Q: Five of us are looking to take a mountain biking trip in the western United States. We have thought about Moab in Utah but wanted to know if there are any alternatives we should consider. Thanks,
Brian Hovey, Austin, Texas
A: Every devout mountain biker must make at least one pilgrimage to Moab in his lifetime. Rolling the sticky slickrock at angles that seem to defy gravity has inspired many a non-believer to shout a spontaneous prayer of thanks (or at least a "Holy shit!").
With thousands making the journey each year, there's no shortage of reference material available for first-timers. My bible of choice is David Crowell's Mountain Biking Moab, which lists rides according to their featured punishments (technical challenge, speedy downhills, grueling climbs) and covers lesser-known routes with the same accuracy as old standbys like the Slickrock Trail and Porcupine Rim. Also key: it's small enough to cram inside your Camelbak.
Storied as it may be, Moab doesn't hold exclusive rights to the West's best biking. Some alternatives to think about are Crested Butte, Colorado, where the summer thaw uncovers enough high-altitude singletrack to keep you riding new trails until winter; Sedona, Arizona, with terrain that's similar to Moab's but much less hyped; and Downieville, California, a tiny town near the tree-lined Sierra foothill trails that have become the fat-tire pride of the Golden State.
If post-ride festivities factor into your decision, these destinations offer at least one advantage over Moab: full-strength beer.