There's never been a better time to be a mountain biker than right now, in 2023. All across the globe, enthusiastic mountain bikers have been building trails for decades, but more bike-specific trails are being built right now than ever before. We're currently living through a trail building gold rush that's delivering singletrack riches to the mountain bikers of the world.
Gone are the days of poorly-built rake-and-ride lines that eroded away into oblivion. Today, professional trail builders around the world are crafting purpose-built mountain bike trails featuring massive jumps, technical features, superb flow, and so much more. Gone are the days of illegal trail building in the forest, and instead, regional, national, and international organizations advocate for and fundraise for the construction of these new professional-quality trails.
And it's not just North America leading the charge anymore: spectacular mountain bike trail development is taking place around the world. Destinations like Derby, Tasmania, have invested millions of dollars to build some of the best singletrack on the planet. Scotland has single-handedly pioneered the trail centre concept and offers some of the best amenities and most integrated trail systems on the planet. The Alps are quickly catching up by retrofitting historic trails in places like Verbier, Switzerland, while simultaneously building new-school flow trails. Still other destinations chart their own course, with renowned locales like Finale Ligure, Italy, funding teams of local builders to cut in superb trails, mostly by hand. And don't even get me started on the absolute mountain bike mecca of New Zealand, which continues to pioneer trail progression and trail ratings in ways that haven't even made it to many places in North America yet.
You'll find all of these destinations and more on our top 10 list of mountain bike destinations around the world in 2023:
If the planet has a mountain biking capital - one region that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest - that capital is unequivocally British Columbia. And if British Columbia has a mountain biking capital city, that city is either the renowned resort town of Whistler or the nearby community of Squamish. While Whistler and Squamish are distinct destinations and communities, it's difficult to visit one and not the other. Located 45 minutes apart, each of these destinations could claim the #1 spot on this list of "Best Mountain Bike Destinations in the World." To prevent British Columbia from overwhelming the list, we're choosing to group these two together.
The Whistler Mountain Bike Park reigns as the undisputed king of downhill mountain biking. In many ways, this dominance traces back to the earliest days of the sport. Whistler essentially invented the purpose-built flow trail—a trail building technique that has since spread around the world. Today, Whistler also offers a slew of pedal-driven trails outside of the bike park, but when it comes to pedal riding, Squamish is undoubtedly superior.
Squamish is home to a staggering array of singletrack, including some of the best flow trails on earth. But it's not all just flow and jumps—roots and rock gardens dominate the natural trails, and the massive slabs of granite create stupid-steep rock rolls that will give even the most expert mountain bikers pause. The scale of the trail system here and the diversity of the singletrack have to be seen to be believed!
Must-Ride: Top of the World -> Creekside
Queenstown, New Zealand
Nestled among the breathtaking Southern Alps on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is often dubbed the "Adventure Capital of the World." And for mountain bikers, it's nothing short of paradise. Natalie Sharples, Marketing for the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club, explains that "Queenstown is a magnet for bikers in New Zealand and around the world. Our surrounding mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers provide an epic variety of biking terrain for all riding levels. From exposed tussock ridges to world-famous jump lines and gnarly downhill tracks, Queenstown has it all."
With three lift-assisted downhill mountain bike parks and over 130km of scenic trails along the edge of Lake Whakatipu and local vineyards, the riding scene here is incredibly expansive and diverse. But it's not just the trails that make Queenstown such an epic destination: it's the community as well. Queenstown boasts a thriving biking community, supported by an array of bike shops offering gear, rentals, and repairs. The local taxi services are even mountain bike-friendly, and are more than willing to transport you to the trailhead if you're traveling without a car.
Moab, Utah, is one of the oldest mountain bike destinations on this list, 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.
If it's amenities you're looking for, Moab has more mountain bike-friendly amenities than almost any destination. From bike shops with massive rental fleets to bike repair services, shuttle services, guides, and all manner of lodging, you could easily show up in Moab without any gear whatsoever and get kitted out for a ride in less than an hour.
Must-ride: The Whole Enchilada
Verbier exemplifies what it means to be a mountain destination in the Alps. One of the most famous ski resorts in Switzerland, Verbier anchors the expansive Four Valleys region as the epicenter, the hub, from which everything else spins. Unlike some Alps destinations, which only give mountain bikers the barest of nods, Verbier greets riders with arms wide open.
The bike park is the beating heart of the Verbier mountain bike scene. Sitting beneath the main gondola, the bike park trails easily connect to the wider trail network. The bike park boasts a wide range of trails, from intermediate to expert, and the resort regularly maintains the tracks and builds new ones.
But perhaps the most exemplary feature of this renowned mountain destination is its enduro trails. Verbier easily boasts some of the best enduro trails in the Alps. The competition is fierce, but the tracks in Verbier can compete with the best!
Verbier is fully-stocked with bike-friendly amenities, from guiding services to bike rentals and repairs. The area is particularly ebike-friendly, with ebike rentals available in town and charging stations spread across the mountainside . In fact, Verbier hosts an annual festival dedicated solely to e-mountain biking.
Must-ride: Col de Mille
Once the Enduro World Series made Finale Ligure a staple stop every season, the word was officially out about this epic mountain bike destination. Now, Finale is renowned around the world for its epic shuttle runs that begin on top of the nearby mountain ridge and run all the way down to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Very few places in the world can you literally ride your bike off the top of a mountain and end on a beach, and Finale Ligure is one of them!
The number of trail options in Finale feels nearly limitless and can often be overwhelming for the uninitiated. Consequently, most (but not all) of the shuttle services in Finale include a guide to show you around the trails as a part of the package deal. You can also find plenty of bike rental options in town, as well as repair shops, lodging, and more.
While shuttling is generally the best way to explore the trail network in Finale, you can also find plenty of loop options accessible directly from downtown, and many ebikers opt to pedal up the steep access roads to the top of the classic descents.
Must-ride: Roller Coaster -> Xmen Shuttle Run
Derby, Tasmania, Australia
The tiny town of Derby on the island of Tasmania is wildly remote by most measures, but over the past six years, it has quickly grown into one of the best mountain bike destinations in the world. This old tin mining town has seen millions of dollars invested into its mountain bike trail system, which is now home to over 77 miles / 125km of dedicated mountain bike singletrack.
The caliber of the riding in Derby is top-notch, with globe-trotting enduro racers voting Derby the best stop on the Enduro World Series multiple years in a row. "Derby is known for its massive granite slabs and unique trail features that use the natural terrain to create that sensation of ‘flow state’ that we all crave," says Mark McCann, Director of the Blue Derby Foundation. "There are the iconic granite features of the EWS level black trails that made Derby famous; think Detonate, Kumma-Gutza, and Trouty! But there’s also the lesser-known family and beginner trails that welcome riders of all abilities," he continues.
While the town of Derby is still quite small, there are plenty of bike-friendly amenities here to assist in your next far-flung mountain bike excursion, including four bike shops, bike rentals, shuttle companies, and so much more.
Must-ride: Return to Sender Loop
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 routes 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.
After the ride, you can roll right into downtown, park your bike in one of dozens of bike racks, and enjoy a cold drink and a delicious meal. Several bike shops and rental shops provide all the bike-based amenities you could desire, and nearby Crested Butte Mountain Resort also provides lift-served downhill biking. If this sounds like paradise, well... it just might be!
Must-ride: Trail 401
Tweed Valley, Scotland, United Kingdom
While Scotland boasts fantastic mountain bike trails spread all across the countryside, the Tweed Valley (aka "Bike Valley") is the epicenter of two-wheeled singletrack riding. It's "renowned throughout the UK (and beyond) for the quality, design, and the sheer number of dedicated mountain bike trails, but also the passion for the sport that winds through every fibre of the Valley," says Colena Cotter, Project Communications and Business Support for Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS).
The Tweed Valley is home to several major trail systems, including purpose-built trails in Glentress Forest; steep, tight, hand-cut trails in Caberston; and nearly endless classic enduro and downhill trails in Innerleithen. These trails are all connected by gravel paths and bike paths, creating a complex network through the deep, dark, damp Scottish forests.
The infrastructure at Scottish trail centres is second to none, "with bike friendly cafés and restaurants, accommodation providers with secure bike storage," a plethora of bike shops, excellent mechanics, every kind of bike rental imaginable, local guiding companies, and even skills coaches. Cotter recommends that if you want to make the most of your time in the Tweed Valley that you should "hire a local guide—no contest. With so much on offer and so much to choose from, you could waste valuable time and not have the best experience if you don’t. Great value for money, and they will ensure your first visit makes you want to return for more!"
Must-ride: Gypsy Glen
Rotorua, New Zealand
Rotorua is unequivocally the epicenter of mountain biking on New Zealand's North Island. In fact, the expansive trail system in Whakarewarewa Forest (with over 136 miles / 220km of trails) is so spectacular and diverse that many mountain bike tourists to New Zealand simply park themselves here—and never leave.
The riding in Rotorua is epitomized by black dirt singletrack flowing through a deep, dark rainforest. The climate here is damp, but most of the trails are resilient to a bit of moisture. Professional trail building, including grade reversals, berms, and tons of jumps, not only provide supremely entertaining trails but also drain water well, too.
The dark rainforest is interspersed with clearings from logging cuts. However, logging in the forest has diminished a bit in recent years after locals have proven that the economic value and revenue from mountain biking. According to a report on RotoruaNZ.com, the economic impact of mountain biking alone in the forest is an incredible $103.4 million NZD per year ($61.5 million USD), with an additional $36.4 million NZD ($21.6 million USD) from walking/hiking.
With all of this tourism, you can expect every type of mountain bike-related amenity, with a plethora of bike repair and rental shops, local guides, shuttle services, and more. In fact, "Whakarewarewa Forest is one of the few all-year-round mountain bike parks with all services available any time of the year. Thanks to our moderate climate, we enjoy riding all of our trails in all seasons," says Takurua Mutu, Director of MDA Experiences. Unlike other destinations that have an off-season or low season, you can enjoy all of Rotorua's amenities any time you choose to visit! Finally, if you're willing to drive a bit further, nearby Skyline Bike Park also offers New Zealand's first year-round gondola-served downhill mountain bike park.
Must-ride: Tihi-o-Tawa -> Te Mounga
Fernie, British Columbia, Canada
While we could probably put a dozen British Columbia mountain towns on this list, Fernie deserves inclusion due to its unique location in BC and the absurd quality and breadth of riding on offer. While many of BC's best mountain bike towns are located in the Coast Range, and a slew of others are found in the Monashees or other interior ranges, Fernie is undoubtedly the best mountain bike destination in the Canadian Rockies. Here, the Rocky Mountains form a dramatic spine trotting down the continent, with their jagged, rocky tops splitting the skyline. And the mountain bike trails are consequently spectacular!
Fernie is home to "8 distinct biking areas forming a network of hundreds of trails to ride, most of which are accessible right from town," says Christine Grimble, Media and Travel Manager for Tourism Fernie. In Fernie, you can "explore trails within old-growth forests, along with scenic alpine and valley views," she continues. "The trail network offers everything from gentle rides to technical cross-country, and thrilling downhill adventures."
Like every other destination on this list, the mountain bike infrastructure is spectacular, with an endless array of bike shops and rental shops, local guides and tours, private skills coaching, skills camps, progression jump parks, and even high-alpine downhill mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort. Really, you can't go wrong in Fernie!
Must-ride: Hyperventilation -> Hyperextension
Trying to limit this list to ten destinations is, quite frankly, a ludicrous proposition. The number of worthy mountain bike destinations seems nearly limitless, so if you want to dive a bit deeper, consider these 10 other fantastic locales around the world:
Aosta Valley, Italy
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Sacred Valley, Peru