Finding a flawless mountain biking trail isn’t that hard. It’s all about what type of terrain, flow, and length you want. Jumps, bridges, wet ground, hills, turns, and obstacles (think: boulders, roots, and streams) dictate the speed and accessibility of your ride. Looking for less pedaling, more fun? Opt for a buttery-smooth roller-coaster track void of technical elements to slow you down. Crave leg-and-glute burning cardio? Choose a steep climb that tops out onto a ridge and finishes with a flying descent. With these 10 mountain biking trails, you can’t go wrong. From unfurling high-altitude paths to challenging tight switchbacks, each demands agility, stamina, and grit. Don’t forget your helmet.
Twisting through the Cascade Mountains, McKenzie River Trail offers 26.5 miles of tight single-track feasible for beginners and thrilling for experts. You’ll curve and climb through lush green forest and lava fields, zip past hot springs and bright blue pools, then descend along a mountain river lined with waterfalls. Tight turns and smooth track make this ride fast, exciting, and gorgeous.
Moab—the place to bike for all serious riders—joins cracked sandstone trails and slickrock steeps that are challenging even for experts. West of Moab, you can take the 13-mile loop, which climbs over 1,000 feet in elevation onto Poison Spider Mesa. It descends fast and sharp along Portal Trail, your return route. Though it’s not too technical, you’ll plow through deep sand in areas, which can be brutal on your muscles. Bring plenty of water for the harsh, dry desert climate. You won’t find mountain streams to filter H2O here.
The 31-mile Bangtail Divide loop is Montana’s go-to for epic mountain scenery. Start at Stone Creek trailhead outside of Bozeman and be ready for the long haul. You’ll switchback up Stone Creek to Grassy Mountain, which tops out in smooth singletrack and then vertically climbs another two miles. Then just after mile 18, a five-mile downhill section whips you through pine forest, making all the sweating (and maybe swearing) worth it. The trail ends at Brackett Creek, but an easy eight miles along Highway 86 dumps you back at Stone Creek, where you'll be happily reunited with your car.
The Munds Wagon Trail, an eight-miler east of Sedona, carves through Arizona’s iconic red rock landscape. Singletrack ascends 1,200 feet over a handful of technical dips to break up the climb, so this trail won’t feel as tough on your body. At the top, Merry-Go-Round Rock and a massive limestone ledge juts out over the desert valley in Coconino National Forest. Turn around here, and descend along a backdrop of rust-colored rock towers.
The 401 Loop circles for 8.6 miles near Crested Butte, an old coal mining town turned ski joint. Over a mix of road and singletrack, you’ll climb and drop just shy of 3,000 feet. Start your ascent up Gothic Road to Schoenfield Pass. There you’ll pick up Trail 401 and pedal hard—not because the trail is technical but because your body will resist biking at 11,000-feet elevation. As the forest thins, you’ll see panoramic views of the Maroon Bells (Elk Mountains’ postcard-esque peaks) to the east. From there, hug the hillside and descend through wildflower meadows and aspen groves to Rustler’s Gulch. Master the last two steady climbs back to your car and take a break. You deserve it.
The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail rings Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake, and over 80 miles of TRT are accessible to riders. The 23.1-mile strip of singletrack running between Tahoe Meadows and Spooner Summit showcases only the best aspects of the sport: lung-busting climbs, dizzying heights, gut-wrenching descents and stunning scenery. You’ll ride through evergreen forest, sloping wildflower meadows, and ridges high above Lake Tahoe and Marlette Lakes. Just don’t look down.
Due to preservation restrictions, much of California’s public land is off limits to 29-inch wheels. But the Paradise Royale Trail, deep in the King Range Mountains off of California’s northern coast, was engineered and built specifically for mountain biking. The 14-mile loop descends briefly and then steadily climbs 1,200 feet out of humid forest. Dominate the 19 gritty switchbacks over a section dubbed “The Prince of Pain," which takes you to Paradise Ridge, a vista of the Pacific Ocean below. Drop down along the final five miles and relish the turns, whoops, and tabletops—designed for guys like you.
Vermont’s Kingdom Trails, near East Burke, provide mountain bikers with the most expansive trail network in Northeast America. Take the 15.5-mile Mountainside Loop, a seamless intro to the Kingdom tracks. It highlights J-Bar and Moose Alley, two separate offshoot trails less than two miles each, worth the added ride. The Mountainside Loop starts at Burke Mountain Campground on a downhill doubletrack and flows into tight singletrack riddled with roots, jumps, and bridges. Despite a couple of road crossings, most of the ride is strictly on dirt. You’ll finish with a steep climb back to the campground. Have a recovery beer, or two, chilling in the cooler. You’ll be ready for a brew by the time you get back.
Forks Area Trail System has 37 miles of trails snaking through South Carolina terrain that are ideal for beginner and intermediate riders. The Savannah River and Smoky Mountain Range cradle the network, providing climbs and dips challenging enough to push your comfort zone, but not tough enough to unseat you. The five-mile Deep Step Trail has more climbing than any other Forks Area Trail, but it’s non-technical and littered with whoops, berms, and gently banking turns so you can practice stability and control on descents.
We’ve already praised the Finger Lakes Trail system for it’s A-plus running terrain, but we’re going to tout it again, this time for technical riding. The 21.3-mile branch trail (which parallels the main Finger Lakes Trail) in Letchworth State Park, near the town of Mt. Morris, will throw even the most balanced biker for a loop. The out-and-back tight singletrack has plenty of creek crossings, roots, drops, and fast flow through gorges and pine forest. Stay alert though—cover a rock the wrong way and you’ll be over your handlebars before you know it.