Best Mountain Bike Destinations In The US
Enjoying endless outdoor adventures is one of the best parts about having a camper van. From skiing to mountain biking, you can truly appreciate all the natural beauty of the outdoors.
Mountain biking is one of those activities that can be enjoyed during any road trip. All you need are the right van accessories to ensure you can easily bring along your bikes, and the rest will sort itself out.
The extensive range of mountain biking trails throughout the US can even feel overwhelming at times. From the breadth of terrain to choose from to the riding you want to do, there are endless options and different trails to choose from.
Or, perhaps, you want to go to one of those epic mountain bike events that bring together people from all over the globe who enjoy the downhill action.
When it comes to the best mountain bike towns in the US, there are dozens of hidden gems between the West and East Coasts. To help you plan your next mountain biking adventure, we’ve rounded up the best mountain biking towns and cities in the US to go and check out.
When you reach Downieville, you’ll think your van became a time machine somewhere along the way. The town looks somewhat like an old western movie, but with bikes instead of horses and helmets instead of wide-brimmed hats.
This tiny town was once home to thousands of gold rush miners and timber workers. Its rich history has been well-preserved, and luckily it’s not just the buildings that have been well-maintained but the trails as well.
The trails that were once used for the quest for gold are well maintained and cared for here and make for some of the best cross-country and downhill trails you can find in the states. If you like speed and tech, great views, and a refreshing river to cool off in at the end of the day, then Downieville should be at the top of your list.
The most popular trail here you can’t miss is the Downieville Downhill route that connects the Sunrise Trail, Butcher Ranch, Third Divide, and First Divide trails. This route drops nearly 5,000 feet over 15 miles of pure fun. When you get to town, or better yet, before you get here, check out Downieville Outfitters to catch a shuttle.
Once you’ve picked the bugs out of your teeth thanks to your perma-grin while riding, hop in the refreshing waters of the Yuba river and stop by Two Rivers Cafe for some great food and refreshing beer.
For camping, Union Flat campground is a short ten minutes from town with both reserved and first-come-first-served sites. You can also find a few more campgrounds in the opposite direction from Downieville, or you can find dispersed camping since this area is part of the Tahoe National Forest.
Difficulty: Best for Intermediate to Advanced
Season: Late May to October
E-Bike friendly: Yes
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Another excellent mountain bike destination is Santa Fe. Here you can find everything from fast downhill to scenic cross-country trails, on terrain that ranges from desert trails to the high alpine wilderness with 95% of it being singletrack. And with milder summer temperatures and a July/August rainy season, you can find some great dirt conditions in pretty comfortable temps in the middle of summer.
The city of Santa Fe sits at an elevation of 7,199 feet with some trails reaching as high as 12,000 feet so consider taking a day to acclimate before hitting the trails. Once you've acclimated, take advantage of the high elevation that makes for some thrilling descents.
One of the more popular trails in the area is the Winsor Trail located within the Santa Fe Mountains, descending 3,000 feet over 9 miles. While this trail can be pedaled both ways, the preferred method is to catch a shuttle on the Blue Bus to the Santa Fe Ski area parking lot where the trail begins.
Another fun area to check out is the La Tierra Trails. This area is an interconnected system of trails with plenty of fun and flowy trails and even some jump lines. From kids and beginner riders to advanced riders who love the freeride style, there’s something here for everyone.
The Santa Fe area has all sorts of trails with varying terrain so it’s a good idea to make sure you and your bike are prepared before you find yourself on the trail with a flat and no way to fix it. If you need to grab some supplies or make repairs, stop by The Broken Spoke bike shop to get you squared away. You can also check out their trail reports page for the latest conditions.
Difficulty: All levels
Season: May through October
E-Bike friendly: Some areas allow motorized access but many trails do not
Bentonville may sound familiar because you’ve seen the town name countless times while driving on the highway - on a Wal-Mart truck - or because you’ve heard the buzz that’s going around about this uber bike-centric town.
Recently self-proclaimed as the “mountain biking capital of the world,” Bentonville is doing a decent job at living up to that claim regarding sheer quantity, adding more trails every year. And yes, this is all thanks to the millions of dollars that the Walton family (who founded Wal-Mart) foundation has donated and of course, the skilled trail builders designing and building these trails.
The trails here flow well, and many can be easily accessed directly from town. You’ll even see some trails and features in town - as in, you’ll see some table tops alongside the road and rideable artwork on which you can test your skills in the middle of town. There’s not a ton of elevation here, but the trails are strategically made to keep a good flow going, with well-marked trail markers and features all over the place.
With so many trails to ride, it’s hard to pick just one area that stands out in particular since there’s something here for everyone. Some of the central regions start directly from the downtown area. You can even ride to more trails a little further out by hopping on the Razorback Greenway like Little Sugar, Blowing Springs, and the Back 40, which are all great for getting that adrenaline pumping.
The Coler Preserve is another must-ride area that offers camping as well. Coler is where you’ll find the famous “Hub” structure, where a few of the trails begin. You can race your friends on the dual slalom jump line, enjoy a family pedal on the family flow trail, and test your skills on the double black diamond trails.
The campground at Coler has some cool perks like showers, a bike repair and wash station, hammock stands, and proximity to the trails. Plus, it’s walking (or rolling) distance to Airship Coffee, that’s only accessible by foot or wheel to grab a coffee, smoothie, beer, and snacks.
Bentonville has so much more to offer than what we’ve mentioned here. Mountain biking might be the main attraction, but the impressive food scene, art galleries, and welcoming community with a passion for playing outside make this town one of the best bike towns to visit.
Difficulty: All levels
E-Bike friendly: Yes
Sun Valley, Idaho
Idaho is full of beautiful areas tucked in its mountainous landscape with plenty of hiking, biking, camping, hot springs, waterfalls, and more. If you're looking for a great mountain biking destination that also makes for a great road trip, put Sun Valley on your list for consideration. While it may be a well-known skiing destination, come summer, you get the vibes that you're in a mountain bike town.
The Sun Valley and Ketchum area has over 400 miles of trails that can cater to all rider levels. Here you can explore the flowy, buff singletrack in the backcountry with some of the most scenic views and fastest speeds (think 20+ mph in some areas, if you dare) all day long.
There are several trails that lead to some stunning views at the top or on the way down, but one of the favorites here is the trail to Pioneer Cabin. You've probably seen this cabin at some point that reads "the higher you get, the higher you get", but the photos don't do it justice. It's a steep 3.5 mile out and back trail that can be a brutal 2582 feet climb, but the views and descent make it worth the grind.
While many trails will have you earning your turns by pedaling uphill, you can also find shuttling options or catch a ride on the Gondola at Bald Mountain. The lifts here provide access to the purpose-built downhill trails in the park and connect to backcountry options down the backside so you can cut out some of the climbing.
Once you've tired out your legs to exhaustion, head to Sawtooth Brewery for delicious craft beers, loaded nachos, chicken pot pie, elk burgers, and more. When your food coma hits, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find plenty of camping options for a solid night's rest so you can wake up and do it all over again.
Difficulty: All levels
Season: Late May through October
E-Bike friendly: Some but not all, you can check the status here BCRD Summer Trails
Our home state of Oregon has some incredible mountain biking trails sprinkled around the state, but Bend is one of our favorite places when it comes to mountain biking trips. There are hundreds of miles of trails here to explore, plenty of places to camp in the Deschutes National Forest, several of our favorite breweries, and tons of other fun activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The trails are on the west side of town and stretch clear to Mount Bachelor, where you can find some lift-served downhill action. One of our favorite trails is Tiddlywinks. The upper section is a bit of a climb with some technical features but is well worth the fast and flowy lower section with jumps and drops that squeeze through the trees. We recommend shuttling it from Wanoga Sno-Park, riding back to town via COD, or parking at "green gate" and looping it with Funner.
For trails for the whole family, Phil's trailhead is the place to go. There's a sizeable pump track area that kids and adults love to play on and trails with minimal elevation closer to the trailhead. Once you get further out, you'll find some spots of elevation gains that make for a fun pedal back to the trailhead.
What's arguably one of the best parts about a road trip to Bend is the proximity to several other phenomenal mountain biking areas such as Oakridge, Ochocos, Sisters, Cline Butte, and the Mckenzie River Trail. All of these are within 1-2 hours away, with options for camping in your van in between. It depends on your riding style, but you can find something for everyone in or around Bend.
Back to Bend, some other favorite rides we love are Swampy Lakes to Phil's trailhead (via Mrazek, or any way really), Flagline to Phil's, Tyler's Traverse with Loam Wolf mixed in, or just spending a day at Mount Bachelor. For more trail ideas, be sure to visit BendTrails for the latest conditions, and an interactive trail map.
For camping, there are several reservable campgrounds in the Cascade Lakes area. Elk Lake is a great option if you can reserve it in time, with a seasonally open restaurant that has tasty burgers and beverages. For options a bit closer to town, Tumalo State Park is a well-developed campground with showers and right along the Deschutes River for swimming.
Difficulty: All levels
Season: May through October
E-Bike friendly: No
Our final stop is Bellingham, home to Transition, Evil, and Kona bikes - and some of the best dirt in the PNW. You've likely seen some footage of Bellingham's trails in Transition's captivating bike videos at some point. But if you haven't, the bike trails here look like something out of most MTB-ers' dreams, with miles of fast-flowing singletrack on hero dirt through a lush green forest.
The two main areas that attract riders here are Galbraith and Chuckanut, but there are other areas with a small but growing selection of trails. You'll find plenty of jumps, roots, rock rolls, and challenging technical trails at Galbraith. There are 65 miles of well-maintained trails on Galbraith over about 3,000 acres, which nicely spreads out riders so they're not too concentrated all in one area.
Most of the trails are fun and flowy jump trails that will make you want to do laps to get your sequence dialed, like the famous Unemployment Line that rides similar to the A-line at Whistler bike park (which is only about 3.5 hours of driving, plus border crossing time away). It can be easy to get lost in this connected system of trails, but the trails are well-marked so as long as you have a map you'll be set.
Chuckanut is where to go for fast, steep downhill trails. It has twice the elevation as Galbraith, more technical terrain, and some spicy exposed ridges. The ride not to miss here is Double Diamond and Double down, dropping 1,500 feet over just a couple of miles. It's a high-speed and very fun, technically challenging ride and will have you wanting to do multiple laps. You can catch a shuttle or pedal up the fire road. At the top, you'll have some great views of Bellingham Bay and Mount Baker.
Chuckanut is also part of Larrabee State Park, which has a campground with direct access to the trails from the van and refreshing showers. The park is a short drive from Bellingham, so you won't have to miss out on the incredible places this town has to offer.
If you're here in the summer, Kulshan Brewing's trackside beer garden is a fun place where you can bring your kids, dogs, and bikes while tasting their latest creations.
Difficulty: All levels
E-Bike friendly: Mostly no, but it depends on the area
Road Trip Ready
With so many different mountain biking cities waiting to welcome you, which one will you visit next?
The world has so much to offer — and it’s simply a drive away.
Top 10 Mountain Biking Trails in America | Men's Journal
Santa Fe Travel Guide | U.S. News & World Report
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