I’ve ridden a few mountain bike trails over the years (129 trails over 13 years to be exact) and in that time I’ve formed an opinion or two about what makes a good MTB trail. Spectacular scenery, fast descents, great flow, and challenging terrain are just a few of the factors that make a mountain bike trail gnarly and I’m here to tell you, some trails are gnarlier than others.
So here, in all its glory, is my list of the top 10 mountain bike trails of all time:
10. Palmer Park in Colorado Springs, CO. This is easily one of the best in-town rides you’ll find anywhere in the country and I probably rode at Palmer Park 50+ times when I lived in the Springs. Technical terrain, bombing downhills, and hard-packed trails make for an awesome place to ride.
9. Owl’s Roost in Greensboro, NC. A short trail that hugs the shoreline of Lake Brandt, this trail gets better and better with age. I first rode at Owl’s Roost 8 years ago and today it’s still just as fast and furious as ever. The trail does have a few rooty sections and you’ll have to dodge hikers but for some reason I always have fun at the Roost.
8. Slickrock in Moab, UT. I debated about including Slickrock on the list since it seems so clich√© but it really is a fun trail. I felt like a billy goat out at Slickrock, able to climb the steepest pitches with ease– though by the end of it I was pretty worn out from all the up and down. The trails can get crowded during peak times (Spring and Fall) but when we went in the summer we had the place practically to ourselves as we nearly sweated to death.
7. Monarch Crest Trail near Salida, CO. Ok I admit it– I did this one as a shuttle ride but it would have been well worth the climb if I had to do it. The scenery is incredible and the varied terrain (singletrack, boulder fields and forest roads) make this truly an epic trail.
6. Stevens Creek Trail in Modoc, SC. Yep, this is a trail you’ve probably never heard of but it’s one of my favorites for a number of reasons. This is one of the first trails I rode as a young mountain biker so it has always been a special trail for me. Fast, tight, and hard-packed, these trails even offer some technical spice at regular stream crossings along the 6 mile track.
5. Tsali Left Loop near Bryson City, NC. It’s tough to pick a favorite of the Tsali trails but I’ve probably ridden the Left Loop the most of all the trails. Plus it’s one of the longer trails so you’ll get more for you money if you pick Left. Fast and scenic with a good mix of climbs and descents, I’m always up for a trip to Tsali. My top rated trail outside the western US.
4. Buffalo Creek in the middle of nowhere, CO. Actually the trail is near a (town?) named Pine but this trail is worth the drive from anywhere west of Kansas. Hard packed, fast, and overflowing with flow, this is an IMBA designated epic spot that surprisingly gets minimal traffic during the summer. Some of the climbs can be rough but tough it out– the descents are amazing!
3. Saratoga Gap near Saratoga, CA. Darkly forested and fast singletrack, (are you starting to see a trend in my preferences?) Saratoga Gap is a scenic and exciting ride just outside Silicon Valley in the Santa Cruz mountains. Plenty of trails to explore and connect, you’ll never get bored at the Gap. I think this might be mudhunny’s favorite trail, definitely one of her top 2…
2. Mount Herman in Monument, CO. By far my favorite Front Range ride in Colorado, Mount Herman is definitely a well kept secret. Actually, it’s no secret that there’s a lot of climbing involved but most of the climbing is on a dirt road so I kinda enjoy it. Once you get to the singletrack on the backside of Mount Herman you’ll be in singletrack nirvana with narrow, tight packed trail winding through a beautiful mountain valley full of aspens and wildflowers. Man I love this place…
1. Trail 401 in Crested Butte, CO. This is the only trail I’ve ridden in CB so I can’t say if it’s any better than the others but for my money, mountain biking doesn’t get any better than this. Soaring mountains, an invigorating (read: long and steep) gravel road climb, and well-maintained singletrack make this my #1 hands down. The wildflowers along the trail are often over your head as you scream down the side of 13,000 foot mountains back to the start of the trail. Brings a tear to my eye just writing about it 😉
So there you have it, my top 10 mountain bike trail list. What does your top 10 list look like?