A lot has changed in the mountain bike world over the past six years. The last time Singletracks took a hard look at the best mountain bike destinations in the United States was in 2016, and we figured the list would be mostly the same today. After looking more closely, and considering all the great destinations that were nominated by Singletracks readers, it’s clear mountain bikers have a few new ride spots on their minds, and some of the up-and-coming have up and come.
Choosing the best mountain bike destinations
So what makes for a top mountain bike destination? For starters, it’s about much more than just having a lot of trails, and the best mountain bike destinations have a vibe that can be felt the moment you roll into town. From the bike shops to the restaurants and local watering holes, there has to be more of a scene than just the mini-bar in your room at the Holiday Inn near the interstate. Mountain bike destinations are just that — destinations — that riders seek out for riding, and they’re not the places we ride just because we’re in town visiting the in-laws.
Mountain bikers also expect a variety of trail experiences when visiting a top destination, and not every day has to be a park day. It’s a tall order for sure, and developing a top destination takes years, if it ever happens at all, which makes these picks all the more special and rare.
Here are a few things we think a great mountain bike destination should have:
- A variety of trail experiences for beginners to experts, and from technical to flowy trails
- Beautiful scenery and a natural environment
- Bike-friendly services like bike shops, shuttle/lift services, event promotors, and tour operators
- A strong community of riders and advocates for mountain biking in the area
- A good climate
- Interesting and unique restaurants, bars, and breweries
- A variety of lodging choices, from primitive camping to nice hotels
Comparing destinations is tricky, and narrowing the list is as much a subjective exercise as an objective one. In the end, however, most mountain bikers will agree that we know a true mountain bike destination when we see one.
- Moab, Utah
- Sedona, Arizona
- Bentonville, Arkansas
- Grand Valley, Colorado (Fruita / Grand Junction / Palisade)
- Crested Butte, Colorado and the Gunnison Valley
- Park City, Utah
- Pisgah, North Carolina (Brevard / Asheville / Old Fort)
- Lake Tahoe
- Copper Harbor, Michigan
- Kingdom Trails, Vermont
- Durango, Colorado
- Bellingham, Washington
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: these are not the only mountain bike destinations worth visiting in the US. In fact we started with a list of about 40 contenders, and would be stoked to spend a few days exploring any one of them. While these are currently the top mountain bike destinations in our minds, we have no doubt that others will move onto the list over the next few years.
For each destination we’ll share a bit about what makes it stand out, and will list one “must-ride” trail or trail system. Keep in mind that while must-rides are generally the ones everyone and their brother-in-law has heard about, you may find other trails to be even more fun based on your own preferences and riding style. Whenever visiting a mountain bike destination, you do you!
Wherever you ride, be sure to support the local trail maintainers, advocates, and small business owners who make these destinations what they are.
Moab is a safe pick for the #1 mountain bike destination in the US, and what’s remarkable is how long it’s stayed at the top of riders’ lists. It’s all the more amazing when you consider its unforgiving desert environment and the fact that many of the most popular trails can be challenging for young and beginning riders.
That being said, a trip to Moab has been a part of mountain bike culture since the early days of the sport. It’s the place we go to ride the latest bikes on some of the toughest trails, and to hang out with riders from around the world over a Johnny’s American IPA. While there are only a few truly beginner-friendly trails in Moab, riders can access a variety of trails from flowy to slabby and technical, and from forested high alpine singletrack to wide-open desert trails. Surrounded by vast and scenic public lands, there are many options for camping and sightseeing as well.
The Moab economy clearly revolves around outdoor recreation, and some of the most fierce and dedicated mountain bike advocates call Moab home. New trail developments and improvements are ongoing, which makes Moab a destination that’s worth visiting over and over again.
Must ride: The Whole Enchilada.
It’s said that Sedona has been a ‘destination’ since 1895, when Lou Thomas opened a fishing and hunting lodge in the area. It took some time before the word got out among mountain bikers, but today it’s no secret that Sedona is one of the best places to ride in the US. With incredible scenery and some of the best early-season weather, it’s become a must-ride destination for both casual and experienced riders alike.
Visitors have so many great trails to ride in Sedona thanks in large part to the work of the Verde Valley Cyclist Coalition. The group is active in supporting trail maintenance and new trail builds, and helping staff the unofficial kick-off to the US mountain bike season, the Sedona Bike Festival. Sedona offers riders and their families plenty of places to stay and eat, from down home to chichi.
Bentonville has arrived! Crowning itself the “Mountain Bike Capital of the World” may have been a bit over the top, but there’s no denying that Northwest Arkansas is serious about creating a mountain bike destination that’s worth visiting. Today Bentonville and more broadly, Northwest Arkansas, offers every type of riding you can imagine, from pump tracks to singletracks to massive jump lines and features. Just about the only thing Bentonville doesn’t have is lift-serviced terrain, though there are shuttle operators who are more than willing to help you save your legs. Visitors will find quality trails in Bentonville of all flavors, built by some of the most accomplished and creative trail builders from around the country.
Arkansas isn’t classically scenic in the sense of mountain towns and alpine riding, but there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore. Downtown Bentonville is quaint, and offers hip spots for grabbing a beer or coffee on either end of the ride. There are plenty of businesses that cater to riders, and many in the bike industry are relocating to the area, making for a vibrant, year-round riding community.
Grand Valley, Colorado
It almost seems unfair that two of the best mountain bike destinations — Moab and the Grand Valley — are located so close together. As it turns out, that’s not by accident, as the Grand Valley shares geo- and topographic similarities with its neighbor to the southwest. Not only that, a good old-fashioned rivalry is said to have spurred local mountain bikers in Fruita and Grand Junction to develop trails decades ago to rival those of their neighbors.
Today the Grand Valley in western Colorado is a major destination for mountain bikers seeking desert riding that ranges from buff and fast to technical and demanding. Trail development in the area is ongoing thanks to the efforts of COPMOBA, and the newest trail, the Palisade Plunge, is giving many riders a reason to return yet again.
Grand Junction (pop. 62K) is a good-sized city with plenty of amenities, though bikers tend to congregate in the smaller towns like Fruita and Palisade. Like Moab and Sedona, the Grand Valley is a popular early-season and fall destination.
Must ride: 18 Road trail system.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte is another blue-blood mountain bike destination, a place that’s been drawing riders pretty much since the dawn of the sport. The summer alpine scenery is fantastic, and the remote mountain town has a vibe that makes you just want to park your van and stay forever. For many the draw is the seemingly endless natural singletrack leading away from town, while for others there’s the lift-served Evolution Bike Park which boasts plenty of steep trails and challenging features.
Visitors can choose to camp on public lands outside of town, or level up to resort-style accommodations in Mount Crested Butte. Small, local restaurants dot the compact downtown area making it a fun place to hang out after riding all day.
The very best trails in Crested Butte are really only rideable in summer, though it should be said there are some limited opportunities for fat biking in winter. If we include nearby Gunnison, the season stretches a bit, bringing with it a variety of additional riding experiences as well. The Sawatch Range to the east separates Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley from Salida, another mountain bike destination that’s worthy of an honorable mention, if not its own spot on a future list.
Park City, Utah
A mountain bike trip to Park City is sort of like booking a week at an all-inclusive resort. You really don’t have to put much thought into where you’re going to ride, how you’re going to get your bike to the trailhead, or where you’ll eat and sleep. Everything is accessible pretty much right in town, with hotels, restaurants, bike rentals, and even trailheads seemingly around every corner. While Park City isn’t known for technical trail riding, there are plenty of options for beginners to experts, and the lift-served terrain features a few black- and double black-diamond rated trails.
Summer is the best time to visit Park City for mountain biking, with high alpine and forested trails to escape the heat. Park City is one of the more family-friendly mountain bike destinations as well, with plenty to do and see after the daily ride.
Pisgah, North Carolina
Like Moab, Pisgah is known for its challenging trails. However that reputation is changing as new beginner- and family-friendly trails come online like the recently opened Old Fort Gateway trails located east of Asheville. Visitors to Pisgah will find pristine forests and miles of singletrack to explore, ranging from the physically and technically demanding to the flowy and fun.
Unlike some of the other destinations on this list, Pisgah is somewhat loosely defined, including both trails located in the National Forest and in popular riding spots like Dupont State Forest and Bent Creek. Whether you base your trip out of Brevard, Asheville, or Mills River, there are plenty of camping and lodging options to choose from. And don’t get us started on the breweries; it would be easy to base a trip around visiting them all, and skipping the biking altogether.
If you’d rather not spend hours poring over maps, the annual 5-day Pisgah Stage is a great way to experience the best trails alongside mountain bikers from around the world. With a temperate climate, Pisgah is generally a great place to visit year-round, though it can get steamy during peak summer months.
The scenery around Lake Tahoe is tough to beat. The Tahoe Rim trail, much of which is open to bikes, is among the most scenic in the country offering soaring views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. Visitors can ride natural, backcountry singletrack in the morning, then head to the lift-served DH trails at Northstar resort in the afternoon. And thanks to local bike groups, there are family-friendly, progressive public bike parks located in Truckee and Incline Village.
Lake Tahoe is a summer MTB destination, switching over to snow sports in the winter, which gives visitors many resort-style lodging options to choose from. With such a tourism-based economy, riders can find all the bike services, restaurants, and breweries they need.
Must ride: Tahoe Rim trail.
Ride guide: Lake Tahoe trail map
Copper Harbor, Michigan
Folks outside the mountain bike world might be shocked to see Copper Harbor on a list like this, but riders in the know are likely not surprised one bit. The community of Copper Harbor is remote, with a full time population of just 136 according to the 2020 census, yet sees an estimated 200,000 overnight visitors each year. Copper Harbor isn’t somewhere folks are just passing through; it’s a destination all its own, thanks in large part to the trails.
Visitors to Copper Harbor will find high-quality trails for a variety of skill levels. The mountain bike community here is strong, anchored by mega trail building company Rock Solid, the Copper Harbor Trails Club, and the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Beautiful forests, clean air, and a chill after-ride vibe at local restaurants and Brickside Brewery give this mountain bike destination a feel all its own.
Must ride: All of it.
Kingdom Trails, Vermont
The Kingdom Trails in Vermont have been drawing riders from the Northeastern US and Southeastern Canada for decades thanks to miles of flowy, forested singletrack that emerges into bucolic fields and valleys. There are trails for all skill levels within the Kingdom Trails network, and there are also lift-served downhill trails at Burke Mountain resort. Visitors will need to purchase a daily, monthly, or annual membership to access Kingdom Trails, with single day passes priced at $20 for adults. The funds help support the Kingdom Trails Association which is active in managing and maintaining the trails.
East Burke is the most centrally located town to the trail network, and there are a few other small towns nearby with lodging and restaurant options. The Kingdom trails make for a great destination, especially in summer and early fall.
It seems a little unfair that Colorado is home to three of the best mountain bike destinations in the United States, but then again it’s a big state with a lot of big mountains and the trails and bike communities there are just that good. Durango sits in the far southwestern corner of the state and offers a good mix of dry, desert riding and high, alpine trails depending on which way you head out of town. The southern terminus of the Colorado trail is located nearby, offering plenty of options for scenic out-and-back or shuttle rides, some of which soar high above the tree line. A hut-to-hut route starts just north of town, while the Telegraph Hills trail system and Overend Mountain Park bleed into the neighborhoods and city streets.
Durango boasts a population of about 20,000 full-time residents, many of which are dedicated riders, which makes for a strong mountain bike community. That’s not to say the town doesn’t cater to visitors and tourists too; you’ll find plenty of great restaurants, breweries, and places to stay. Summers in town can get hot, which makes the high-country rides popular in July and August. And don’t forget Purgatory Bike Park, located just 30 minutes north of town.
We might get some shit for picking Bellingham, though not because it doesn’t deserve a spot on the list. No, we’ll get shit from the locals trying to keep the amazing riding in Bellingham a secret. So what makes Bellingham stand out as a worthy mountain bike destination, and not just a strong local ride spot?
For starters, the environment is unlike any of the others on this list. Many of the trails are lush, green, and loamy. And steep. Admittedly most of the singletrack is geared toward intermediate and advanced riders, and if you’re a fair-weather rider you should probably stay home. The Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (WMBC) has a strong presence here, as does the bike industry with brands like Evil and Transition calling Bellingham home. The result is a vibrant MTB community and some truly entertaining and progressive trails.
Since this is the Pacific Northwest, it goes without saying that the scenery is dope, the coffee is on point, and the craft beer is crisp.
Must ride: Galbraith Mountain.
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