Riding the Top 10 MTB Trails in the World, Part 1

As many of you may know, I spent almost two months this summer traveling the nation and riding my mountain bike. One of my main goals when I was out west this summer was to ride any of the trails on our top 10 best mountain bike trails list that I hadn’t ridden yet.

Our list is constantly changing based on user ratings and other factors computed by our ranking algorithm, and some of the trails I went out of my way to ride this summer are no longer even ranked in the top 10. However, a few weeks ago I went and took another look at the list and realized that I’ve now ridden the 10 best mountain bike trails in the world, as ranked by Singletracks.com!

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what my initial impressions were of these 10 trails, a photo that I took out on the trail (if any), and what I really think of these trails now that I can look back on them with the clarity that retrospection provides.

1. Buffalo Creek, Pine, Colorado

Original review, June 2008:

“Ride sandy wash trail down towards the road, like the description. It’s a good ride, but not technical at all.” (4 stars.)

I first rode Buffalo Creek at about the same time that I discovered Singletracks.com, as I was new to Colorado and looking for trails to ride. Remarkably, one of the trails closest to the camp that I worked at in the summer of 2008 was Buffalo Creek–the “best” mountain bike trail in the world.

There’s no doubt about it: Buffalo Creek is an excellent trail system with tons of amazing cross-country singletrack. However, I’d say that it is far from the best trail I’ve ever ridden. I find it interesting that in my initial review I only gave it four stars, while now I think that it is definitely deserving of a full five. For instance, the addition of the technical Blackjack trail has given Buffalo Creek a whole new technical dimension that it never had before. Hopefully the trail system continues to diversify.

2. Porcupine Rim, Moab, Utah

Original review, June 2012:

“What a fun ride! Amazing views, crazy gnar, tons of drops… the only thing is this isn’t really singletrack. The choose-your-own-adventure approach is fun at times, but then it gets kind of old. The sandy sections are pretty unfortunate too.” (4 stars.)

Porcupine Rim is one of the trails that I went out of my way to ride this summer. It’s a great technical ride, but as my review mentioned, most of it isn’t actually singletrack and there are some massive sand traps that are no fun at all. However, if I was to consider The Whole Enchilada route (Porcupine Rim is a big part of it), I would have to say that The Whole Enchilada is easily one of my favorite rides of all time and definitely worthy of a top 10 spot! For more information on The Whole Enchilada, read my blog post from this summer.

3. Blankets Creek, Woodstock, Georgia

The author on Quehl Holler. Photo: GoldenGoose.

Original review, June 2011:

“I finally rode here for the first time about a month ago, and I loved it! The quality workmanship is so evident in this trails with the careful benchcutting, swooping flow, and big banked turns. Quehl Holler was an absolute riot… I can’t wait to hit that again! As for the XC trails, South Loop was my fav, I loved all the rocky climbs, and Van Michael was a blast as well. The exposed section above the water was so fun, felt like I was back out in Colorado!” (5 stars.)

In retrospect, I’m having a hard time believing that I gave Blankets Creek 5 stars and only gave Buffalo Creek and Porcupine Rim 4 stars each originally. Reflecting on all the trails on this list and the hundreds of trails I’ve ridden across the nation, I don’t think that Blankets Creek should be ranked number 3. In fact, I don’t think it should appear in the top 10 list… or even in the top 100… at all! However, the fact that I gave it 5 stars back in 2011 is rather telling… and it does explain how Blankets Creek came to be number 3 on the list.

Specifically, people tend to rate trails based on their region. While perhaps Blankets Creek is a 4 or a 5 on an Atlanta or Georgia standard, if you compare the best Georgia trails to even the mediocre Colorado trails, no Georgia trail would ever rate beyond a 3 or, at most, a 4. Blankets Creek’s excellent rating is evidence that people rate trails based solely on their own experiences, and even if they’ve ridden out west they still rate trails based on the experiences that are fresh in their minds. This is an excellent reminder to take every rating you see and every review you read with a grain of salt.

4. Tsali Recreation Area, Bryson City, North Carolina

Original review, August 2011:

“What can be said that hasn’t already? Well let me say this: these trails live up to the hype: there is no let-down here! The most Colorado-esque trails I’ve ridden east of the rockies.” (5 stars.)

Yes, these trails are very reminiscent of Colorado–especially trails like Buffalo Creek. Tsali has a lot going on: flowy singletrack, great views, and awesome camping. It’s a classic too, having been a major Western North Carolina destination for decades. However, based on today’s modern standards, Tsali doesn’t have very many miles for a true destination trail system (partly because only half of the system is open to bikes on any given day), and there is very little variety here with almost no technical riding.

Tsali is still, and will always be, a great trail system, and while I’m not sure that it’s one of the 10 best trails in the world, it’s definitely not shabby!

5. Slickrock, Moab, Utah

Original review, June 2012:

“What a fun time! Getting the insider’s view into the best lines thanks to Chad was awesome… flowed way better than the designated trail! As I’m sure you’ve heard, the traction both up and down is fantastic. Riding slickrock and not being tied down to one specific line is a truly unique experience that everyone should have.” (5 stars.)

Another trail that I went out of my way to ride this summer, Slickrock has been a classic mountain bike experience since the 80’s, and it is still worth riding today! While some people don’t seem to praise Slickrock as highly nowadays, I think that it deserves to be on this list if just for the unique experience that it provides. There are many other trails that have sections of slickrock incorporated into them, but how many are located entirely on this super-grippy sandstone? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but Slickrock is the only one. This is a must-ride trail!

Stay tuned for part 2: Monarch Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, 18 Road Trails, Trail 401, and FATS.

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