Top Ten Mountain Bike Meccas (Beyond Moab)
You're pedaling strong, barreling down a hill, you feel a cool breeze and hear it rustle the leaves of the towering trees shading the trail. Heading back up a gentle grade, you slow occasionally to take some tight, technical turns, and breathe deeply of the sweet, fresh air.
It's hard to say what elements must come together to create the ideal mountain biking experience, but most riders would agree that there are some places where those "Zen" moments just come more easily and more often. Moab, Utah, is perhaps the best-known of these mountain biking meccas, but we at GORP have uncovered some hot spots that are emerging as the next big destinations for pilgrims on two fat tires.
It's only fitting to begin with Crested Butte, Colorado, where rides of gorgeous Rocky Mountain passes contributed to the growth of the sport in its early years. Here you'll find trails fit for a beginner and challenges for even the most experienced of riders, winding among the peaks, pines, and aspens of central Colorado. Further west, though, and you'll hit Fruita, Colorado, now recognized as a premier mountain biking destination. Riders converge to enjoy the area's gorgeous valleys, canyons, cliffs, and ridges, and a variety of trails crisscrossing every possible type of terrain.
When you look for Downieville on a map of northern California, you'll find it's not particularly close to San Francisco. Actually it's about a four-hour drive. Still, most weekends you'll find Bay Area bikers trekking to Downieville, because they've discovered it's well worth the trip. Nestled in a valley in the middle of the Tahoe National Forest, this tiny town lies at the center of a network of high-quality singletrack.
A little further north, bikers rate the jewel of central Oregon—Bend. This former mill town is surrounded by conical peaks, lush meadows, river-carved gorges, and deep blue lakes—perfect for skiing, hiking, paddling, and, of course, mountain biking.
Across the border comes the verdant, rolling countryside of British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. (Do note, however, that the popular trestles of the Kettle Valley Railroad were damaged in a fall 2003 fire and have yet to be reconstructed.)
Back east, you won't find territory more inviting than that around Slatyfork, West Virginia. The deep green forests, ridges, and valleys of the Allegheny Mountains here are all part of the Monongahela National Forest, a biker-friendly place just bursting with singletrack.
Trails originally traveled by gold-rush-era miners twist all through the haunting Black Hills of South Dakota, and bikers are beginning to rediscover these scenic and challenging trails. The opportunities for exploring are especially rich around Custer, a small town in the Black Hills National Forest that's also within easy driving distance of Custer State Park.
Finally, though they're quite different from the jagged, rocky peaks of Colorado, the Green Mountains of Vermont offer their own special mellow magic to visiting cyclists. Here you'll find yourself on old mill roads through hardwood forests, which can be especially spectacular in fall when the leaves practically burst with bright colors. And when the day of riding is over, make your home base at a quaint village inn, amongst rustic homes and covered bridges.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication