A successful day of mountain biking is defined by the trail you’re riding on.
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. These five mountain bike trail systems boast some of the best of that terrain you’re likely to find.
Rainbow Rim Trail, 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, 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.
Kingdom Trails, VT
Widely considered the best set 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 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. Also required: full-face helmet, and groups of three or more riders for safety. Hit the cross-country, downhill, and freeride trails on Burke Mountain, or go downhill and slopestyle at Burke Bike Park. If you’re in for a few thrills there, 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.
Half Nelson, 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, 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.
Have you visited any of these mountain bike trails? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below or @DegreeMen. Looking for more mountain biking adventure? Check out the top 7 downhill mountain biking parks and courses or these awesome muddy mountain biking videos.