Mountain biking is growing in popularity each year. While it’s often thought of as an expensive sport, the barrier to entry is incredibly low, and it’s one of the few activities that you can enjoy outdoors for free. Once you have a bike you can ride anywhere, and part of the fun is in exploring new terrain, often that’s not as widely utilized.
Trails across the world have become Meccas for mountain biking enthusiasts. With many traveling halfway across the world to challenge themselves on tough courses with interesting terrain and unique climates. Although, it’s not just the difficulty level that’s interesting to many enthusiasts.
Some of the trails on this list could arguably be a beginner or intermediate. The reason for this is because they are designed to be fun, not difficult. However, their stunning scenery, unique paths, and excellent maintenance have made them must-sees, even for professional mountain bike riders who prefer a challenge.
You see, the best trails aren’t always the most difficult. It can often be the opposite. The top choices for most riders are those that are well-planned and give you the excitement that you’re looking for without the risk and hardship that harder alternatives bring. The reality is this, most of us aren’t looking to ‘go hard’ every single day.
Mountain biking is a passion and pastime for many of us. It could be something that we enjoy with our partners or kids and risking injury isn’t the goal. For that reason, we didn’t only include the most challenging options in the list; we avoided mentioning some which are not going to apply to almost anybody reading this page.
With that said, let’s get started. After our research, we believe that we’ve narrowed down this list to the ten best mountain bike trails in the world, for most people. You might disagree, and that’s fine, but we think that for the typical rider these are great choices and would make a fabulous solo, group or family trip.
What Makes a Trail Great?
We believe that there are three main criteria when considering a trail:
None of us ride because we find it annoying. Enthusiasm is the goal and to achieve that there needs to be a novelty, unique elements and a little bit of fear to get the blood pumping. For us, this is the number one factor to consider when looking at trails.
Length is also critical. If you’re thinking about traveling to the other side of the world for a trail, it better not lasts five minutes! You see, many of these options would take you over a week to ride. Therefore, they make a worthwhile trip. Is there any reason for us to list a track that’s short, but 5000 miles away? We didn’t think so either.
Finally, the facilities come in handy. We get it, you might be rugged and like to bike in the outback, but most of us like to have a washroom nearby when needed or a fountain to get a drink of water. The majority of these options have fantastic services and facilities, with some having entire towns built around the mountain biking industry.
Our process for listing these trails was simple. We did an extensive amount of research into the hundreds of top choices across the world and then compared them to our list of criteria. From there, we were very easily able to narrow it down to a final list of ten. Ranking them was more challenging, but involved comparing metrics, accessibility, and beauty.
10 Best Mountain Bike Trails
Located in East Burke in Vermont, USA, the Kingdom Trails are some of the most famous in the world. With a perfect five star rating across 55 reviews (at the time of writing) on one site, it’s clear that riders adore this trail. It’s easy to see why, just by looking at the photographs. Vermont is consistently rated one of the most beautiful states, and East Burke is no exception.
The trail itself is rated as intermediate, although it would also be accessible to beginner riders who are willing to ride slower. With singletrack, it’s impossible to get lost, and you’ll easily be able to follow as a group without any risk.
The elevation of the trail is 1,268 feet above sea level. But over the course you will descend more than 2,200 feet, giving you a good amount of speed to cover some of the more challenging parts of the trail.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people love Kingdom Trails is because it has over a hundred miles of track. Therefore, most people who ride here will stay for the week. As a result, there is an entire tourist industry which supports the local town. You’ll find hundreds of other bikers here, and this community is one of the reasons we love this trail.
If you’re traveling solo, you won’t be for long. Making friends here is easy, with many intermediate and advanced bikers traveling from abroad to make the trip to Vermont and the Kingdom Trails.
When it comes to facilities, you’ll have everything you need. While there is no lift service, there is drinking water, pump tracks, washrooms and also fat biking throughout the winter months. The main area is open from May through to October, so long as the weather permits.
Each day you’ll need to purchase a pass to ride. These cost around $15, although there is some evidence that you can get discounts for families or larger groups. The reason why you need to pay is that the land is perfectly maintained, with many unique features rather than a traditional dirt path.
Overall, we think this is the best trail in the world. It’s not the most challenging, but it offers something for everybody and with a tourist industry to back it up. Whether you’re traveling solo or with your family and friends, East Burke and the Kingdom Trails will put a smile across your face day and night.
The Whole Enchilada
Located in the Moab in Utah, the scenery here is beyond breathtaking. It’s hard to put into words how stunning the Moab desert is and why we think it’s the most picturesque place in the world for you to ride. Although riding in the wet season is fantastic because you get more vegetation, the rugged and dry outcrops look even better in the baking sun.
The main reason why we didn’t rank this as the number one choice is that the trail is a fraction of the distance and therefore is primarily a single day trip. If you’re coming from abroad, that’s not an ideal situation. Regardless, hundreds of people do travel here each year for a single ride because of the unique experience that it offers.
The trail itself encompasses a vast distance. Starting at 10,000 feet, you’ll first climb over a thousand more to reach Burro Pass, and then you’ll want to grit your teeth for the descent. Through wooded, or not, areas, creeks and finally through the open prairie.
This trail isn’t easy. It’s rated as intermediate, but it’s tough. With very technical and fast sections, the land is steep and not smooth. In the drier months, you’ll find yourself slipping, and this can make the steep sections, of which there are many, very challenging for novice riders.
You will never find another run that has everything that this does. Technical sections, diversity and stunning, unimaginable beauty all around you. These elements combine to make this a must-see for every biker. If you can get here at one point in your life, do it, you won’t regret it.
Based in Denver, Colorado, the Colorado Trail covers a long distance of relatively flat terrain, spiked with extremely sharp inclines. In vast contrast to the Moab desert, Denver has wildlife, extensive forests and atypical American scenery.
The trail itself is 535 miles long and covers over 80,000 feet of descents and nearly the same amount of ascent. As you can tell, this is a trail that’s going to involve a bit of hard work. It’s only rated as intermediate, and we think that’s fair because it’s a standard path without much technical work except for grit.
For the most part, this trail is a good choice for those who are looking to work hard. It’s going to take a toll on your cardio because of the elevation and the long distance climbs which can be tough on beginners.
One of the more well-known trails on this list, it’s famous for its large roller coaster style paths. Juxtaposed against natural trails, it does have something for everybody. Based in Woodstock, Georgia, it’s a great summer ride if you can withstand that extreme southern temperature.
The track is only 15 miles long, and at 871 feet of elevation, it’s also not overly high. However, it’s a great example of a stacked-loop trail that has something for beginners and advanced riders alike. Keep in mind, the quality of this track means that it can get hectic on weekends on public holidays.
This popularity means that they have extensive amounts of facilities. There are regular drinking water stations, as well as numerous restrooms and occasional night riding for those looking for a more significant challenge or a unique experience. Well worth the travel, we think it’s a one of a kind trail that’s perfect for a family vacation.
Dupont State Forest
Located in Brevard in North Carolina, this trail feels like the real wilderness. With green surrounding you wherever you go, it’s a long way away from the Moab desert or some of the more modern tracks. Instead, you get a classic mountain biking experience with hard dirt trails, rocks, and tough berms.
The trail is over 80 miles long and singletrack, where you’ll cover almost 3,000 feet in elevation and descents through the network of paths. The great thing about this forest is that there is something for everybody and it’s a great introduction to biking for beginners.
We wouldn’t recommend this to advanced riders looking for a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun and gives you beautiful scenery. There are gushing waterfalls, huge trees, wildlife and vast expansive forests for you to explore. The main downside is the lack of facilities, but that’s made up for by the experience this unique track offers.
Kerr Scott Trails
Found in Wilkesboro in North Carolina, this trail is very similar in appearance to the Dupont State Forest. The difference is that the track is far more challenging and has been specifically optimized and designed for tough riding by Kerr Scott. Beginners beware, there are hundreds of bermed and banking turns which are exhilarating and risky.
Over this 50 mile track that covers over a thousand feet of elevation, you’ll get a real feeling for the landscape of North Carolina. Surrounded by trees and wildlife, you’ll be traversing steep terrain. If it rains while you’re there, be aware that parts of the trail could close because of how tough and dangerous it can be.
The trail also gives you drinking water, restrooms, pump track, night riding, and fat biking throughout the winter. As you can see, you get far more facilities than the Dupont State Forest. However, it’s not free and not as accessible to beginners and intermediate riders who might find this hard depending on the weather.
Alafia River State Park
You can find the Alafia River State Park in Brandon, Florida. This park looks like it could easily be in South America, due to the tropical vegetation and high humidity that characterizes the state. The track itself is barely above sea level and has a little 200-foot elevation, but that’s not why this is worth visiting.
The singletracks are IMBA EPIC certified because they have everything from novice through to extremely advanced sections. Plus, this might be the most beautiful park that you’ll ever visit.
Designed for families and professionals alike, there are bathrooms, bicycle cleaning stations, playgrounds, and other excellent facilities. You can even camp here if that’s interesting to you! Parking is only a few bucks, and the trails themselves are free to ride. What’s not to love?
In our opinion, this is one of the best trails in the world because it combines difficulty with facilities and beauty. Most tough trails are in the middle of nowhere, with no restrooms and with ugly views. The opposite is true for the Alafia River State Park which is quickly becoming a hub for mountain biking enthusiasts across the globe.
Found in Hurricane, Utah, this track is similar to the Moab trails. However, you’ll see that it’s significantly more challenging. Rated as advanced because of the slick rock and dry dirt which makes simply turning a challenge, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Over 30 miles of singletrack will challenge you up and down over a 1,000 feet of elevation.
While there are restrooms, this area isn’t particularly conducive to facilities. Night riding is an option, but because of the already challenging trail, this isn't for anybody but the most technically skilled of bikers.
While, in our opinion, not as beautiful as the Moab, the scenery here is unbelievably beautiful. With traditional ‘Western’ outcrops and shrubbery, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Anybody who gets the chance to ride here should count themselves lucky.
The main problem with this trail is getting there. If you encounter rain, you’re not going to be able to drive the main roads. Even Range Rovers and Jeeps are known to get stuck in the mud. It’s best to try this trail on a dry day for the full experience.
Copper Harbor Trails
Found in Copper Harbor, Michigan, this track is known for its rollercoaster of wooden tracks. If you’re sick of riding on dirt and looking for a change, this is the place to go. With 20 miles of track, it’s rated as advanced. However, we think intermediate riders would be fine with most of the trail.
Keep in mind, the climbs here are challenging. Shuttles do exist, but part of the fun is the work to the top so that you can enjoy the descent. Without a doubt, this is an epic experience that you’ll never forget.
This is the only trail on our list that’s not in the USA. This list is the best trails in the world; it just happens to be that the USA is the home of mountain biking and therefore the most magnificent trails are there. But Canada is catching up every year.
Hydrocut is in Kitchener/Waterloo in Southern Ontario. This trail is rated as intermediate and is only around 15 miles long. However, what it lacks in the distance it makes up in scenery and quality. The trail is incredibly well maintained, especially given the clay dirt and is very close to the city.
What we love about Hydrocut is that you can stay in the local city which has everything that you could ever need. Unlike many trails, this isn’t in the wilderness, and therefore you can justify making the trip to it because of the other activities there are to enjoy in the surrounding area.
Overall, the track itself isn’t overly challenging. It’s a low-level intermediate trail that’s for fun rather than a challenge. If you’re in the local area, it’s worth a visit. On damp days it can become a fast and flowing path that will allow you to maintain speed and to test yourself.
Featured Image Source: Unsplash.com
Maybe the title should be “best in North America” because I can assure you there are trails in the Alps (among other places) that will blow away some of your picks. You are obviously from the East Coast.