Climate and geography are just two factors that play a role in finding that next bucket-list ride. Whether you are seeking a muscle-burning climb, an adrenaline-rushing descent, an obstacle-dodging challenge, or heart-pounding speed, you’ll find it at one of these top mountain biking destinations, all of which will test your skills the moment your tires hit the trail.
Oh! And, don’t forget your helmet! And with some of these trails, you’re definitely going to want to wear one.
Looking for more bucket list adventures? We’ve got some ideas.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Located in the spectacular coastal mountains of British Columbia, Whistler is widely considered to be one of the premier mountain bike locations in the world. Doubling as a skier and snowboarder’s paradise, the three-season Whistler Mountain Bike Park offers over 100 miles of trails ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert. If you prefer to primarily bomb down the mountain, many of the trails are accessible via the same chair lifts that serve the slopes in winter. If you visit, save time to explore, because Whistler is but a blip on the map of stellar opportunities that exist within this stunning Canadian province.
The Alps, France
It’s no wonder that this region is so popular among European mountain bikers. Aside from the scenic vistas, The Alps are easily accessible. The diverse network of trails provides something for everyone; there are even options for those seeking longer trails with cross country loops crossing into Switzerland and back to France. If you prefer to avoid the uphill climbs, utilizing the system of chairlifts at Morzine will allow predominately downhill riding in this alpine environment (the lifts are open mid-June until mid-September). If you prefer the complete, all-mountain package, consider Chamonix.
Moab, Utah, United States
Moab is often recognized as the mountain biking capital of the United States, if not the world. The red rock landscape provides one of the most unique locations on the planet. Riders from all over the world make the pilgrimage to this outdoor mecca to ride trails like Porcupine Rim, Poison Spider, Slickrock, and the Whole Enchilada. While the region is accessible year-round, spring and fall are the most favorable seasons due to high summer temperatures. The region is also highly coveted by off-road enthusiasts and is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
Nelson, New Zealand
New Zealand is an adrenaline lover’s paradise. This tiny island nation thrives on outdoor pursuits and mountain biking is at the top of many lists. Located on the northern side of the south island, the small coastal city of Nelson may be home to some of the best mountain biking in the entire country. And while there are higher mountains in other locations, the more than 3,000-foot tall peaks rise dramatically from sea level. Perhaps the most sought after destination near Nelson are the trails at Wairoa Gorge. This bike park, created by an American billionaire, opened to the public in 2016 and provides an unprecedented experience.
Crested Butte, Colorado
With so many fantastic places to mountain bike in the mountain state, how do you feasibly narrow down the list? Numerous ski resorts around the state have expanded their summer offerings to include bike parks with many trails served by lift assist. That’s right, the same lifts that haul you to the top of your favorite ski runs can also transport you and your bike to a diverse array of bike trails and it’s all downhill from there. Crested Butte is one such ski resort and the area offers over 700 miles of singletrack. We don’t want to sound biased, but riding in the fall as the aspens begin turning to their golden hue can be an added perk to finding that downhill bliss.
Park City, Utah
Located just a short drive from Salt Lake City lies the mountain town of Park City. The official number of miles that the area promotes for mountain biking is over 400. However, that number may be very understated as other numbers go well over 600. Many of the trails in the area are accessible via lift-assist where you can let the lifts do all of the uphill work while you concentrate on the downhill adrenaline rush. The base areas of both Park City and Deer Valley both serve the expansive trail offerings. Additionally, Park City was awarded the first-ever gold-level status by the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) as being a “ride center” for offering something for every level of rider. And after a day of intense riding, you can explore the former 19th-century mining town turned world-class resort town.
Many of the selections on the list above will not come as a surprise to mountain biking enthusiasts. Peru, on the other hand, may be the sport’s last great (relatively) undiscovered frontier. The Incan Empire extended from Ecuador to Chile and they built thousands of miles of trails connecting their cities and outposts. Located right in the center between the aforementioned countries sits Peru. While the allure of trekking to Machu Picchu might draw many of the country’s visitors, there’s another unique way to explore this mountainous nation. The scenery is stunning, the climate is varied, the mountains are steep, the area is alive with history and culture, and if the Inca were still around today, they would most assuredly be mountain bikers.
Article originally published March 28, 2018. Last updated August 4, 2019.
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