The Top 10 Mountain Bike Cities in North America

Racing mountain bikes in the heart of Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Robert Hunter.
Racing mountain bikes in the heart of Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Robert Hunter.

While we all love to dream about shredding the best mountain bike destinations in North America, the sad fact is that most of us will only ever get to visit those places… and we have to live somewhere else to pay the bills. So if you can’t spend 365 days per year riding in a world-class MTB destination, your local trails should at least be respectable. That’s why we put together this list of the top 10 North American cities for mountain bikers to call home.

The Process

We began by limiting our choices to the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas in the United States. And, if a Canadian city was to make the list, it would have to be large enough to make it into the US’s top 100. Unfortunately, limiting our choices in this way means that there are dozens of smaller towns with fantastic mountain biking that don’t qualify. (Bend, Oregon comes to mind.)

With this list in mind, we opened it up to our editorial team, with a combined total of more than 100 years of mountain biking experience, for nominations. After building a possible list of options, we argued and fought amongst ourselves, trading good-natured insults back-and-forth, until we finally arrived at this top 10 list.

If you’re looking to relocate and the quality of the local mountain bike trails is a determining factor, rest assured that all of these cities make great choices.

Los Angeles, California

Population: 13,053,000

San Juan Trail. Photo: rickbarbee.

You might not think that the second-largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States would be a good place to be a mountain biker… but you’d be wrong. The hot, dry San Gabriel mountains offer up a wild maze of trails and a 12-month-per-year mountain biking season, with many more trails (like El Prieto) starting right from the edge of the city, or even completely contained within the city itself (like Turnbull Canyon).

To be completely honest, there aren’t many places where you can drop 5,000 vertical feet in a shuttle run and end up at a burger joint or a bar, but in LA you can shuttle high up into the Los Angeles National Forest and ride your mountain bike all the way back down the mountains into the burbs.

Yeah, there are probably some downsides to living in So Cal… but a lack of mountain biking opportunities isn’t one of them.

-Greg Heil