5 Reasons to Take a September Mountain Bike Trip

Labor day afternoon at Yuba Pass campground.  Empty!
Labor day afternoon at Yuba Pass campground. Empty!

For about four years now we’ve been taking September road trips the week after Labor Day.  It’s turned out to be our favorite trip time of the year!  Why?

1. Campgrounds are empty.

Of course, this only starts on Labor Day itself since everyone usually camps the weekend before.  BUT they’ll all have to head home on Monday in order to be at work on Tuesday.  So plan some travel time for the weekend and then on Monday pull into your favorite campground. You’re sure to find a spot as everyone else is packing up.

An example: A few years ago we drove Highway 50 to Yuba Pass, just above Sierra City, NV.  We arrived on the Sunday before Labor Day and, thankfully, had a reservation.  That campground was FULL! Monday morning, however, as we sat in camp enjoying coffee, we noticed that our RV neighbor (who had the best campsite of all) was packing up to leave. No one else had the site reserved, so as soon as he pulled out, we moved our tent to his spot.  Excited, we headed out for a day of adventure.  When we returned the only site that was taken was ours.  Everyone else had left! One other camper pulled in for a few days, but otherwise this entire campground remained blissfully empty.

2. The trails are empty too!

If there aren’t people in camp, chances are those “must-ride” trails will be less crowded too.  Even the trails in the middle of the Park City ski resort aren’t as crowded after Labor Day! We rode on a Saturday there (Sept 6th) and half the time wondered where everyone was. Of course, we enjoyed that solitude, but still… why aren’t more people out enjoying September rides?

Thunder Mountain is considered a "must ride" trail by many, but on the September day we rode it there was no one around.
Thunder Mountain is considered a “must ride” trail by many, but on the September day we rode it there was no one around.

3. Rates are lower for condos and hotels. 

If camping isn’t your thing, never fear! It’s the “off” season at most ski resorts, so condo prices are much lower, especially for VRBO condos.  We’ve stayed in condos for $89 a night during this time of year.  That’s the same price you’d pay for a hotel but you’ve got more room, more privacy, and the ability to cook all your meals. Bonus: because it’s the off season, if you have a downstairs rental there probably won’t be anyone walking around over your head.

4. The temperatures are perfect. 

Whether you’re headed to the desert or the mountains, you’ll find decent riding temps in both places. We usually head to the mountains, so daily temps are around 65 or so.  When I’m climbing at high altitudes the added pain of heat is the last thing I want, so 65 is perfect! Still, the average temps in September in Sedona are in the 80s–that’s not too bad for riding, either.

When biking in September, "all you need is a light jacket!"
When biking in September, “all you need is a light jacket!”

5. Fall colors. 

You just can’t beat biking in the fall in the mountains. The leaves are turning and falling, and riding through a tunnel of red, yellow, and orange is just fun. The high desert country this time of year can either yield more wildflowers or dusty hues of pink and orange as desert plants prepare for fall. Either way, it’s one of the most scenic times of year to ride.

Photo: Greg.
Photo: Greg.

If you need a bonus reason, consider this:  It seems most of the people traveling this time of year are retired couples. They’re quiet. So very quiet. They talk in low tones around their small camp fires, they wake and go to bed at normal hours, and they tend not to get drunk and loud.  September means blissful quiet and relaxation, and that’s why it continues to be our favorite month for travel.