In 2005, the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) announced a partnership with the National Park Service to develop trails in parks. We rejoiced. Since then progress has been limited, due to an annoying regulation that classifies bicycles as motor vehicles. (Ah, bureaucracy.) Nonetheless, the group is hacking through the red tape, recently helping Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves National Park to rebuild 12 miles of buff intermediate trail and, this spring, planning to break ground on 13 miles of singletrack in Texas’s Big Bend National Park. While IMBA keeps fighting for our right to rip, here’s a primer on the best existing bike-friendly trails in the national park system.
Where: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
Terrain: Some 285 miles of rideable dirt—by far the most in the national park system—slicing its way through the rugged highlands overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Our pick: the rolling, 21-mile Sullivan Ridge–Backbone Trail loop cruises the divide between L.A. and the San Fernando Valley.
Nearest Rental: Topanga Creek Bicycles; $50 per day
Where: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee
Terrain: Five trails with 38 miles of singletrack. Link the John Muir and Grand Gap trails for a 19-mile loop that skirts the edge of a sandstone gorge.
Nearest Rental: Tennessee Valley Bikes in Knoxville; $40 per day
Where: New River Gorge National River, West Virginia
Terrain: A new superbuff 13-mile intermediate trail complex winds through hardwood forests. Start on the Arrowhead Trail.
Nearest Rental: Fayetteville’s New River Bike; $35 per day