Top 6 Mountain Bike Destinations in the US

June 10, 2019

I was riding some fairly famous singletrack out West when I came across a couple of locals on a long climb. At the top, we sat on some weathered logs in the shade and chatted for a few minutes.

When I mentioned I was visiting from Indiana, I could see their slight, crooked smirks, followed by a barely stifled guffaw and the snide question, “Do you actually have mountain biking in Indiana?”

Yes, we have singletrack in the Hoosier state. Some damn good singletrack, thankyouverymuch. But Indiana isn’t alone in being underappreciated by the national mountain-bike community; there are dozens of other trail networks across the country that you’ll likely never see etched onto someone’s singletrack bucket list.

Related: The Best Mountain Bikes for Your Budget

Don’t get me wrong, I love high-profile places like Moab or Kingdom Trails, but there are plenty of other trails that are just as fun or thrilling that might be closer (and cheaper!) summer destinations.


Most are IMBA Ride Centers, meaning the organization has recognized them as communities with trails for every level of rider (the bronze, silver, and gold levels denote how closely they get to the full list of requirements), as well as fun spots off the bike.

And for that reason, they are all the more awesome. Here are six sweet singletrack spots that deserve more recognition.

Brown County State Park, Nashville, Indiana

Indiana might not have the mountains of Colorado or Utah, but Brown County State Park trails make excellent use of the rolling hills throughout the area. A bronze-level IMBA Ride Center, BCSP has a range of singletrack from beginner to the better-have-your-health-insurance-paid-up level (even world-class trials rider Jeff Lenosky couldn’t clean the locally infamous Schooner Trail on his first visit).

Most of the 35-plus miles of BCSP trails resemble a dirt rollercoaster: fast, flowy, and full of thrills. Aynes Loop and Green Valley offer miles of punchy climbs and fast descents. But the trails can be deceptively technical as well.

Bobcat Bowl offers plenty of challenging tight switchbacks and tricky rock drops for mere mortals to test their skills. The climb up Hesitation Point forces riders to conquer numerous and increasingly longer limestone rock gardens.

Trails leading out of the park and into the neighboring Yellowwood State Forest have a more backcountry feel, with multiple log crossings and large rocky obstacles. For quick service and bike rentals, Hesitation Point Bicycles is located just outside the park gate.

When to visit: October, when the autumn leaves reach their peak, fiery color.

Must-Ride Trail: Hobbs Hollow was just completed last year, but it’s quickly become a favorite among local riders and visitors alike. It’s impossible not to smile as you rocket through the bermed turns, building up speed, and launching yourself off tabletop after tabletop. Your tires spend almost as much time in the air as they do on the dirt.

Best Place for a Post-Ride Beer: Walk onto the patio of Big Woods brewpub in Nashville, IN and you’ll find hordes of dirty-faced mountain bikers refueling with pizza, pulled-pork nachos, and lots of beer. The brewery is best known for its Busted Knuckle dark ale, but the Blood Orange Yellow Dwarf wheat beer is ideal for hot summer days after day in the saddle.


Best Place to Get Some Sleep: The Brown County State Park campground is mere yards away from the Limekiln trailhead. Bring lights and get in a quick night ride before bed.

Santos Mountain Bike Park, Ocala, Florida

Locals joke that the area surrounding Ocala is so flat, on a clear day you can see the back of your own head. While it’s true that the land around Santos Mountain Bike Park is mostly devoid of natural elevation, the park is built in a former limestone quarry, giving trail designers about 1,000 feet of ascent and descent to play with.

Adding to that, Ray Petro, of Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park fame, has built dozens of kick-ass wood features, from skinnies a foot or so off the ground to mammoth corkscrews and jumps.

Marshmallow Trail is sweet, fast fun, while trails like Sinkhole and Rattlesnake Ridge force riders through tight corners and chunky limestone. No matter your skill level, you’ll find plenty to ride in this 25-mile trail network.

Must-Ride Trail: Vortex is a white-knuckle two-mile thrill ride over fast and flat singletrack, jagged limestone, and down a dizzying wooden corkscrew descent.

Best Place for a Post-Ride Beer: Just across the street from the park, Greenway Bicycles sells a great selection of cold craft and domestic bottles and cans. Infinite Ale Works serves Belgium-inspired beers at its downtown Ocala brewery.

Best Place to Get Some Sleep: The Santos campground lets you roll from your tent to the trail in a matter of minutes. Reserve a spot early, as in-the-know riders flock here in the winter months. If you miss out on a spot there, you can likely find an open spot at the nearby Shangri-La campground, located just off the Cross Florida Greenway.


Helena, Montana

Originally founded by four gold prospectors, Helena has been able to mine a different kind of precious resource. Helena has earned a silver-level IMBA Ride Center designation, with more than 75 miles of trails spread throughout the town and just outside of it. A free shuttle runs from May to October, schlepping riders from downtown to a different trailhead Wednesday through Sunday.

Starting at the Beattie Street Trailhead in town, riders tackling the southern trail network immediately climb more than 1,000 feet up Mount Ascension in less than 2 miles. (Even with the shuttles, riders should anticipate climbing at least 500 feet right out of the gate.)

Expect lots of solid intermediate-level trails with lots of climbing, fast descents, and the occasional technical section thrown in.

For more of a challenge, shuttle to the infamous Continental Divide Trail. Not surprisingly, the CDT has much more of a backcountry feel. Imagine sections of embedded washing machine-size rocks, haphazardly spaced up a more than a 20-percent upslope; now do it over and over again until you reach the 6,700-foot top of the climb. Luckily the descent—launching over shark-toothed rock gardens and skidding into impossibly tight switchbacks make the effort worth it.

Must-Ride Trail: Entertainment Trail starts at the top of Mount Ascension and sends riders down a fun, fast descent through wildflower-filled meadows and pine trees, then connects to Rodney Ridge, where long straightaways with wide, bermed turns allow you to pick up a wicked amount of speed.

Best Place for a Post-Ride Beer: The trails to the south of town dump out mere blocks away from Blackfoot River Brewing Co. (, giving mountain bikers an refreshing reward at the end of their ride.

Best Place to Get Some Sleep: The Holiday Inn Express is clean, affordable (rooms start at $165), and—best of all—located next to a shuttle stop.


Copper Harbor, Michigan

A silver-level IMBA Ride Center, Copper Harbor is one of the crown jewels of Midwest mountain biking, hidden away in the farthest reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The location is extremely remote, but the spectacular singletrack and breathtaking views of Lake Superior make the trip worth it. The first trail most people ride here is Stairway to Heaven, which has more than 20 miles of rolling, grin-inducing singletrack.

The bulk of the trails are intermediate level, but the expert singletrack is as challenging as you can find east of the Rockies.

The singletrack up Brockway Mountain features several leg-sapping climbs, but if your idea of fun doesn’t point uphill, you can shuttle up. The Keweenaw Adventure Company not only sells, fixes, and rents bikes, it’ll also shuttle you to the top of the mountain ($28 for a day pass).

On The Edge is a fun, twisty flow trail that leads into a section of wooden bridges and boardwalks. If you’re riding it uphill, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful overlook filled with massive pine trees.

From there, descend on Flow back down to town or connect to the fun, intermediate-level Garden Brook and the trails to the southeast. If you’re feeling strong, try the 51-mile Keweenaw State Trail that stretches from Copper Harbor to the Michigan Tech trails.

Must-Ride Trail: The 3-mile Flow Trail definitely lives up to its name. A lazy meander along the top leads to some beautiful views of Lake Superior, and then dumps riders into a wicked fast, straight descent. Big berms will help you keep your speed as you reach the more twisty parts of the downhill toward the end.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

Best Place for a Post-Ride Beer: Brickside Brewery has a laid-back, dive-bar appeal and some decent craft brews. The UP IPA is pretty good, and if the Copper Harbor Trails didn’t knock you on your butt, too many Chainbreaker Double IPAs will. If you come directly from the trail, Captain Matt’s Fish and Chips food truck next door is open Friday through Sunday from noon to 9pm, otherwise your only food options are bagged chips.

Best Place to Get Some Sleep: If you’re looking for a camp spot or a motel room, you can find it at Lake Fanny Hooe Resort and Campground. Whichever you choose, you’ll be within walking distance of a breathtaking view overlooking the water.


Roanoke, Virginia

Mountain bikers should head to Roanoke as soon as possible, because with 320 miles of trails (and even more planned) within 45 minutes of its downtown, Virginia’s Blue Ridge won’t stay under the radar much longer.

Located within heart of the city, Mill Mountain Park’s 13 miles of singletrack is a great introduction to the trails and ideal for prepping your legs for several days of epic riding.

Perhaps the most popular trail network in the area, Carvins Cove has nearly 60 miles of mostly intermediate and advanced trail just 10 miles north of downtown.

Cross-country riders will love the Four Gorge’s three miles of flow trail along Brushy Mountain, while freeriders should check out Rattlin’ Run trail, which features some gnarly descents (and climbs to go with it). Want a little more silence and solitude?

Riders can find hundreds of miles of fire road and chunky backcountry singletrack in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. In all, there are nearly two dozen different trail networks located within this silver-level IMBA Ride Center.

Must-Ride Trail: North Mountain Trail, known as “The Dragon’s Back” by locals, starts off with a six-mile gravel road, then launches into a nearly two-mile technical climb up the mountain. After riding the spine of the ridge for 4 scenic miles, riders then drop into a 1,000-foot, 1.6-mile screaming descent that’s been known to “break riders and bikes alike,” according to local Kristine McCormick.

Best Place for a Post-Ride Beer: When riding Carvins Cove, riders typically roll into Parkway Brewing Company for their outstanding Baltic Porter. If you’re riding the nearby National Forest trails, Ballast Point Brewing offers not only great food and beer, but a spectacular sunset over the Appalachian mountains.ADVERTISEMENT CONTINUE READING BELOW

Best Place to Get Some Sleep: Explore Park began offering tent camping this summer, with RV hook-ups scheduled to open in the fall. There’s a fun 9-mile trail system located there now, and look for a pump track and skills area to be completed within the next 12 to 18 months.

eagle-colorado-mountain bike-toe

Eagle, Colorado

In terms of Colorado mountain biking, Fruita usually nabs all the accolades, but its neighbor two hours to the east deserves a bit of the spotlight as well. Eagle, Colorado, has more than 200 miles of mostly beginner and intermediate trail surrounding the town, making it the perfect spot for family adventure or for less-confident riders to gain skills and experience.

Built for the annual Colorado High School Mountain Biking Championships, Haymaker is a fun, fast five-mile trail, with a mellow climb that gradually gets steeper as you near the top.

The descent has high, banked berms meant to be ridden at warp speed, as well as a few small drops to keep things interesting. Boneyard is a three-mile intermediate trail that has a few more challenges and steeps.

The singletrack is fast and open near the top, but gets tighter and more technical as you get closer to the trailhead. Both trails have magnificent views and get great exposure to the sun, which is especially crucial in drying out the trails in the spring and fall when riders are trying to extend their season.

Must-Ride Trail: Pool and Ice Rink Loop descends 1,000 feet over three mostly fast and flowy miles. There are several spots where it can get a bit steep and twisty however, so if you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a dropper post, this is it. The ride finishes up with some cool-down rollers before ending up at the namesake recreation complex.

Best Place for a Post-Ride Beer: Bonfire Brewing in downtown Eagle has about 20 local beers on tap. Try to score a pint of their hoppy Firestarter IPA. Each June, the brewery hosts a two-day block party with national bands like Galactic and Sam Bush playing.

Best Place to Get Some Sleep: Surrounded by the mountains and aspen trees of White River National Forest, Sylvan Lake State Park is a beautifully scenic places to pitch a tent or park an RV. You can also stay in one of the nine cabins or three yurts.