Top mountain biking trails in the USA

Newsroom Best Of Topics Top mountain biking trails in the USA

Good skiers make good mountain bikers. And, of course, vice-versa. So, it’s no wonder that America’s best ski towns morph into the best mountain biking towns each summer and early fall. Meandering through the mountains that were previously coated with snow are some of the best biking trails in America.

Beyond the exhilaration factor, mountain biking is a great off-season activity, good for your legs, core, heart and lungs, which will help you on those top-to-bottom burners when ski season rolls around again. Mountain biking is also great for your balance, coordination, and reaction time. Aside from the exercise, it’s a fun way to explore the mountains in the summer. Need some inspiration? Below we feature some of the best singletrack biking trails in the USA.

1. Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada

The Tahoe Rim Trail passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three national forests and three wilderness areas with riding itineraries that span from lake and waterfall rides to wildflower and peak rides. Of the 165 miles of trail that encircles the largest alpine lake in North America, more than 80 miles are open to mountain bikes. The views are vast, the terrain varied and it can be enjoyed by bikers of all abilities. Many local bike shops provide shuttles for the point-to-point rides within the Rim Trail.

2. Phil’s Trail, Mt. Bachelor, Oregon

Phil’s Trail, a network of intersecting trails, offers hundreds of miles of singletrack mountain biking, only minutes from downtown Bend. Phil’s is all about flow, with descents that don’t require constant breaking and gradual climbs that allow for fun cornering, even while going uphill. The opportunities for exploration are endless, as trails span out west toward Mt. Bachelor. From the trailhead, the first five miles or so are gradual and suitable for beginners. Beyond that, things get more interesting. The maze of trails can be challenging to navigate, but most of the intersections are marked with numbers and names that are on most local mountain bike maps.

Sun Valley MTB
Trails around Sun Valley, ID are plentiful.

3. Fisher Creek, Sun Valley, Idaho

The Ketchum-Hailey-Sun Valley area boasts more than 400 miles of singletrack, much of it some of the smoothest, buffest mountain biking in the country. The area’s most famous mountain bike ride is the Fisher Creek Loop, which rips one of the world’s great cross-country descents, Williams Creek. This 18-mile trail has no shortage of spectacular views, but the singletrack that winds through the burn area (from a 2005 fire) is some of the most unique. If you can time it right, try to coordinate with wildflower season.

4. Lower Rock Creek Trail, Mammoth Lakes, California

While most mountain bikers come to this area to bike at the popular Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, no trip to the Eastern Sierra would be complete without riding Lower Rock Creek Trail. The upper section of the trail is moderately difficult, while the lower section requires advanced skills. As the canyon walls get deeper, the rock gardens get more frequent as the trail descends nearly 2,000 feet (and climbs only 50 feet). There’s even a stream crossing at the end to cool off in. If you shuttle, arrange to be picked up at the bottom near Paradise Lodge. Or, you can ride the 8-mile, 2,000-foot climb on the rarely used Old Hwy 395.

 

 5 Tips in staying cool while riding in the heat

1. Stay hydrated

Make sure that you plan your trip accordingly to the amount of water that you will carry with you. You should at least drink a 500ml bottle an hour. If it is hotter than usual, then consider increasing the bottle size.

2. Apply and re-apply enough sunscreen

Roughly 30 minutes before you start your tour, apply sunscreen of at least SPF30 with a UVA star rating of 4 or 5 stars. Re-apply sunscreen is pivotal during your ride, therefore, recommended timeframe to re-apply sunscreen is every two hours. If the sun is too strong and if you’re heavily sweating, consider reapplying more regularly. Always carry a small bottle of sunscreen in your jersey pocket or backpack.

3. Wear the right clothes 

Keep in mind, that although your skin is covered by your cycling gear, it is not necessarily protected. Ensure to choose a special cycling jersey and shorts that are made of UPF fabric or fabric featuring UV protection.

4. Pick the right time of the day

The time you ride plays a crucial part in how hot your surroundings will get. Aim to get out on the road as early as possible, before the sun is not yet at its fiercest. It’s best to avoid a ride from noon through the afternoon. Plan your ride with plenty of shade-providing options like woodland. If you ride best once the sun is down, ensure you wear reflective gear, charged bicycle lights, and, preferably, put a light on your helmet.

5. Plan ice-cold refreshment breaks 

Pick a route that provides lakes or other free-to-use water resources in nature to slowly pour some cold water over your neck or wrists. If your trip leads you through a city of any size, make sure to stop at the local ice cream shop.

Extra: Ride in a group 

It is always better and recommended, in case of an emergency, to ride in a group. Make sure to inform people where exactly you’re going, carry a GPS on you, and regularly report back to your loved ones.

 

5. Flying Dog, Park City, Utah

Flying Dog is a scenic, fairly non-technical IMBA-designated Epic Ride. It’s perfect for groups with intermediate mountain bikers, as well as experts, who can enjoy cruising down the fast, buffed out dirt and over bridges that cross ponds and streams. The shortest route is a 10-mile ride with a 1,500 vertical feet elevation change. Options include a 10-mile easier ride, a 16-mile moderate ride and a 23-mile ride with 3,000 feet of climbing.

6. Hermosa Creek, Durango, Colorado

Hermosa Creek is considered by many to be one of Durango’s, and even one of Colorado’s, top mountain biking rides. The 20-mile straight shot begins from a meadow at the top of Durango Mountain Resort and follows Hermosa Creek down 3,000 feet (with some climbs mixed in) to the small town of Hermosa. It’s almost always ridden as a shuttle, though hardcore locals and pros have been known to ride it from town as a 50-mile loop.

What to do in an emergency?

If you feel nauseous, weak, or dizzy, immediately get off the bike and seek some shade. Reduce your body temperature by drinking ice water and ice the back of your neck, feet, and wrists. Preferably, lay down on your back and elevate your legs above the level of your heart to ensure good blood circulation. If your temperature is not coming down, call 911 (or have it called on your behalf). Therefore, you should always have a phone on you or ride with others who can assist you in that situation.

7. 401, Crested Butte, Colorado

For decades, 401 has lured riders who come with visions of downhill switchbacks through head-high wildflowers. The middle-chain dirt road warm-up deposits riders into the alpine, where the rolling terrain gives way to a ridge with spectacular views. Finish with the unmatched natural banked slalom to town (through the wildflowers, if you’re lucky).

8. Powerline, Snowshoe, West Virginia

In the mountains of West Virginia Snowshoe offers some of the east’s best lift-served trails. The resort even hosts a popular downhill race series. A favorite of east coast riders, Powerline trail twists through the deciduous on firm, bermy singletrack, crossing roots and a handful of jumps. It’s got enough going on to entertain even the seasoned pro. The Snowshoe Bike Park offers plenty of lessons to get the whole gang up to speed.

9. Kimmer’s Trail, Stowe, Vermont

The Stowe Mountain Bike Club (SMBC) opened Kimmer’s as a flowing 8-mile trail with berms, bridges and rollers. It was built for all skill levels to enjoy, while bonus features up the ante for advanced riders. It’s best ridden as an out and back or as a link between the Trapps Trails and the town of Stowe. Join the SMBC for one of their weekly rides to learn more about the network of trails around Stowe.

10. The Whole Enchilada, Moab, Utah

Moab has been dubbed by many as the Mountain Bike Capital of the U.S. You’ll be riding from an alpine pass above the treeline, and then it’s the canyon of sandstone that makes up the base of the Colorado River. There’s singletrack and even some paved trail to give your insides a break. The Whole Enchilada is famous because everything Moab has to offer will explode your senses in this one ride. While you’re at it in Moab, Captain Ahab and Slickrock are no slouches.

11. Riding in ‘Wydaho’, Idaho and Wyoming

So where in the world of mountain biking is “Wydaho?” Yes, you guessed right. It includes resorts in Wyoming like Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee, and Victor and Driggs in Idaho. OK, let’s be more specific: “Wydaho” is located between Curt Gowdy and Sun Valley and straddles the Teton Range. It essentially combines the best of the mountain biking terrain in both states.  Must-ride biking trails are at Grand Targhee Resort, Mill, Cache and Game Creeks and the Teton Pass downhill trails.

Riding just above town along “Airport Mesa” at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. ©Devon Balet

12. Cockscomb Loop, Sedona, Arizona

Oh the Sedona vibe. The Aerie Trail combined with the Cockscomb Loop is a favorite of Sedona mountain bikers because it’s a 6.1-mile intermediate experience with a good terrain combo of hills, descents and lots to look at. Other can’t-miss Sedona biking trails include Hiline, Hangover and the Hogs.

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