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Stefan Myers | 09.24.2019

Speed fills your mind while the whir of knobby tires loudly pronounce themselves over the root-paved forest floor. You glide down a giant mountain descent to the valley below. The sunlight filters through the pines as you squint to see the darting trail ahead, feeling open, alive, and free.

Looking for a scenic gravity getaway before the snow? Well, it’s time to stop daydreaming and start planning. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of some of the best mountain biking towns in the U.S. (and a short hop north over the border). Each city has its own unique sights, sounds, and interesting culture. And just as diverse as the cities themselves are the mountain biking trails awaiting you there. From the trestled boardwalks of Whistler to the sandstone slickrock slabs of Moab, there’s a little something for everyone here.

 


Riding along Porcupine Rim. Jesse Weber.

Moab, Utah

The Moab board of tourism boldly proclaims to be “the home of the greatest mountain biking on the planet," and with good reason. This out-of-the-way locale is filled with desert canyons, rock spires, giant mountains, and vast ridges that spread themselves out along the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. Early uranium miners created a vast network trails eventually taken over by bikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

With over 700 miles of trail to offer, this is a place you will want to return to time and time again. For the most epic ride here, try the Porcupine Rim, a 34-mile shuttle ride from the La Sal Mountains to Moab with nearly 8,000 feet of descent. For something a bit tamer, the rides at Klondike Bluffs and Navajo Rocks offer smoother, more manageable trails with plenty of slickrock thrills and astounding scenery of both Arches National Park and the Monitor and Merrimack buttes respectively. With over 200 trails in Moab alone, it’s easy to see why it has been called the greatest.

Copper Harbor, Michigan

Ranked among the top five trail systems in the world, the Copper Harbor mountain bike trails were designed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), bringing world-class riding and riders to Michigan. The singletrack here winds over roots, berms, and rocky tracks as it twists through the multiple firms, rustic bridges, and elevated boardwalks that give this ride a unique perspective. The stunts and jumps just on the elevated boardwalks could keep you occupied for an entire day. Be sure to catch a few of the most notable trails, including The Flow and Red Trail to Stairway for a real feel of this trail system.

Bentonville, Arkansas

Bentonville is an unlikely dirt-worshipping destination, but with a bequest from the Walton family of Walmart fame, this sleepy hamlet of 50,000 has some of the best riding in all the Midwest. Under the gnarly and twisted canopy of deciduous trees, the trails here feature jumps, drops, tech sections, and rocky descents for every skill level. Some of the most notable trails here are the 22-mile Back 40 loop and the venerable 23-mile Slaughter Pen Loop, which started it all. While in the area check out the IMBA Epic ride Upper Buffalo Headwaters.

 


An MTB mecca, Whistler's Zappa Trails. Duncan Sadava.

Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

One of the better known getaways on our list outside of the U.S., Whistler has long been held as one of the crown jewels of West Coast riding. Not only is there a world-famous bike park at Whistler Mountain that features some of MTB's biggest events of the year, including the Red Bull 400 and Joyride, but there are nearly 145 miles of trail to explore while you stay here.

The 13-mile IMBA Epic trail Comfortably Numb will thrill and challenge you with its technical tour of the North Shore. Most of the trails in Whistler involve lots of climbing and serious descents not for the faint of heart. This is big-mountain riding at its best. If driving up here, do yourself a favor and tack on some time to visit and ride in Squamish and North Vancouver as well.

East Burke, Vermont

Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont, are some of the most venerated on the East Coast. Their summer season spans from May through the end of October, and for the winter season, they provide groomed trails for fat bikes. A pass is required to ride these trails, as is a daytime membership fee of $15 or a year-round membership fee of $75. The staff here is available to help match your skill level with the terrain at the Kingdom Trails, and there are rides here for everyone from beginners to advanced. The most notable rides here include the Darling Hill Loop, which features a classic tour of the Vermont wilderness, as well as the classics, with such spirited names as Tap N Die, Sidewinder, Tody’s Tour, and Troll Stroll.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville has long been a mountain biking haven of the mid-Atlantic. Hidden inside the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, this one-time playground for the rich and famous provides a multitude of trail systems and areas to explore. Only 20 minutes outside of town, the Bent Creek Experimental Forest is one of the most popular destinations, including 30 miles of flowing singletrack. This is an ideal spot for first-timers to get some experience in the mountains. Another great ride here is the DuPont State Forest, a mishmash of the area's greatest: singletrack, berms, jumps, and the largest bit of rare slickrock in the eastern United States.

 


Golden hillsides along the Wilder Ranch Trails. Aron Bosworth.

Santa Cruz, California

There's a reason the central coast of California is home to many of the industry's most recognized mountain bike companies: The riding around Santa Cruz is top-notch and year round. Beneath the redwood canopies of the Santa Cruz Mountains and winding through the open coastal grasslands that rise above the Pacific Ocean lies a network of trails that comprise some of the best riding in California.

Trails range in difficulty from mellow and incredibly scenic rides along coastal bluffs in Wilder Ranch State Park to steep and technical singletrack in Soquel Demonstration State Forest. Riders can park and bike directly from town to access much of the local riding (shuttles are also available) and finish off with a bite and beer before returning to the car. In many ways, Santa Cruz is perfectly suited to serve mountain bikers. Santa Cruz Trails not to miss include Wilder Ranch State Park's Enchanted Loop and Soquel Demonstration State Forests' Flow and Braille trails.

Fruita, Colorado

One of the original mountain biking meccas in the U.S., Fruita offers an expansive tour of the high desert Western Slope of Colorado. From the cliffs of Kokopelli's Mary’s Loop some 500 feet above the Colorado River to the rollercoaster-like flow of Zippity-Do-Dah at 18 Road, it’s no wonder this area is a premier destination for bikers of all skill levels. Both trail systems have endless days of riding and some of the most breathtaking and unusual scenery in Colorado. Plenty of other activities abound for the most intrepid adventures, including dinosaur fossils, hiking the Colorado National Monument, seeking hidden sandstone arches, and amazing rafting down Ruby Horse Thief Canyon.

From the expanses of the Blue Ridge Mountains to tight North Shore singletrack, there are no better spots to plan a mountain bike trip than one of these cities. Make sure to stop in at the local restaurants and bike shops to get the story on where you’re riding or just to say a friendly hello. You’ll surely be welcomed with warm greetings and the local lore of the trails. Who knows what kinds of tall tales of dirt and singletrack you could add to this list.

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