Today’s Top Riding Destinations
Top Riding Destinations
If you’re like us, most of your riding takes place within a few miles of your home or workplace. If we only have an hour or two available for a ride, we head to one of the closest trails we know in order to get as much time on the bike as we can. When we have a whole day free, we might decide to drive an hour or more to get to some of the better trails in our area or even a bike park. If we happen to have a whole week free, we may want to headway out of town and visit a bunch of different places, hundreds of miles away, or we might even consider flying to one of the more famous mountain bike destinations we know.
We polled our staff, asked our friends and even contacted some of the most well-traveled pros in our sport, asking them to name some of their favorite mountain bike destinations in the U.S. and Canada.
If you’re in the mood for a mountain bike vacation, you might want to put some of these destinations on your bucket list.
You probably already know about Whistler. It’s the most famous bike park in North America with over 50 lift-accessed trails. Many of them are world class, and they cater to all ability levels, from novice to seasoned pro. If you can spend a few days or even a few weeks here, you’ll most likely be glad you did. The summer weather is fantastic. The top riders in the world come here whenever they can, and the riding is world class.
Richie Schley takes a steep line down one of the more challenging trails in Squamish, British Columbia. Photo by John Entwhistle @EntwhistlePhoto
If you live in the Northeast or the Midwest, put Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park on your list of places to go. It’s one of the most unlikely but coolest riding places we’ve ever visited. The park was created by Ray Petro and his friends over 12 years ago so they could have a place to ride during the winter when the ground was covered in snow and the temperature was well below freezing. The park is open from late October to mid-April, and it’s well worth a visit, even if you have to drive five hours to get there. Many of the park’s visitors do just that on the weekend. One of our staffers says he thinks it’s the most fun place he’s ever ridden a mountain bike. Check it out if you can. This place is a blast!
The idea of mountain biking indoors might sound crazy to most people, but once riders get the chance to spend some time at Ray’s MTB in Cleveland, Ohio, they usually fall in love with the place. Photo courtesy: Ray’s MTB
Park City is one of the gold-level riding areas in America, the top designation of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. That means it’s one of the very best mountain biking destinations in North America. The trails are spectacular, the scenery is amazing, and the summer weather is absolutely ideal. Be aware that Park City is also a major ski resort in the winter months, so the area gets a lot of snow in the mountains in the winter. You may need to wait until May or June for most of the fluffy white stuff to disappear before you can enjoy the trails. If you plan your trip for any time in the summer, you should be fine. This place is definitely worth a visit if you can pull it off.
Lance Canfield takes a wall-ride down the Palisade Plunge on the outskirts of Grand Junction, Colorado. The town is only a few miles from Fruita, Colorado, another one of our favorite riding areas in the U.S. Photo by Dan Stefanovich
Crested Butte has so many great trails that you could spend the whole summer there and not want to leave. The town is home to one of the top bike/ski resorts in the nation, but it also offers some of the best trails in the country outside the boundaries of the park, including the beautiful 401 Trail, which some people consider the best mountain bike trail in America. Crested Butte was the site of the first mountain bike festival in America in 1990, and the normally annual event will almost certainly return once the current pandemic winds down. If you happen to catch an early- or late-season snowstorm while you’re there (it snowed in September in 2020), you can sample the skiing or snowboarding on the hills, but you might also be able to hop in the car and drive down the mountains to find trails at the lower elevations that aren’t buried in snow.
“Moab is such a beautiful and unique place in the Wild West and has been associated with mountain biking since fat-tire bikes became popular,” says Hans Rey. “It hosts some of the world’s most famous trails, such as Slickrock Trail, Porcupine Rim Trail, Poison Spider, etc. It’s the ultimate adventure town for all outdoor sports, surrounded by some of the most beautiful national parks and the mighty Colorado River.”
Freeride pioneer Richie Schley ranks the town and the surrounding areas as one of his favorite places to ride as well, saying, “Moab truly is one of America’s great mountain bike destinations because the terrain allows you to ride almost anywhere. The flow and wide-open terrain make it possible to be very creative and explore the area like a natural skatepark.”
Moab has been one of the premier mountain bike destinations in America for over 30 years now. The best time to visit the area is in the spring or fall to avoid the boiling heat of summer and the freezing cold of winter, but it’s still worth checking out any time you get the chance to visit the area.
“Squamish, British Columbia, in my opinion, has the best mountain bike trails in the world,” says Richie Schley. “The mix of dirt, rocks and terrain make it a dream place for creative trail builders to design masterpieces.”
Though Squamish doesn’t attract anywhere near the number of riders that the nearby town of Whistler does with its world-class bike park, some of the top riders in the area actually prefer the riding in Squamish.
Sedona is one of the top riding destinations in the United States, provided you go there in the cooler months. The trails, terrain and scenery are all world class. Richie Schley says, “Sedona is one of my favorite places in the U.S. to ride because of its incredible beauty and exciting, exposed terrain. It is technical up and down and challenging for all levels.”
While the daytime temperatures can climb well into the 90s and even higher in the summer, the rest of the year is much more pleasant. Even in the coldest months—December, January and February—the afternoon temperatures regularly hit 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius) and often even higher.
Tucson, Arizona, is another place with some great riding. It’s probably best to go there sometime other than June, July or August, however. Photo by Sterling Lorence
“One of the destinations on my current list of favorite places in the U.S. would be Bentonville,” says Hans Rey. “What they have built in northeast Arkansas is just amazing,” says Hans. “It’s the next level of trail and biking culture integrated into a community. It goes way beyond the actual trails. It’s the whole town and infrastructure. It was also done on a top-notch level; no expense was spared. The trail network, with hundreds of trails for all skill levels and ages, is not only good but aesthetically beautiful. This place is definitely worth a visit, and don’t be surprised if you consider moving there once you’ve seen the place and tasted the trails.”
Hans is not alone in saying that, either. Many other people, and even the International Mountain Bicycling Association, are now saying that the town of Bentonville is a world-class mountain bike destination. Tom Walton, the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is an avid mountain biker who has turned the home of his family’s corporation (and its first store) into what some people are now saying might be the best mountain biking destination in America.
“My favorite place to ride in the U.S. is at Snowshoe Bike Park in West Virginia,” says MBA contributor Heather Peterson.
The park was chosen as the site of the World Cup Finals for both 2019 and 2021, which is a sign of how good it is. “There are so many trails that I’ve been there a few times and have yet to ride them all,” says Heather. “There are two lift-serviced sides of the mountain that you ride on—the Western Territory side and the Basin side. The terrain there can be rugged, steep and relentless. It can also be bermy, fast and fun. There is something for every type of rider, no matter if you’re a pro or a beginner.”
“Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle is my favorite place to ride in a state full of great riding,” says contributor Jeff Coyle. “At 120 miles long and between 6 and 20 miles wide, it is the second-largest canyon in the U.S. The red clay trails are rugged and vary between tight-and-twisty and fast-and-flowy. Palo Duro was home to the U.S. Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships in 2019, but unfortunately, 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic. I’m hoping USA Cycling opts to come back in 2021.”
The Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont, have a reputation for offering some of the best mountain bike riding in the country. Juli Furtado (the UCI’s 1990 Cross-Country World champion and 1992 Downhill World champion) recently told MBA it is one of her three favorite riding places in the United States, ranking up there with Santa Cruz, California, and Durango, Colorado, without putting them in any particular order.
MBA’s managing editor Brandon Castelli went there one time. He still raves about how great the riding was, and he’s been to a lot of incredible places in the last four years.
One poll we saw of riders from all across the country claimed that it was the best mountain bike destination in America, so you can be sure it’s worth checking out. The warmer months would be the best time to visit, as the winters there can be brutally cold.
Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, is one of the most famous stops on the international mountain bike race circuit. The celebrated bike resort hosted either UCI World Cups or World Championships every year from 1991 to 2019. Of course, the 2020 World Cup race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mont-Sainte-Anne is one of the competitors’ favorite race sites on earth. The downhill riding is world-class, and the cross-country trails are spectacular, too.
There are thousands of great trails in the U.S. and Canada. We couldn’t possibly mention all of them, but here are some of the other areas worth checking out (these are in no particular order): Bellingham, Washington; Sun Valley, Idaho; Durango, Colorado; Duluth, Minnesota; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Louisville, Kentucky; Wilmington, New York; Harrisonburg, Virginia; Brevard, North Carolina; Ocala, Florida; Downieville, California; Ellijay, Georgia; Cable, Wisconsin; Copper Harbor, Michigan; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Anchorage, Alaska; and Haleiwa, Hawaii.
Of course, we’re only scratching the surface of all the great places in America to ride. We can probably think of at least a dozen places within 40 minutes of where we live in Southern California, so don’t feel bad if we didn’t mention your favorite trail system. You might be better off if you and your friends are the only people who know about it.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.