Every experienced rider knows for a fact that North America has some of the best mountain bike trails in the world. In fact, there are so many amazing trails here that we had to expand our list from top 10 to top 15.
Finding a decent singletrack for mountain biking used to mean taking over the nearest hiking trail full of roots, rocks and questionable terrain features made more for feet than wheels. Not so in these enlightened days.
Trail associations around the country are teaming up with mountain bikers and designers to create a slew of purpose-built singletrack with the kind of flow that just might change the way you define a mountain bike trail.
Features like banked turns, perfectly shaped jumps, bridges and creamy-smooth dirt are built to minimize effort and maximize the adrenaline-fueled fun.
We’ve spent countless hours and massive amounts of blood, sweet and even some tears comparing hundreds of trails in order to determine the best of the best. We’ve taken into account the design of the trail, environmental factors, and overall scenery.
Here’s our top 15 Mountain Bike Trails in North America:
401 Trail Loop – Crested Butte, Colorado
Colorado’s terrain has so much potential for mountain biking due to its diversity. It’s no wonder why many people praise it so much. There are even separate ‘Top 10 Trail’ lists for Colorado alone. Going to Colorado and not riding one of its trails would be a sacrilege at this point.
This particular trail combines a regular trail track with a little bit of road. In order to start descending, you’ll first have to climb up to the Schofield Pass. When you reach the top, you’ll have the chance to gaze at the amazing scenery.
Besides the Emerald Lake, you can see snowy mountain tops, various colors of wildflower, and aspen trees as far as the eye can see. As you descend, you can see the entire Gothic Valley and Mount Crested Butte.
The trail is about 11,000 feet long and the altitude drops by 2,200 feet from start to finish.
McKenzie River Trail – Blue River, Oregon
The crown jewel of Oregon is undoubtedly its McKenzie River Trail. Unlike previous trails (which are more on the open field), this one takes you through lush green forests and lava fields. You’ll have a chance to see stunning waterfalls which drop into crystal-clear lakes as you traverse the trail.
The trail is suitable for the experienced rider and the beginners as well. It’s not a particularly difficult trail, however, you should know that it’s quite a bumpy ride. You’ll probably bob around, duck, and constantly sway as you go through the forest and over the fields.
Certain lava rock section could pose a challenge though, but it’s nothing too serious.
The trail drops 1,800 feet but goes back up another 1,000 which will require you to pedal a lot. The entire trail is 26 miles long. You’ll probably want to stop several times just to appreciate the unique tranquility of the environment.
Rainbow Rim Trail – Grand Canyon National Park, Utah
Ditch the Grand Canyon’s South Rim crowds and take your steed to North Rim, where you’ll pedal 18 miles of spectacular singletrack on the Rainbow Rim Trail – the only dirt along the Big Ditch that permits mountain bikes–hovering between 7,500 and 8,000 ft.
Ride along the Kaibab Plateau south of Kanab, passing through old growth Ponderosa pine forest, aspen groves, steep canyons and tranquil meadows. The best part: this mountain biking trail opens up to phenomenal Grand Canyon views (careful on those turns) at five points at the canyon’s edge–Parissawampitts, Fence, Locust, North Timp, and Timp.
Dismount at these convenient break spots for a snack while you take in classic features like Powell Plateau, Steamboat Mountain, Tapeats Amphitheater, and Great Thumb Mesas.
It’s the perfect mix of thrilling singletrack and stunning, meditative views in unparalleled wilderness.
Paradise Royale – Redway, California
In an area where a mountain-bike-friendly singletrack is hard to come by on public lands, Paradise Royale’s 14 miles of purpose-built mountain biking trails are a welcome playground. The loop, cut into the remote backcountry of the verdant King Range Mountains 30 miles south of Eureka, offers a range of terrain features and scenic vistas of the Pacific below.
But be warned: it’s no ocean breeze. You’ll climb 1,200 ft via 19 switchbacks known, appropriately, as the Prince of Pain. It’s worth it. Next up is a five-mile descent over whoops, berms, and tabletops. Then, hit the skills park for sweet flow trails rated from beginner to expert, just a mile from the trailhead and your campground.
Half Nelson Trail – Squamish, B.C
For those who grew up commandeering hiking trails for small taste of singletrack glory, Half Nelson is a dream of fern-lined, smooth packed dirt in the northwest woods. This mountain-bike-only flow trail is just a mile and a half long, but it’s a fun and fast descent that boasts 60 berms, dozens of water crossings, and over 100 jumps from table tops to rollers.
The best part is that there’s no braking or pedaling required–just let gravity do it’s thing and have a blast. Unlike most mountain bike trails in the Squamish vicinity, this one won’t test your nerves or the integrity of your helmet with crazy fast descents and massive jumps or obstacles, but you’ll get your kicks nonetheless.
When you’re done, just ride back up to the top in 30 minutes and do it again.
Sandy Ridge Trails – Brightwood, Oregon
Just 40 minutes east of Portland, the Sandy Ridge Trails’ 7-mile-long Hide and Seek is made for minimal pedaling and braking, designed and built with the help of the International Mountain Biking Association to create some of the best mountain biking in the northwest.
Built on the flanks of Mount Hood, these mountain biking trails pass through forests of hemlock and cedar with so many jumps you’ll barely have time to set your wheels down before hitting the next in line.
Aside from Hide and Seek, another epic, adrenaline-fueled section called Three Thirty Eight is modeled after Whistler’s famed A-Line descent, beginning with a five-foot drop that flows into big berms and huge jumps. The Sandy Ridge park winds for 12.5 trail miles, though construction is still ongoing with a planned total of 15 in store.
Downieville Downhill – Downieville, California
There are so many unique mountain biking trails in California since it’s essentially the birthplace of this sport.
Choosing one trail is a tough decision, but if one has to top the others, it would probably be the Downieville Downhill trail. This trail is a bit steeper than the first two. Therefore, it’s not really for beginners because you need to make sure that you know what you’re doing.
You can reach the top by taking the shuttle. Once you’re at the top and you start descending, you’ll notice that everything’s downhill from that point onwards. It takes about an hour to reach the bottom since the trail is 17 miles long.
There are some smaller uphill sections, but they won’t affect your momentum in any way.
Munds Wagon Trail – Sedona, Arizona
This is a very well-marked trail that connects Margs Draw to Schnebly Hill. The trail is very rocky and loose right from the start.
It’s ill-advised to admire the scenery while you ride because you need to focus. Otherwise, it might lead to injuries if you’re not attentive enough. Therefore, the trail might not be suited for everyone.
If we set aside its rough terrain, it really is one of the most beautiful trails we’ve ever seen. The views just keep getting better and better. Professional bike riders love it because it offers challenging uphill battles.
This is a 21-mile-long single-track trail which takes about 4 to 5 hours to complete. The entire route requires technicality and planning ahead. However, that does not stop it from being one of the most rewarding experiences.
Porcupine Rim Trail – Moab, Utah
The first thing that you need to know about this trail is that it’s definitely not for beginners. You need to be in good shape in order to deal with steep rocky ledges. Some sections even require dismounting and walking.
There is a moderately strenuous 3-mile climb which raises the overall altitude of the trail to 6,800 feet. There is an amazing view of Castle Valley from the top, and it really sets the mood for the descent.
The trail is about 15 miles long (30 if ridden as a loop). You have all sorts of markings throughout the trail such as cairns, flexible posts, and symbols on rocks.
Make sure that you don’t use different routes which branch off from the main one, because most of them are dead ends.
A-Line – Whistler, British Columbia
This is one of the more recent trails since it’s fairly new. It’s the most famous trail in the Whistler Bike Park and it’s favored by many. The trail starts at the top of Whistler Mountain (which you can reach by using a lift). The altitude at the top is around 7,100 feet.
What sets this mountain biking trail apart from the others is the fact that you can choose between two available descent options. You can either go for the one marked as ‘hard’ or the one marked as ‘harder’ (this run).
It makes the trail, sort of, modular, because it can either be for advanced or intermediate riders. It’s definitely not for beginners, so they should avoid it and head to ‘B-Line’ instead.
Throughout the entire run, you’ll have a speedy descent on a wide track with occasional jumps. It’s really something that’s going to get your heart pumping like crazy.
Bangtail Divide Trail – Bozeman, Montana
Bangtail Divide trail is relatively new to Bozeman and the Big Sky area. The trail was built with bikers in mind, which means that it has good descents on both ends. It spans from Brackett Creek Trailhead all the way to Stone Creek. The approximation of its length is around 23 miles.
Everything’s quite easy to find since there are markings wherever you look. The trail is considered to be intermediate because it’s a little bit technical. You’ll have to climb certain sections and squeeze through several tight paths. Other than that, there’s nothing that’s too extreme about it.
The scenery is simply beautiful. There are grassy meadows and trees all around with lots of open spaces where you can see the mountain range. It’s a trail that’s definitely worth checking out.
Deep Step Trail – South Carolina
This one is ideal for beginner and intermediate bike riders. There are some trail sections which will definitely challenge you and attempt to push you out of your comfort zone.
However, besides regular dips and climbs, there’s really nothing that can ruin the experience for you. The climbs are not that complicated which makes them completely manageable.
The trail is 5 miles long, and it stretches through the terrain of South Carolina. Deep Step has an excellent flow, and it won’t disappoint you. To top it all, the relaxing environment is there to contribute to the overall riding experience and set the mood.
Mountainside Loop (Kingdom Trails) – East Burke, Vermont
Widely considered the best network of mountain bike trails east of the Mississippi and even ranked best mountain bike trail network in North America by BIKE magazine, the Kingdom Trails on Vermont’s Burke Mountain is one of the most expansive trail networks in North America and boasts some of the top terrain for two knobby wheels.
Expect fast descents, monster tabletop jumps, wood-plank bridges, and a smattering of well-built berms to pump through snaky sections.
You’ll do fine on a number of trails with a standard hardtail, but you’ll have more fun on full-suspension, which is required on the freeride trails.
Our favorite trail in the Kingdom Trails network is Mountainside Loop. It’s easily the most seamless experience that we’ve ever had. At the same time, it can keep you on the edge of your seat with its sharp turns and excellent downhills.
Most of the time, you’ll ride on dirt, but there are a couple of crossings to break the monotony of the terrain. We won’t lie, some drops are pretty steep and will boost your adrenaline. But that’s what makes this trail so great.
If you have anything left after riding Mountainside Loop, be sure to hit the cross-country, downhill, and freeride trails on Burke Mountain, or go downhill and slopestyle at Burke Bike Park.
If you are a hard-core rider be sure to drop down the epic and slightly daunting Knightslayer, a jump trail with big step downs and a wicked 20 by 40-foot wall ride.
Tahoe Rim Trail – California/Nevada
The last trail to make it into this list will be Tahoe Rim Trail. What makes it so exceptional? Well, it offers some of the best vistas and alpine meadows that we’ve seen. The environment is simply beautiful and everything looks so lively.
Moreover, since it crosses six counties, two states, and circles around the Lake Tahoe, it brings variety to the scenery. You’ll constantly pause your ride just so you could appreciate the amazing views.
The track itself is well built, and it offers a balanced mixture of challenge and comfort. There are several sections where you’ll have to put some effort into it. On the other hand, the downhill time is simply one of the best things about this trail because it’s long and straight.
The whole singletrack is 165 miles and 80 are available to mountain bike riders. Tahoe Rim Trail is 15.5 miles long and is suitable for all levels of skill, which only adds more value to it.
Repack Road – Fairfax, California
Repack Road is not on the list because of its epic scenery or gnarly technical single tracks. It made the list for one simple reason.
This is where mountain biking was invented!
Back in the early 70’s, when I was a kid, I lived right down the street from the entrance to Elliots Nature Preserve, which is where Repack is located.
Every weekend my friends and I would go out to shoot our Super-8 films and we would see these crazy hippies bombing down the dirt roads on beat up old bikes with giant tires.
They called them Klunkers and what we didn’t know at the time was that these Frankenstein creations would spawn a whole new sport.
Well, luckily Repack is still around, and thanks to a rabid Mountain Biking fan base in Marin County, still open for the public to ride.
If you are a hard-core mountain biker you should ride this trail at least once in your life if only to pay homage to the early pioneers like Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey who helped jump start the sport of mountain biking.
|Trail||Location||Distance (miles)||Percent Singletrack|
|Rainbow Rim Trail - Grand Canyon National Park, Utah||Utah||22.6||100%|
|Paradise Royale - Redway California||California||11.6||100%|
|Half Nelson Trail - Squamish, B.C||British Columbia||1.5||Double Track|
|Sandy Ridge Trails - Brightwood, Oregon||Oregon||15.7||80%|
|401 Trail Loop - Crested Butte, Colorado||Colorado||14.1||60%|
|McKenzie River Trail - Blue River, Oregon||Oregon||25||100%|
|Downieville Downhill - Downieville, California||California||14||90%|
|Munds Wagon Trail - Sedona, Arizona||Arizona||8||100%|
|Porcupine Rim Trail - Moab, Utah||Utah||14.7||30%|
|A-Line (Upper & Lower) - Whistler, British Columbia||British Columbia||1.8||Double Track|
|Bangtail Divide Trail - Bozeman, Montana||Montana||31||75%|
|Deep Step Trail - Murphy Estates, South Carolina||South Carolina||4.6||100%|
|Tahoe Rim Trail - California/Nevada||California/Nevada||23.1||80%|
|Mountainside Loop (Kingdom Trails) - East Burke, Vermont||Vermont||15.5||90%|
|Repack Road - Fairfax, California||California||2.5||Double Track|