Mountain Biking 101
Read our complete guide on buying your first mountain bike.
Local rides are great, but once you’ve bought the gear and mastered how to use it, you might want to travel to see the big world of trail design and riding styles. Here are some of our favorite domestic getaways.
Used to be that Moab, Utah, had the corner on the red-rock desert riding experience, but this northern Arizona enclave, about halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff, now has more singletrack, better access, and equally good views. There’s everything from scenic slickrock cruises, such as the Mescal, to proper flow trails like Canyon of Fools and Slim Shady, as well as committed technical desert lines like Hangover, which has to rank as one of the most interesting and unique rides on the planet. For the best beta and service, stop off at Over the Edge, the friendliest bike shop in town.
Crested Butte, Colorado
As far as big-mountain riding goes, the Rockies surrounding central Colorado’s quaint Crested Butte simply cannot be beat. The dirt is grippy and loamy, the trails in summer are lined with head-high wildflowers, there are rides well over 13,000 feet, and the town loves cyclists. It’s impossible to single out any one trail as CB’s finest, but visitors should definitely not miss either the 401 or the 403, which wend high into the peaks and then swish back down through Sound of Music–worthy meadows.
Brevard, North Carolina
The western finger of North Carolina, butting up against Pisgah National Forest, which wraps the Blue Ridge Mountains in a cloak of constant green, is what might just be the country’s best-kept mountain biking secret. The trails are shady and technical and laugh-out-loud fun, with everything from groomed flow runs to long passages on glassy granite. The Bike Farm, a mountain biking guide service and base camp, offers accommodation, rentals, clinics, its own bike park, and one of the most convivial cycling hangs in the entire eastern United States.
Sun Valley, Idaho
If you want fast, flowing, open trails in a big scenery, you can’t do worse than Sun Valley, with more than 400 miles of buffed-out singletrack lacing the town and a top-notch downhill bike park at the ski area. The farther you get from town, the higher the trails climb into the alpine, taking in rockier terrain, interesting technical features, and alpine views. Riding aside, including one of the most entertaining annual bike festivals around, we love that Sun Valley isn’t just a dirtbag cycling town, but instead has luxe hotels (try the Knob Hill Inn), five-star dining, and a laid-back high-end vibe.
Once little more than a dusty ranching town on the western slope of Colorado, Fruita has become a riding institution. The trails crisscross barren desert hills like pretty threads, climb over broken sandstone in fits and starts, and tumble haphazardly through towering cliffs all the way down to the Colorado River. They’re wildly varying and provide massive plateau views at every turn. This is the jumping-off point for the Kokopelli Trail, a 150-mile odyssey that connects Fruita to Moab. That’s another great thing about riding here: Not only is there enough excellent trail to command a weeklong or more stay, but down the road in either direction is even more destination riding, both on the desert rippers around Grand Junction and the iconic red rocks at Moab.