The thirst for adventure and the feeling of fresh dirt under your tires fuels the wanderlust of mountain bikers around the world. As the mental wheels start turning with daydreams of far-flung locales, the question naturally arises: "Where should you go next?" And most importantly, "How good are the mountain bike trails in this town?!" But answering this question is no simple feat. Mountain bike destinations vary dramatically in the quantity and quality of singletrack that they offer, the character or flavor of the trails, and even the mountain bike-related amenities available in town. This diversity is part of the beauty of the sport of mountain biking and part of what beckons riders to travel the world and explore new towns as often as they can.
While it might seem like mountain bike destinations are permanent entities that change little over time, in reality, the world of mountain bike trails is ever-changing. New trails are built every year, with existing destinations adding to their networks and other towns putting brand-new trails on the map for the first time. Unfortunately, sometimes trails are also closed, or mountain bike access is lost due to political issues. When it comes time to choose your next epic riding trip, you can't simply rely on a 10-year-old issue of Bike Mag. Instead, you need the latest information to make an informed decision.
I've been writing about the best mountain bike destinations in North America for over ten years, having published my first top 10 round-up in 2013. In the intervening decade, long-time destinations like Moab and Crested Butte have only cemented their places on the list with continued trail developments. Unfortunately, some destinations, such as Santa Fe, Fruita, and Oakridge, have changed little in the intervening years. Still, other towns that weren't on the radar at all have risen to international prominence, such as Bentonville and Bellingham. This list considers the latest trail developments to date in 2023.
While the trail quality and sheer amount of trail mileage are undoubtedly the most important factors in choosing a top mountain bike destination, other critical factors include mountain bike friendly-infrastructure such as bike shops, mountain bike shuttles, downhill bike parks, and more. For an epic vacation, you also need a variety of lodging options to choose from, ranging from primitive camping to luxury hotels. Finally, what's a vacation without a few delicious meals out on the town and a cold post-ride drink to wind down after a hard day on the trails? Each of the destinations profiled here provides the entire package deal, offering superb singletrack, incredible bike-friendly infrastructure, and all of the other amenities that you'd expect on an epic vacation.
In each description, I've attempted to briefly highlight what makes each destination unique, as well as provide one must-ride route recommendation. For more information on each destination, be sure to dive deeper into its respective guidebook on FATMAP.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 mountain bike destinations in the USA in 2023:
Moab, Utah, is one of the oldest mountain bike destinations, and it's still one of the best. Riding the slickrock and sand in the ultimate desert destination is a bucket list experience that all mountain bikers need to enjoy at least once in a lifetime—and preferably, at least once a year!
Moab has singlehandedly made slickrock riding famous, and now mountain bikers around the world seek out slabs of exposed bedrock to pedal along. These epic routes are some of the most technical—and most deadly—in the world, with signs on trails like Portal cautioning riders to dismount as people have fallen to their deaths before. And yet, the talented trail builders in Moab—primarily Moab Trail Mix—have constructed newer, more beginner-friendly trails across the region, so now mountain bikers of any level can pull into town and find a ride they like.
Must-ride: The Whole Enchilada
Crested Butte is one of two places in the United States that can claim to be the birthplace of mountain biking. Yet even today, this iconic destination remains incredibly relevant to mountain bikers by building new trails, adding modern mountain bike attractions like a downhill bike park, and constantly maintaining, upgrading, and improving classic backcountry singletrack trails that have existed for decades.
The riding here is epitomized by epic high-alpine singletrack, with endless ribbons of dirt running through fields of colorful handlebar-high wildflowers beneath soaring mountain peaks. Dark black dirt provides grippy turns that swoop through the forests and meadows, punctuated by occasional rocks and roots. If this sounds like paradise, well... it just might be!
Must-ride: Trail 401
Choosing "Lake Tahoe" as a destination might be a bit of a cheap shot, as this expansive area includes multiple ski resorts and small towns surrounding the crystal-clear waters of the largest alpine lake in the USA. While mountain biking has long been popular in Tahoe, in recent years, the Tahoe mountain biking scene has truly blown up with ongoing trail developments and new school bike-friendly infrastructure, such as jump parks and skills progression areas.
Most Tahoe mountain bike trails consist of smooth, narrow strands of dusty singletrack running through towering pines with glimpses of the lake below. However, if you seek them out, you can also find some rowdy lines that blast down boulder-strewn descents. Northstar at Tahoe is also home to one of the best downhill bike parks on the West Coast.
Must-ride: Tahoe Rim Trail -> Flume Trail
While Bellingham has long been a mountain biking hotbed, it has risen to prominence in recent years thanks to many of the local trails going legit. The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is renowned for its illicit mountain bike trails, and for years you had to know somebody to find the goods in Bellingham. That's slowly changing, thanks to the hard work of local trail advocates.
Today, you can easily explore and experience top-tier PNW riding in Bellingham, characterized by massive jumps and flowy berms on the one hand and steep chutes, root webs, and wet loam on the other hand. These narrow strips of dark black dirt run through lush rainforests, punctuated only by the occasional clear-cut from a logging company. While there are still plenty of hidden gems deep in the forest, the legal trail map is itself overwhelming!
Must-ride: Unemployment Line
Park City, Utah, was the first gold-level ride center designated by IMBA. During that process, the riders and trail advocates in Park City actually helped write the book with IMBA, defining the factors that are required for one of IMBA’s ride centers to qualify as gold level. The mountain biking here is just that good!
While it might seem impossible when you look at the packed trail map, the trail system in Park City only continues to expand and improve. Professionally-built trails span the region, with a propensity for smooth, flowy, machine-built singletrack. You can find a few chunkier stretches if you're looking for a challenge, or if you want to get air, there are a few superb jump lines on offer as well. For true DH riding, head to the Deer Valley Bike Park.
Must-Ride: Wasatch Crest -> Park City
Brevard, North Carolina, is renowned for its expansive network of gnarly singletrack hidden beneath the towering canopy of Pisgah National Forest. While you can find the occasional beginner-friendly trail hidden in this temperate rainforest, the singletrack here has a reputation for breaking both bikes and riders with its unrelenting brutality.
That reputation is slowly changing as more progressive trails are built in the region. Skills parks are also being added closer to town, giving new riders a place to train their skills. In addition, some of the classic routes that have eroded into little more than massive root-filled trenches are being rehabbed and rerouted to provide a more sustainable trail experience.
Must-Ride: Dupont State Forest Slickrock
With a population of 100,000, Bend is the largest city to make this list of "destinations," but its endless network of high-desert singletrack has made it one of the most famous outdoor recreation towns in the world. The mountain biking in Bend is characterized by smooth, flowy singletrack that swoops through the towering trunks of ponderosa pines. Rocks can be difficult to find here unless you go out of your way to look for them.
While some proposed trail developments in Bend have hit bureaucratic snags in recent months, the local advocates continue to push forward wherever possible. The bike park on Mount Bachelor has helped diversify the appeal of the region's trails, providing gnarly, steep lines filled with tech challenges. The dirt jumps at the Lair also provide a serious challenge for expert-level dirt jumpers. The more you look, the more you'll discover to ride in Bend!
Must-Ride: Whoops Loop
Bentonville is the newest mountain bike destination to grace this list, having risen to global prominence in a relatively short period of time thanks to tens of millions of dollars of investment from the Walton family. The trail builders in Bentonville now define the pinnacle of singletrack craftsmanship with superbly-built flow trails, hand-cut cross-country trails, trailside art, and trail hubs.
While you won't find any true mountains in Bentonville, the builders make the most of the rolling terrain to create ripping descents, rolling climbs, and endless miles of fantastic pedaling.
Must-Ride: Slaughter Pen
The Kingdom Trails is a massive trail system boasting over 100 miles of non-motorized multi-use trails. With everything from old-school hand-built singletrack to machine-built flow trails, doubletrack, and old gravel roads, this expansive network truly does have a trail for everyone! Most of the singletrack here has been built with permission on private land, and the Kingdom Trail Association continues to work with the local land managers to preserve mountain bike access.
While most of the classic Kingdom Trails are flowy berm-filled cross-country romps, nearby Burke Bike Park on Burke Mountain offers a slew of gnarlier downhill lines, some of which can be connected to the rest of the trail system for longer enduro rips.
Must-Ride: Kingdom Trails: Eastern Loop
The towering red rock cliffs and mystical vortices found in Sedona have turned it into one of the most famous outdoor destinations in the world. Mountain biking trails feature prominently here, with Sedona renowned as the home of some of mountain biking's most technical test pieces, like Hangover.
The riding in Sedona consists of technical red rock riding, with the size of the rock slabs directly correlating to the difficulty of the trails. Thankfully, Sedona hasn't merely relied on its classic lines to stay relevant but has continued to develop a substantial new addition to its trail system that's filled with beautiful purpose-built mountain bike trails.
Trying to limit this list to ten destinations is, quite frankly, a ludicrous proposition. There's never been a better time to be a mountain biker, and the number of top-tier destinations in the USA and around the world has only continued to increase. Colorado alone has enough world-class destinations to fill a top 10 list, so we had to, unfortunately, cut the state off at "just" Crested Butte. If you want to dive even deeper into the USA mountain bike scene, here are ten runner-up destinations that didn't quite make the list:
Wydaho (Jackson, Wyoming, and Victor/Driggs, Idaho)