We're all going to die.
Hopefully not very soon, but regardless, the reality of our mortality is an uncomfortable truth that we all must face. So, with limited time, you have to prioritize the few things that truly matter in life—such as riding the world's best mountain bike trails.
If you live in the USA, you don't need to travel far to find a world-class trail to ride. While the United States doesn't have a corner on the singletrack market, without leaving the borders of America, you can ride hundreds upon hundreds of fantastic, world-class singletrack trails of all stripes. We've culled the thousands of possibilities down to 25 superb choices worth traveling across the nation to ride.
What exactly qualifies as a "must-ride" mountain bike trail varies from person to person, and as you peruse this list, you'll note the diversity of the selections. You'll find plenty of grueling high-alpine epics, such as Trail 401 and Mile Creek -> Targhee Creek. Other riders prefer to get sendy, so you'll spot some of the best jump trails in the nation, like Unemployment Line. There are trails deep in the forest, like O'Leary Mountain, and arid rock rides like the iconic Slickrock Trail. You'll find loop rides such as Ape Canyon -> Plains of Abraham -> Smith Creek Loop, and epic shuttle runs like the Cannell Plunge. Whatever type of riding you favor, you're guaranteed to find a trail that's worth dedicating your precious time to go and ride.
While we've only included trails of the highest quality on this list, we also sought geographic diversity—so you'll find trails in the Midwest, the Northeast, and the Southeast, as well as the Mountain West.
What's your favorite trail from this list? What do you think we missed? Drop us a comment in the Strava Stories Club to let us know!
1. The Whole Enchilada, Moab, Utah
The Whole Enchilada ranks among the most epic mountain bike rides of all time! This point-to-point route drops a whopping 9,200 vertical feet over 32 miles, and while there is some climbing along the way, all told, it's one of the most fantastic descents in existence.
A big piece of the epicness puzzle is the diversity of this route. The Whole Enchilada passes through almost every climate zone imaginable. The top of Burro Pass, the route's high point, tops out just above treeline in alpine tundra. The singletrack quickly drops back into the trees, swooping through a pine forest. Lower down, the pines switch to aspens, and then low scrub oaks. The vegetation switches to the high desert variety, with short pinion trees breaking up the landscape. By the time you make it to the Colorado River, the vegetation has all but disappeared, and you're riding through a low-desert environment.
The Colorado Trail (COT) is widely regarded as one of the very best long-distance mountain bike trails in the world. Running for 535 miles between Denver and Durango, the trail crosses high alpine mountain passes and drops into beautiful valleys as it traverses the most beautiful portions of the state of Colorado.
Out of the entire Colorado Trail, arguably the highest-quality section is the beautiful stretch running from the town of Silverton to the southern terminus of the trail in Durango. While not technically the highest-elevation portion of the trail, nevertheless this section stays very high in the San Juan Mountain Range. This entire stretch of singletrack has also been designated by the International Mountain Bike Association as one of their "Epic" rides.
3. O'Leary Mountain, McKenzie, Oregon
The O’Leary Mountain Trail is a sublime singletrack trail high in the Cascade Mountains. This euphoric mountain biking experience offers up stupendous views of the surrounding mountain range coupled with sinuous singletrack running through a lush Oregon forest. The trees tower overhead, and the steep strip of black dirt allows you to rocket downhill at Mach 10… until you reach some sections of severely exposed singletrack with a long, long fall below you and a stacked set of tight, rocky switchbacks. The character of the trail changes throughout the descent—just when you think you have it figured out, you'll encounter a set of berms, some delightful jumps, or the aforementioned switchbacks. The variety is part of the appeal!
4. Monarch Crest, Salida, Colorado
Imagine the most epic mountaintop views in the world and combine them with beautiful, flowing singletrack, followed by a raucous, high-speed descent down a mountainside ending on the valley floor, and you have the epic Monarch Crest Trail in a nutshell. What sets the Monarch Crest apart from the rest of the competition is the ease of access, thanks to numerous shuttle services that deliver riders to the top of Monarch Pass, and the extended section of trail that traverses above treeline. All told you'll pedal over 10 miles along this incredible alpine ridge before dropping back into the trees and ripping down the mountainside.
5. Hangover, Sedona, Arizona
Extreme exposure coupled with brutally technical rock moves make Hangover one of the most technical—and downright dangerous—mountain bike trails in the nation. This technical challenge and threat of serious injury (or worse) hasn't deterred riders—rather, expert mountain bikers from around the world flock to Hangover to try their skills on this technical test piece. If you try it yourself, just make sure to use a healthy dose of caution. You have to make it through the next 20 trails on this list, after all.
6. Ape Canyon -> Plains of Abraham -> Smith Creek Loop, Mount Saint Helens, Washington
It’s "safe to say there is no other ride quite like this anywhere in the States,” writes the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. While the Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham ride begins by climbing up a narrow singletrack deep in a PNW forest, it soon breaks out into the Mount Saint Helens blast zone and lava flow area, providing a truly surreal landscape for a mountain bike ride. Once you hit the Plains, you’ll spend miles traversing the lunar landscape and surfing through the volcanic pumice.
7. Trail 401, Crested Butte, Colorado
Arguably the most beautiful trail in North America, Trail 401 is also one of the oldest and best-known trails in the world. Crested Butte is one of two places in the United States that can claim to be the birthplace of mountain biking, and as such, riders have been journeying here for decades to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Elk Range. With smooth, swoopy singletrack hugging the side of a high alpine ridge, it's impossible not to have a good time on Trail 401!
8. Downieville Downhill, Downievlle, California
The Downieville Downhill is a classic shuttle run of epic proportions! Over the course of 15 miles, the trail drops over 4,000 feet of net elevation (5,157 feet total descending). Running from the top of a beautiful mountain ridge down to the banks of the Yuba River, this epic trail has been a classic ride for decades. In fact, the trail and the town of Downieville are host to a long-running race/festival dubbed the “Downieville Classic.”
9. The Cannell Plunge, Kernville, California
The Cannell Trail, followed by The Plunge, is easily one of the most epic shuttle rides in California, if not the entire USA! This incredible 25-mile shuttle with just 2,000 feet of climbing drops a whopping 8,400 over the course of the entire ride!
"The flow and speed on Cannell Plunge is unreal... I'm blown away every time I ride this trail,” said Eric Carter, Pro BMX racer, Mountain X, and Downhill Legend, according to KernRiverSierra.com. And he’s not the only one to realize how epic this ride is. In fact, IMBA has assigned the Cannell Trail their coveted “Epic” designation.
10. Slickrock Trail, Moab, Utah
This mega-classic trail provides a mountain bike ride quality that you can't find in many places in the world. Instead of pedaling down dirt singletrack trails, riders will grind up and rip down endless domes of sandstone slickrock that create an otherworldly landscape. Even though this mega-classic is mega-popular, Slickrock is anything but easy. The climbs are steep, the descents are steeper, and the rock is just ready to rip unsuspecting skin from flesh if you happen to fall. While the challenge is real, the reward is even greater!
11. North Umpqua River Trail, Roseburg, Oregon
The North Umpqua River Trail (NUT)makes a strong case for being the most epic mountain bike trail in Oregon. This 70-mile point-to-point singletrack trail "follows the high ridgeline above the river, snakes through towering forests of hemlock, fir, and pine, and skirts multiple waterfalls as it follows the shining rapids of the river,” according to Eileen Garvin on TravelOregon.com.
While the trail has five distinct sections, many riders who make the effort to ride the NUT decide to tackle the entire thing, usually in a multi-day ride. With a variety of campgrounds and dispersed camping locations along the way, there are plenty of options for stopping to spend the night. And thanks to road crossings, you could even cajole a friend into driving a support vehicle. Or, go self-supported with bikepacking gear.
12. Osberg Ridgeline Epic, Ketchum, Idaho
Despite requiring a significant shuttle from downtown Ketchum to reach the trail’s starting point, the Osberg Ridgeline Epic still requires over 3,000 feet of uphill pedaling. That 3,000 feet of climbing gets you 5,500 feet of descending, along with a sweet 15-mile ridge traverse with the epic views this trail is renowned for! The views from the top feel like they’ll never end as you pedal around one bald corner and then another, with mountain ridges marching off into the distance until they slowly fade from view.
13. Dupont State Forest Slickrock, Brevard, North Carolina
Riding on exposed bedrock is a rarity on the East Coast, which makes this route in Dupont State Forest all the more unique. Take Slickrock's sandstone and swap it with granite, shape it into a small mountain, and craft a flowing trail down the rock face, and you'll have the epic descents found on the Cedar Rock and Big Rock trails. Combine these trails into a slightly longer loop ride, and you'll enjoy a truly unique mountain biking experience right here in the mountains of North Carolina.
14. Alpine Trail, Oakridge, Oregon
While "Alpine Trail" may sound like a generic name, once you begin associating that name with this epic point-to-point shuttle route outside of Oakridge, Oregon, it becomes anything but ordinary!
The trail begins high in the mountains, climbing through the towering timber that Western Oregon is known for, before ripping downhill on beautiful dark black dirt. A few open meadows and exposed outcroppings provide brief panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains, before dropping back into the timber for more high-speed ripping.
15. Unemployment Line, Bellingham, Washington
Unemployment Line is Galbraith's marquee jump trail and is largely responsible for Galbraith's international fame. Unwilling to rest on their laurels, the local mountain bike club, WMBC, continues to reshape and improve Unemployment Line every few years. For 2019, many of the jumps were revamped and improved, and a visually-stunning over/under roll-in feature was added to the trail entrance.
Unemployment Line offers tabletops and booters of a variety of sizes. While the takeoffs and landings have grown over the years, compared to the scope of jumps found in downhill bike parks, the jumps on Unemployment Line can demand sniper focus to hit perfectly.
16. Hiline, Sedona, Arizona
The Hiline Trail is both stunningly beautiful and incredibly technical but thankfully, not at the same time.
The trail gets its name from the high traverse that it performs above sheer cliff bands along the side of one of Sedona's red rock mountains. Thanks to the trail's vantage point high above the valley floor, riders can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and red rock formations. Thankfully, this portion of the ride is relatively non-technical, but soon the trail plunges off the ledge via a challenging black-diamond descent that can rank among the best in the nation.
17. Doctor Park, Crested Butte, Colorado
The Doctor Park singletrack plummets from its high elevation start through a high alpine meadow, into an aspen grove, and down into pines and a dry climate zone at lower elevation, making it one of the most raucous and entertaining backcountry descents not only in Crested Butte but in the United States! Whether you shuttle to the top or pedal it as a loop is up to you, but one thing's for sure: this is an epic trail that's worth traveling to experience.
18. Mile Creek -> Targhee Creek, West Yellowstone, Montana
Mountain biking doesn't get much more rugged and remote than it does in the isolated Lionhead Mountains. The Mile Creek -> Targhee Creek point-to-point crosses the small mountain range from one side to the other, following some sections of the Continental Divide Trail along the way. Topping out above treeline, the descent off the spine of the mountains is wicked-fast! One word of caution: this mountain range is thick with grizzly bears, so pack your bear spray.
19. Tahoe Rim Trail -> Flume Trail, Incline Village, Nevada
The Flume Trail began life as the grade for a water flume that delivered lumber from high in the mountains above Lake Tahoe to the towns far below. Nowadays, the remnants of the Flume are still visible, but the old flume bed is instead utilized by mountain bikers and hikers.
Turn a standard Flume ride into a more adventurous mountain bike excursion by incorporating an elevated section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. By pairing these two trails, you'll create a mountain bike ride that you'll remember fondly for years to come.
20. Cady Hill: Florence Loop, Stowe, Vermont
The Florence Trail is renowned as the best flow trail in Stowe, and one of the best trails in the state of Vermont! This berm- and jump-filled descent can be worked into a fantastic 5-mile ride at Cady Hill that is guaranteed to please intermediate mountain bikers and entertain advanced riders looking to add some swoop and flow to their lives.
21. Devil's Den, Winslow, Arkansas
Devil's Den State Park is a fixture in the Arkansas mountain biking scene. As you begin pedaling from the trailhead, a sign proclaims that the lower area of the park, known as Fossil Flats, was the "Birthplace of Arkansas Mountain Biking" in 1989.
Not willing to simply let the birthplace fade into oblivion, Devil's Den State Park was recently designated a "Monument Trail" by renovating sections of the historic trail and expanding the network with world-class trail building on brand-new segments. With stupendous rock features, massive jumps and drops, and entertaining tech lines, Devil's Den can compete with the best of them.
22. East Bluff: Citrus Tech, Copper Harbor, Michigan
Copper Harbor might be the most remote mountain bike destination in the Lower 48. Despite the difficulty of accessing these trails, this small community is home to some of the highest-quality trails in the nation. The newest additions to the network on Rock Solid's privately-owned East Bluff mountain are some of the best trails that have been built in the nation, with the new Citrus Tech trail sending out shockwaves of adulation from the riders that have ripped down it.
23. South Boundary Trail, Taos, New Mexico
The South Boundary Trail may be a shuttle run, but don't let that fool you into thinking this is an easy spin in the park. Along with around 4,500 vertical feet of descending, you'll still have to put in close to 2,000 feet of climbing along the way, but it's so very worth it!
This epic trail—widely regarded as one of the best in New Mexico—runs through beautiful alpine meadows and endless aspen groves before finally rips down to the desert town of Taos via a rough, rocky finish.
24. Laurel Mountain, Brevard, North Carolina
The Laurel Mountain Trail runs through a remote section of the Pisgah National Forest that is far enough off the beaten path that seemingly few mountain bikers make the effort to ride it. Their loss is your gain! Consider yourself informed that Laurel Mountain is one of the very best mountain bike rides in Pisgah if you can handle brutal climbs and an endless sea of boulders during a double black diamond descent. You'll also enjoy a few spectacular mountaintop views along the way—a relative rarity in this part of the country.
25. Kingdom Trails: Eastern Loops, East Burke, Vermont
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!
While the route combinations here are nearly endless, a great place to get started is on some of the classic loops on the eastern side of the trail system. After getting your feet wet in the Kingdom's epic trails, you can start planning more and more epic rides in Vermont's beautiful rolling mountains.
After all, who says you have to stop at just 25 trails?!