Riding the Interstate: The I-70 Road Trip Edition

Stretching from Baltimore in the East to the great Southwestern plateaus, Interstate 70 spans a broad range of American geography—and provides easy access to some of our most excellent singletrack.  While the trails in this edition of Riding the Interstate aren’t as evenly spaced as those in the I-40 edition, there are more of them encompassing the full gamut of mountain biking experiences.  If you have occasion to travel across this busiest of east-west interstate routes, be sure to bring your rig with you as there is no shortage of opportunities to decompress from the frenzy of high-speed cross country travel.

1st Stop: Gambrill State Park, Maryland
1-70 Exit: 42. Trailhead distance from exit: 6.6 miles
At this point, you’ve only been on the road a short time, but it’s never too soon to stop and hit some quality singletrack, and this superb and rugged trail network beckons to passersby. There are a variety of trails for all experience levels, but the emphasis is on more challenging riding. If the trails within the park aren’t tough enough, the Blue Trail exits the park and passes through the Frederick Watershed, a mostly secret collection of informal trails providing everything from the merely tough to full-on freeride opportunities. If you’ve got access to local info or the time and skills to explore, this makes a great, unique add-on.

Rippin' downhill at Seven Springs (Singletracks Photo by element22)

2nd Stop: Seven Springs, Pennsylvania
1-70 Exit: 110. Trailhead distance from exit: 15.8 miles
Just because you’re still out east doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of some lift-assisted riding. The Seven Springs ski resort in Southeast Pennsylvania is a great place to cut your teeth on gravity riding. There are a number of downhill trails that are accessible to a gravity noob and others that graduate to seriously scary stuff. If you don’t have a downhill rig, rentals (along with body armor) are available at the base. If you don’t want to ride downhill at all, fear not; there is plenty of entertaining cross-country singletrack as well, much of it at the top of the ridge with occasional views of the surrounding hills and valleys.

Twisty trail in John Bryan State Park, (Singletracks photo by Trail Jogger)

3rd Stop: John Bryan State Park, Ohio
1-70 Exit: 52. Trailhead distance from exit: 9.7 miles
This is a mostly flat, beginner-friendly network that packs maximum mileage into a minimal area—which means there’s a lot of tight and twisty. So even though there’s not a lot of physical or technical challenge, you still have to be on your toes if you want to ride it fast. In fact, the local MTB club runs time trails on these trails, putting a premium on cornering skills—how fast can you take it without eating bark?

Elevation gain, Indiana style (Singletracks photo by Bubblehead10MM)

4th Stop: Westwood, Indiana
1-70 Exit: 123. Trailhead distance from exit: 7.2 miles
One doesn’t usually expect to find quality singletrack in the middle of an area famous for cornfields, but here it is. There’s a tight and twisty 10-mile circuit around Westwood Park Reservoir. Like the rest of Indiana, you won’t find any big climbs here, but there are plenty of little ones, over and over throughout its length. Between the up n’ down and the left n’ right, this is a surprisingly three-dimensional ride.

Decision time in Southern Illinois (Singletracks photo by RoadWarrior)

5th Stop: SIUE Trails, Illinois
1-270 Exit: 9. Trailhead distance from exit: 4.6 miles
After crossing a whole lot of Jack and Diane heartland, here lies another six miles of tight and twisty singletrack. Like Westwood, this isn’t a destination ride, but it’s still the best, easily accessible quality trail in this neck of the woods.

Are you ready to "step up" to the challenges at Landahl? (Singletracks photo by Bubblehead10MM)

6th Stop: Landahl Mountain Bike Park, Missouri
1-70 Exit: 24. Trailhead distance from exit: 4.9 miles
After so much hardpacked and smooth riding since leaving Pennsylvania, you’re going to love this one if you’ve got a yen to get technical again. While the overall topography here is pretty flat, this is a rocky, ledgy place that will test your technical ability on many of its trails. There’s plenty of easy stuff as well. In fact, there are more miles in this network than most folks could ride in a full day. This is an IMBA epic as well as a former host of a 24 hour race series. It’d be a shame to pass by without stopping at this one.

Are you SURE we're still in Kansas? (Singletracks photo by Sucio Sanchez)

7th Stop: Switchgrass, Kansas
1-70 Exit: 206. Trailhead distance from exit: 1.5 miles
Logging a few miles on the trails in the Wilson State Park will have you saying “Gee, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” But indeed you are. A recent IMBA epic, the Switchgrass trail serves up plenty of fast, flowy, and sometimes techy singletrack for your riding pleasure. For more info, check out Jeff’s article here.

Off camber rocks and exposure in the shadow of Denver (Singletracks phot by MarkZahn)

8th Stop: Dakota Ridge, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 259. Trailhead distance from exit: 0.3 miles
Before you leave the Denver Metro area, just a football field’s length off the interstate lies a most worthy local favorite. The Dakota Ridge, sitting across the road from the world famous Red Rocks, gives you the opportunity to channel your inner rock hound. The initial climb is smooth and short, but quite steep, accelerating your heart rate at this new altitude. Then the fun begins as you face another two miles of continuous rocks, ledges, stairs and more rocks. It’s kinda short, but quite intense and, given its proximity to the I, a must stop.

High altitude scenery on the Peaks Trail (Singletracks photo by utedude)

9th Stop: Peaks Trail, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 201. Trailhead distance from exit: 0.8 miles
Okay, so it hasn’t been long since the last stop, but again we have a Colorado classic less than a mile from the I. This was one of Colorado’s earliest MTB epics and remains an excellent choice to this day.

Although the name may sound intimidating, most of the climb up the Boneyard is rather gentle

10th Stop: The Boneyard, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 147. Trailhead distance from exit: 1.2 miles
This one doesn’t have the historical lineage of the Peaks Trail, but it is destined to be equally classic. This is the quintessential Colorado Western Slope ride. The Boneyard beckons you with a long but manageable climb through pinion forest and then gives you a number of downhill options, including the way fun Redneck Ridge or the somewhat overstated “World’s Greatest Downhill.”

It's hard not to get excited about singletrack like this--especially when the trailhead is right next to the interstate! (Singletracks photo by lostcause)

11th Stop: Kokopelli Area Trails, Colorado
1-70 Exit: 15. Trailhead distance from exit: 0.8 miles
This has to be the ultimate combination of world-class riding and interstate access. The parking lot is literally just a stone’s throw from I-70 and yet you get one of the most famous and popular trail networks in the world. Novices can hang on Rustler’s Loop, rock hounds can practice their trials skills on Moore Fun, and everybody can enjoy the likes of Mary’s, Steve’s, Horsethief (after the short initial hike-in for all but the most elite), Lion’s, or Troy’s–and the Colorado River scenery is spectacular.

This is the easy part! (Singletracks photo by UtMtnBkr)

12th Stop: 5 Miles of Hell, Utah
1-70 Exit: 131. Trailhead distance from exit: 7.7 miles
This isn’t a trail so much as it is a route through some of the meanest rock desert on the face of the planet. Looking around here, you’ll see where Hollywood got the inspiration for the sets depicting the most hostile, forbidding planets in the bleakest science fiction movies. This truly is no-man’s land. There is no water, no medical services, or anything resembling civilization for many, many hostile miles in any direction. If you come here, bring a buddy, be self-sufficient, smart, and free enough of ego so as to not push yourself beyond your limits or get frustrated by the many, constant obstacles you will face. This route was originally designed for the throttle twisters, and even they have a tough time with it. This one is more masochistic than fun, but makes quite a badge of honor if you complete it.

After this, there’s not much before I-70 terminates at its junction with I-15, possibly the best mountain biking north-south interstate in the country.

Do you have any “go-to” rides along the I-70 corridor?

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