Although you get to enjoy several health benefits when you go mountain biking, you most likely do it for other reasons: the fresh air, the beauty and the challenge. You probably picture your favorite rides in your mind from time to time as well as make plans to head to places that have always intrigued you for one reason for another. As you make your list of mountain bike trails that you want to traverse, take a look at the following options as at least a few of these are sure to be just what you’re looking for.
The Best Mountain Bike Trails in the United States
Bangtail Divide Trail – Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman is known as a great place for outdoors enthusiasts, and many locals and students at Montana State University take full advantage of everything on offer here. One of those features is Bangtail Divide Trail, which is located 23 miles northeast of Bozeman. The trail itself is 31.8 miles long if done in a loop with the final 8 miles being along Highway 86 although you could do a more challenging out-and-back on the non-highway part for a 47.6-mile journey. The ride is technically easy. The biggest challenge comes from increasing in altitude from 5,560 feet at the trailhead to a peak of 7,950 feet en route. The scenery from this trail is picturesque, and, depending on what time of year you do this route, the smell of pine and flowers will enhance your riding experience.
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McKenzie River Trail – Bend, Oregon
Although closer to Bend, this 26-mile trail is also convenient for people on the west side of the Cascades, especially those located in Eugene. The trail is judged to offer an intermediate difficulty level. Riders get to go by the McKenzie River and some spectacular Douglas firs, many of which reach hundreds of feet into the sky, while traversing log bridges as well as more traditional surfaces. Clear Lake is a feature at one end of its route. This path is so gorgeous that it attracts bike enthusiasts from around the world, but it also remains reasonably quiet and uncrowded. Note that the soil that you bike over drains well, so mud is usually not a major issue. However, snow absolutely could be if attempting this route in winter.
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Mills Peak – Downieville, California
Downieville, which is a small place with a population of 300 and at least two hours driving time from both Sacramento, Calif., and Reno, Nev., is home to quite a beautiful mountain biking trail. In fact, it’s the destination for mountain bike racers who head here to participate in the Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race and other competitions. In fact, just coming for the accompanying festival is worth the trip for some. Due to its popularity, for these races and otherwise, those who built and upkeep it have been doing some incredible work in keeping its quality high. The point-to-point 21.9-mile route would probably be judged by most to be moderately challenging on the technical side but pretty demanding physically. The elevation being ridden ranges from 2,886 feet above sea level to 5,177.
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Munds Wagon Trail – Sedona, Arizona
Those of you who are fortunate enough to be able to live anywhere may want to consider a move to Sedona, Ariz., as the trails around this community are both incredible and numerous. This is especially true if you are enraptured by desert beauty. Of this collection of trails, most would likely say that the best one is the Munds Wagon Trail. It’s 8 miles long and leads into the Schnebly Hill Trail, which provides even more spectacular views. Of course, to reach those views, you have to pay the price with a pretty demanding ride, technically and physically. If you end up doing both trails, you will have traversed 22 miles. If you are looking to push yourself and enjoy an incredible view, plan to do both, but just the Munds Wagon Trail does offer quite a lot for its 8 miles.
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South Boundary – Taos, New Mexico
This trail is very accessible from Taos as adding an easy 3-mile bike ride each way to your journey will get you to the trailhead. The trail itself is 21 miles long, and the elevation will range from 7,167 feet above sea level to 10,706. Note that you’ll already be at 6,967 feet when you arrive in Taos. Its technical difficult would probably be described as between intermediate and advanced while much of its beauty comes from its variety. At the top levels, you’ll be in elk country amidst meadows. At the bottom, you’ll be accompanied by oaks and pines. It’s probably best to ride this trail in summer or fall due to the impact of winter weather on it, effects that sometimes last through the spring thanks to downed trees.
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Tahoe Rim Trail – Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Few places in the world are as beautiful as Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area, and this 165-mile trail, of which 80 are open to mountain bikers, provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy that beauty. You can also ride much fewer than 80 miles thanks to different access points along the route. A number of bike shops local to the area provide shuttles to these points, some of which actually require their use. One of the most popular parts of this trail for mountain bikers is the 23-mile stretch between Spooner Summit and Tahoe Meadows. Challenging climbs, incredible scenery and crazy descents will be experienced. But if a different experience is preferred, easier options are available too amongst those 80 miles.
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Trail 401 – Crested Butte, Colorado
This one is already on the bucket list for many mountain bikers and for good reason. Images of riding alongside wildflowers with views of Mount Crested Butte and the Gothic Valley are likely on your mind right now if this has already made your bucket list. It’s one of the highest rides on our list, starting out at 9,592 feet above sea level at the trailhead with that figure reaching up to 11,349 on the ride. The length is 13.6 miles, and its difficulty is judged to be advanced, partly due to the elevation involved.
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Tsali Trails – Bryson City, North Carolina
The Appalachian Mountains are also home to some impressive mountain biking trails, and these are perhaps the best ones. Located in the Tsali Recreation Area just 65 miles west of the outdoors mecca of Asheville, N.C., these four trails comprise 41.8 miles of easy-to-moderate terrain to traverse. If you’re looking for a more technical challenge, head to the Mouse Branch, which is 8.7 miles long. Conversely, if you are a water lover, then you’ll want to head to the Thomson Loop and enjoy the vistas of Fontana Lake that you are provided with. Regardless of which of these four trails you pick, you’ll be traversing heavily wooded areas and be surrounded by a lot of greenery. Do note that mountain bikers are only allowed access to two of these on any one day, but if you’re in the area for at least two days, you will have access to all four during those 48 hours.
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Helmets and Other Gear
Before you start making your way to these gorgeous trails, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re ready with the best accessories. For example, make sure to do your due diligence when researching things like the safest mountain bike helmets for forested trails so that you’re well prepared to have fun on these trails. We hope you’ve enjoyed our list, and happy riding!