scenic. As well, the Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass segment, complete with gorgeous aspen forests and above tree line views, is jaw-dropping in the fall!

Horsethief Bench, Kokopelli Area Trails, Fruita, Colorado

Photo: co_flyer
Photo: co_flyer

Fruita is undoubtedly a crowd favorite, and the massive cliffs and rock formations coupled with the views of the Colorado River make Horsethief Bench the top scenic choice in Fruita choice. It probably doesn’t hurt that the riding here is pretty dang good as well!

Gooseberry Mesa, Hurricane, Utah

Photo: bluejudad
Photo: bluejudad

I don’t know if you noticed, but we had a ton of trails from Utah on our top 20 list–more than any other state. Utah is extremely geographically blessed: we could have put together a “20 Most Scenic Trails in the State of Utah” list and still had a hard time choosing! Gooseberry Mesa is, unquestionably, an extremely scenic trails, with gorgeous views off of the rim of the Mesa and epic views of nearby Zion National Park.

White Mesa, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Photo: Jerry Hazard
Photo: Jerry Hazard

Yet another trail that was within an inch of making it on our top 20 list, White Mesa is located in a gorgeous desert landscape complete with cool rock formations, unique hills, and long-range views.

North Umpqua River Trail, Roseburg, Oregon

Photo: tumbleweed14
Photo: tumbleweed14

While the North Umpqua River Trail lost out on our list to its close by, slightly more scenic, and much more ridden cousin the McKenzie River Trail, the North Umpqua Trail is still regarded by many who have ridden it as their favorite trail of all time. And the scenery definitely isn’t shabby, either!

Stay tuned…

The first half of our scenic mountain bike trails series is complete, but we have maybe an even more interesting list coming up next: “20 of the Most Scenic Mountain Bike Trails in the Eastern USA.” While it’s rather easy to have a scenic trail in the West, these eastern trails each have a unique and extremely special flavor. Tune in next Monday for our list!