Whether you are a veteran mountain bike rider looking for a new challenge, or a novice rider searching for options to up your difficulty level, finding the ideal mountain bike riding track can be a time consuming and all-consuming past time.
Part of the problem is that in the United States we are spoiled for choice. There are thousands of top-quality trails littered from coast to coast. The best tracks mix adrenalin pumping descents and fun technical challenges with spectacular natural scenery, and views that are hard to come across in any other way.
We have come up with a list of what we think are the ten best mountain biking trails in the United States, which should be on every biking enthusiast’s list. While some are suitable for beginners, offering interesting basic rides and opportunities for riders to stretch themselves, most of the trails on our list are aimed at the experienced rider who is can make the most of these amazing sites.
Start planning your next trip today with one of our top picks below.
1. Bangtail Divide Trail, Bozeman, Montana
If you want to compliment a fun, long downhill descent with spectacular vistas, then the Bangtail Divide Trail just a few miles outside of Bozeman, Montana, is calling your name. Just a seven-mile road journey from Bozeman itself, this trail is easy to reach on two wheels. You must then tackle a short but challenging incline to reach the top of the ridge where you will find several miles of moderate trails, all of which are accompanied by spectacular views of the Absarokas, Gallatins, Tabacco Roots and more.
When you hit mile 18 of the 31-mile loop, you can then begin your rapid downhill descent through fun, but not too challenging curves. While not for complete beginners, most riders will enjoy this route. But remember to bring enough water with you as there is none available on the route.
2. Torry Ridge, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia
The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia are packed full of amazing mountain bike trails, but the Torry Ridge Trail is probably the best. It is only about 12 miles, but it intersects twice with the Slacks Trail and the Blue Loop Trail before it descends, for anyone looking to extend their ride.
The route starts with a pretty challenging five-mile climb, which is both hard on the legs and technically difficult so not for beginners. You then enter a challenging and exhilarating behind the seat descent that will take you past pretty rock gardens and attractive pines, though don’t blink of you could miss them! That is how fast you can get on this downhill. While this is a pretty short trail, its beauty, difficulty level, and the technical challenges it represents means that it is the type of track that skilled riders will want to tackle again and again and again.
3. South Boundary Trail #164, Taos, New Mexico
If you are looking for a challenging ride, plus changing scenery, then South Boundary Trail #164 near Taos, New Mexico, should be near the top of your list. You will feel like you are passing through multiple different worlds as you pass rocky outcrops, conifer forests, and alpine groves. Though perhaps give the area a miss in winter. Snow can convert the whole area into an unexpected snowy world.
Trail #164 starts by taking you into an area called ‘Heaven on Earth’. This is a classic side-hill flowy section of the track descent. But after this, things can get scary. Once you pass through Heaven on Earth, you go straight into a 1.5-climb. Probably the most challenging part of the ride is the final descent, which can be loose, and just damn scary! Not long before the start of the descent, difficult trail #164 does intersect with intermediate trail #166 for anyone who needs to chicken out and go for an easier ride.
4. McKenzie River Trail, Eugene, Oregon
If you are looking for a fairly compact trail with a mix of difficulty levels to suit every rider, then the 41 miles of track that make up the McKenzie River Trail in Eugene, Oregon, is a great choice. This is one of the most beautiful, scenic routes that you will find. Entering the Cascade Mountains, there are old forests, ferns and mosses, brilliant blue pools, and the spectacular waterfalls that give the area its name. Whatever you do, don’t jump into the river, the water is ice cold.
For beginner riders, this is a fun track with long downhill runs. For more experienced riders, you will find some technical volcanic rocks sections to navigate, which can be very slippery when wet taking the challenge to a whole new level. This is a trail with a lot of options and something to please every type of rider.
5. Flying Dog Loop, Park City, Utah
If you want to feel like you are riding on Mars, head to the Flying Dog Loop near Park City, Utah. Large portions of the track cross picturesque, exposed, dry and dusty terrains that are reminiscent of the red planet. These sections are mostly flat and offer about ten miles of trails for beginners. This is a great track for novices to test their fitness and see if they are ready to starts to take on more challenging trails.
This beginner's track is connected with another six miles for intermediate riders. There are seven more miles of expert track, which closes the 23-mile track. The tight, exposed and deep switchbacks are probably the most memorable parts of the trail. The downhill section takes you through pines and aspects and across plenty of rivers and streams. Keep your eyes peeled to spot the native wildlife, including moose. Also keep your eyes on other riders, as this trail is generally packed.
6. Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and California
The Rom Trail at Lake Tahoe is another spot that offers a variety of different trails for different skill levels. It is the ideal location to keep a mixed group occupied for a few days. Plus, the views from the rim down over Lake Tahoe are second to none and worth the trip on their own. The 80 miles of the track takes riders through green forests, dramatic peaks, and some very memorable waterfalls. You also get to cross between the Nevada and California borders throughout. This just adds a bit of extra fun to the experience.
Watch out while out and about, as the trail winds through the native habitat of black bears, mountain lions, and spring breakers. At certain times of the year, inexperienced riders on the track can be a bit of a pain. But it won’t just be inexperienced who find themselves dismounting. Few riders will be able to manage the full trail and two wheels without the need to dismount. But none of the obstacles are too difficult to hike past with bike in hand.
7. The Downieville Downhill, California
The Downieville Downhill trail in California will take you through some of America's oldest, most untouched and beautiful areas. Old forests full of trees around 70 meters to 100 meters tall populate the area. This vista, coupled with the zen of riding, they certainly help you put life in perspective. The water crossing and suspension bridge round out the experience that nature lovers will find invigorating.
The ride itself covers around 14 miles. This includes a pretty incredible downhill path that will certainly have the adrenalin pumping, including an uninterrupted 400-foot descent. But you do have to work for it. There is a challenging 11-minute climb right in the middle of the trail. This trail is not for the faint-hearted or the novice. It also required quite a bit of technical riding skills.
8. Lower Rock Creek, Mammoth, California
Dozens of trails snake across the Mammoth Bike Park in California. It is a popular location for both experienced and novice riders. But the standout experience in the park is the Lower Rock Creek Trail. It is a beautiful trail, that takes you past dramatic canyon walls and pretty rock gardens. But what really sets it apart are? The banked turns, technical challenges, and the 1,800-foot descent. Your adrenalin will be maxing out in no time. This is nine miles of adventure not to be missed.
Hit up this trail prepared. It is known for causing pinch flats in the rocks, leaving many a rider stranded. A lower tire pressure can help riders better manage the pretty sandy substrate of the trail, and avoid unfortunate flats.
9. 401 Trail Loop, Crested Butte, Colorado
Are you an intermediate or advanced rider that loves tackling fast hill ascents and descents? You will find the 401 Trail Look at Crested Butte in Colorado very rewarding. However be warned, it is extremely popular so it is always packed with riders. This is mostly down to the views that it offers over Crested Butte and the Elk range. There is no excuse not to get on your wheels and to get to know these amazing snow-topped peaks.
The 20 miles of the high-alpine track takes riders through some pretty stunning environments. Highlights include the shoulder-high fields of wildflowers and skunk cabbage. The downhill trail also takes riders towards the ghost town of Gothic, which is a fascinating site today. Taking on the substantial climb at the start of the track is worth the pay off for the views. Not to mention the highly adrenalin-fuelled descent to follow.
10. Phil’s Trail, Mt Bachelor, Oregon
Mount Bachelor in Oregon is another great place to head if you are looking for multiple interesting and challenging trails. This area can keep riders occupied for days. There are about 100 miles of the track here, though none of it really suitable for beginners. The first five miles are relatively easy to tackle, but after that, things get tricky. There are lots of steep climbs that riders will need to build up some serious momentum to tackle. Experienced riders will appreciate the challenges of the sharp corners, long twists, and rapid descents.
While the track here is marked, it is not always easy to see. It is easy to take a wrong turn and find yourself somewhere unexpected. While for some this is all part of the fun, others should be on top alert to find the path.
The Last Word
There is nothing more thrilling than powering down a challenging trail while sweeping past dramatic scenery. But choosing the right trail for you can make a big difference. It is always a good idea to research trails and go in prepared.
Whatever trail you choose, make sure it is the right difficulty level for you. When you try and take on more than you can chew, accidents happen. You can find yourself stranded and in trouble. If you are a developing rider looking to push towards more challenging rides, research exactly what makes a track difficult. Technical corners? Slippery mud? Challenging uphill climbs? Make sure your skills are up to the specific challenge.
Always research what to expect from a trail so that you can go in prepared. For example, some trails simply don't have any water. You will need to take enough water for the ride. A personal water filter just won't cut it! Other rides may be sandy and prone to causing pinch flats. You might want to change your air pressure for a more enjoyable ride. Take advantage of the generosity and enthusiasm of the cycling community. Spend a few minutes reading what other riders have said about the trail.
Are you an experienced rider? Return the favor. Share your thoughts and insights on some of your favorite trails on the many forums. These are an invaluable tool when it comes to finding the best possible ride.
The United States is full of so many amazing trails for mountain bike lovers, what are you waiting for? Get out there.