Iconic trails are one thing; a great cycling community is quite another. These ten mountain bike hamlets around the country (in no particular order) offer bucket-list rides, new trail development, a variety of outdoor recreation, and a fun, bike-friendly vibe—with excellent coffee and IPA. For insider tips on where to ride, stay, eat, drink, and play, we asked local riders for their favorite budget and splurge-worthy options. Bike on. —Tess Weaver Strokes
Photograph by Whit Richardson
It’s almost impossible to overhype Moab. Its red-rock landscape is truly like nowhere else on Earth, and the best way to appreciate it is by riding it. Famed trails like Porcupine Rim, Slickrock, and the Whole Enchilada steal the spotlight, but it’s the area’s newer and lesser known trails that make a trip to Moab a mandatory pilgrimage for any mountain biker.
Thanks to the Moab Trails Alliance, Trail Mix, and the town’s own International Mountain Bicycling Association chapter, the new trail systems north of town—North Klondike, Sovereign, Klonzo, and the Brands—all connect. The Magnificent 7 system includes the now legal Goldbar singletrack, making it the area’s new bucket-list ride.
With sunbaked desert riding, high-alpine singletrack in the nearby La Sal Mountains, and everything in between, it’s possible to ride in Moab year-round, but temperatures are most comfortable in spring and fall—that’s when cyclists from every ski town in the West show up. Fall is your best chance to ride the Whole Enchilada, which starts above 10,000 feet.
Beyond the riding, Moab is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, a spectacular stretch of the Colorado River, and world-famous climbing in Indian Creek.
Ask a Local
Mark Sevenoff co-owns and operates the 25-year-old Moab-based adventure tour operator Western Spirit Cycling. Here are his recommendations.
“The Hymasa/Catain Ahab loop, a purpose-built trail to get mountain bikes off the perennially crowded Amasaback jeep route, delivers flow and fun. Everything’s rollable for folks still getting their Moab legs, but for budding Enduro riders it’s like a dream come true.”
Budget: “The inexpensive, no-frills La Quinta Inn has an outdoor pool, access to the bike path, and free breakfast that includes fresh waffles. It’s also a short walk from the Chile Pepper Bike Shop and the Moab Brewery.”
Plush: “Locally owned 57 Robbers Roost condo hotel is centrally located with private decks, gas grills, storage lockers for toys, a hot tub, and a bike station.”
Budget: “Moab’s oldest restaurant, Milt’s Stop n' Eat, offers '50s-style cheeseburgers (grass-fed and hormone-free), hand-cut French fries with fry sauce, and milkshakes made with homemade ice cream. Call ahead—busy days can mean a half-hour wait.”
Gourmet: “The Desert Bistro fills up almost every night from mid-February through Thanksgiving and for good reason: It’s amazing. Make reservations and aim for a table on the patio.”
Best After-Bike Beverage
“Since this is Utah, your best bet is often a 12-pack in the cooler at the end of your adventure. After dinner, head to Woody’s Tavern for live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and a delicious bourbon and ginger.”
“Arches National Park. Go early or late for fewer crowds, more comfortable temperatures, and better light. Don’t just drive through. As Ed Abbey wished, get out, walk around, and take it in.”
Crested Butte, Colorado
Photograph by J.C. Leacock
Crested Butte, Colorado, has a core bike culture that lures riders from all over the world. Its mountain bike history goes back to the sport’s infancy (the mid-1970s), when intrepid riders tackled Pearl Pass on one-speeds. The town’s Fat Tire Bike Week dates back to 1980, making it the country’s oldest mountain bike festival.
With more than 750 miles of singletrack—from buff trails casually winding through wildflowers to rugged backcountry rides climbing to 13,000 feet to descents long enough to lure the Enduro World Series for their only U.S. stop in 2015—Crested Butte boasts a solid week’s worth of quality rides (including classics such as 401 and Reno/Flag/Bear/Deadman’s Loop) with perhaps the most spectacular bike-accessed scenery in the country.
Several close-to-town cross-country trails have popped up in the last few years. The beginner-friendly Lupine Trail follows the bike path from town north to the ski area and back. The Evolution Bike Park at Crested Butte Mountain Resort includes more than 30 miles of downhill and cross-country trails, including a new expert downhill trail to be built this summer and a cross-country connector to town. What’s more, the small town of Crested Butte is ridiculously charming (think colorful Victorians and dirt side streets) and packed with delicious eateries and fun watering holes.
Ask a Local
Brandon Ontiveros is the owner and executive director of the annual Yeti Cycles Big Mountain Enduro Series through the Rocky Mountains, presented by Shimano and headquartered in Crested Butte. Here are his recommendations.
“The 409.5 is a super fast downhill trail that’s consistently raw and un-manicured. It’s steep in some sections, has a good mix of technical terrain, and is close to town.”
Budget: “The Crested Butte Hostel has been called a hostel for grown-ups. The Grand Lodge Crested Butte is on the mountain, close to the Evolution Bike Park, has bike storage and a bike wash.”
Plush: “The Ruby of Crested Butte was voted the No. 1 Colorado Bed and Breakfast on TripAdvisor.com. They make a mean breakfast, have townie bikes to cruise around town, and are dog friendly.”
Budget: “A good ol' deli sandwich packed with tons of meat and healthy toppings from the local Clark's Market. On Elk Avenue, Teocalli Tamale and the Last Steep are also solid options.”
Gourmet: “Ginger Cafe offers tasty Indian and Thai cuisine in a quaint setting with great service and amazing cocktails. The portions are pretty large, they use healthy organic ingredients and, with a sizable menu, it would take a year to sample all the flavors. One favorite: veggie korma with chicken.”
“The Brick Oven has the most beers on tap of anywhere in town and the largest international beer variety. The place also has a huge outdoor patio and bar, diverse food, and good vibes.”
“Drive over Schofield Pass on Gothic Road to visit Devil's Punchbowl. Sometimes it can be a sketchy drive and 4x4 is required, but the views are amazing, and when you get to the falls, you can either take a soak in the river or do some cliff jumping into the clear water. From there, you can drive to the old mining town of Marble or take a different valley back down to town.”
Park City, Utah
Photograph by Scott Markewitz
The International Mountain Bicycling Association designates destinations as “Ride Centers” when they offer something for every rider, from backcountry epics to beginner-friendly singletrack. Of the 27 in the world, the only gold-level status was awarded to Park City. Beyond the sheer quantity of trails—about 400 miles of singletrack—Park City’s active and productive bike community has helped link them all together (spanning three ski resorts) in a highly functional, user-friendly network.
Park City’s varied trail options include long, flat cruises, intermediate rolling terrain, and alpine singletrack with challenging climbs and thrilling descents. There’s even lengthy tours like Mid-Mountain and Wasatch Crest. Plus, Deer Valley, Canyons Resort, and Park City Mountain Resort all offer lift-assisted riding, which makes access to the higher alpine trails even easier.
Gravity aficionados flock to Canyons Bike Park for their freeride trails (the lifts also access 20 miles of cross-country trails). The relatively new Pinecone Trail is multidirectional and can be incorporated into many of the classic rides in the heart of the Park City trails system. And the Wasatch Over Wasatch (WOW) project will someday link the Park City area with the Heber Valley, opening up the made-for-biking terrain in Pine Canyon.
The town of Park City boasts a hundred bars and restaurants, affordable accommodations (for a ski town), tons of kid activities, and cultural events like concerts.
Ask a Local
Jay Burke is the co-owner and race director of the Park City Point 2 Point, a 75-mile endurance mountain bike race. He also serves on the Utah High School Mountain Bike League board and is on the advisory board for the Mountain Trails Foundation. Here are his recommendations.
“John’s Trail is an old-school classic that sits in the heart of the Park City Mountain Resort trail system and is easy to incorporate into a lot of rides. The entire trail is in an old aspen forest. It’s rooty, usually moist, and super tight. It’s considered a crux in the Point 2 Point endurance race."
Budget: “The Peaks has everything you need and the value is spot-on. The free breakfast includes fresh fruits and make-your-own griddle options like pancakes.”
Plush: “The Silver Star is a condo resort ten pedal rotations from the premier Armstrong trail. There is also an outdoor shop (with bikes) and the Silver Star Café (great eats out on the patio).”
Budget: “El Chubasco in the NoMa (north of Main area) district offers the best Mexican food in town. Get the fish tacos. Yes, fish tacos in Utah.”
Gourmet: “Lespri Prime Steak Sushi Bar has my favorite sushi in Park City and also serves locally sourced meat. They have a great little outdoor seating area in the summer. Make reservations—seating is limited.”
“On a nice evening, it’s almost mandatory to get a seat up on Boneyard Saloon and Kitchen’s rooftop bar to watch the sunset over the Wasatch. You can order one of four beers from Park City Brewery or head to PCB’s new taproom to sample the seasonal brew.”
“Find out what’s playing at the Park City Film Series and ride over to catch an independent feature or documentary film at the Prospector Square Theater.”
Sun Valley, Idaho
Photograph by Scott Markewitz
Somehow, the world-class mountain biking in Sun Valley, Idaho, remains relatively under the radar. But with more than 400 miles of singletrack (including lift-accessed downhill trails on the ski area), 30 miles of paved bike paths, and spectacular alpine views, Sun Valley really is one of the great riding destinations, period.
Generally, trails within a ten-mile radius of town are smooth and fast. As you venture farther out, the terrain becomes rockier and more technical as trails climb into the subalpine and alpine, but for the most part, the climbing switchbacks are manageable and the lengthy descents make every up worth it.
Last year, Sun Valley Resort added lift-accessed biking on Bald Mountain, where riders can cruise down 3,400 vertical feet of big mountain terrain, and both Hailey and Ketchum offer bike parks for everyone from toddlers on Strider bikes to seasoned riders perfecting their airs. Twenty-three miles north of town, the trail network at Galena Lodge (a Nordic center in winter) offers around ten miles of new beginner trails with another ten miles of intermediate trails slated to open this year.
And the three-year-old Osberg Ridgeline Trail, an epic high-line traverse that was torched to the ground two years ago, will re-open this summer, offering adventurous riders the unique combination of a backcountry ride with perfectly flowing, buffed conditions and a 3,000-vertical-foot drop into town. Here, you’ll find high-class culture, fun-loving locals, and enough quality restaurants and bars to keep the most sophisticated mountain biker satisfied.
Ask a Local
Greg Randolph is a former professional mountain biker and Bike magazine columnist and a longtime Sun Valley local. Here are his recommendations.
“Forbidden Fruit is a fun flow trail in the Adams Gulch area right next to town, which offers a quick pedal or the beginnings of an all-day epic. These trails are fast, fun, and flowy with killer views of town and the surrounding mountain ranges. Watch out for dogs and their humans in and around the trailhead.”
Budget: “The Tamarack Lodge is a bike-friendly hotel right in the center of town that was recently remodeled with modern decor.”
Plush: “The Knob Hill Inn is a boutique hotel with only 29 rooms, a killer bar, and a great restaurant right on the main floor. With the very best service, this is the place to kick it in style. A hot pool and easy access to town and trails complete the package.”
Budget: “Johnny G’s Subshack serves the finest grinds in Idaho and it’s the hub of the local lunch scene. I’m a huge fan of the Delbello, which is a bit like a Cuban sandwich, served hot.”
Gourmet: “Enoteca is a new-school Italian place in the middle of downtown that’s reasonably priced with innovative and really well-considered menu offerings. Order the bacon-wrapped dates, duck confit, and a wood-fired Merc pizza (lamb sausage, red bell peppers, olives, and smoky mozzarella).”
“With a brand-new location on Main Street in Hailey, the Power House is about the best bike and beer pub on Earth. It's got a full-service bike shop, healthy (organic and locally sourced when possible) pub fare, and an incredible tap and bottled beer selection.”
“Fly-fishing on the Big Wood River and Silver Creek is legendary and the perfect way to cool the swelling in your quads after a day of riding. The Big Wood floats right through town, making it ultraconvenient. Those who want the quick line for big trout can hire a guide from Silver Creek Outfitters, Lost River Outfitters, or Sturtevants, among others.”
East Burke, Vermont
Photograph by Dennis Welsh
East Burke, Vermont, isn’t just the best mountain bike destination in New England, it’s one of the best places to ride in the country. Bike magazine’s reader poll rated its Kingdom Trails the best mountain bike trail network in the country. And Dirt Rag magazine called the town “home to the best mountain biking in the U.S.”
Soft, buffed singletrack that winds from Darling Hill Ridge to the Passumpsic River combines with more technical trails on Burke Mountain to form more than a hundred miles of well-designed multi-use trail. One of the best new cross-country descents, Skydive to Swan Dive, flows from wide-open hardwood glades into mossy spruce forest following the terrain’s natural undulations. The lift-accessed Q Burke Mountain Bike Park on the ski area, offering 2,000-vertical-foot downhill trails, rounds out the diversity of East Burke’s riding. While the area used to be known primarily for flowy cross-country terrain, the ever expanding bike park is now the best in the state.
Access from East Burke is as easy as it gets. All the aforementioned riding is a quick peddle from the village, which with a library lawn, gazebo, and babbling brook as the centerpiece of downtown is about as postcard Vermont as one could imagine. On summer weekends, the place is crawling with cyclists. The Burke Campground offers a raucous weekend bike scene at the base of Burke Mountain and East Burke is also home to NEMBAfest, New England’s largest mountain bike festival.
Ask a Local
Lifetime local Knight Ide translated his stone masonry and timber framing skills to trail building—his trail design/construction and guiding company, IdeRide, designed the Burke Bike Park at Burke Mountain Resort and built other trails and pump tracks at Kingdom Trails (in addition to other bike parks in East Coast locations from Quebec to Tennessee). Here are his recommendations.
“J-bar descends 2,000 vertical feet from the summit of Burke Mountain and offers a great mix of challenging steeps and great natural flow.”
Budget: “The Lynburke Motel is a quick pedal from the world-class riding on Kingdom Trails.”
Plush: “The Inn at Mountain View is a classic antique farm estate centrally located on the Darling Hill portion of Kingdom Trail with a great restaurant. Burke Mountain Resort finishes construction on the Q Burke Hotel and Conference Center in December 2015.”
Budget: “A burrito from the Vermont Food Truck Company. They use fresh and local ingredients.”
Gourmet: “Gil's Bar & Grill at the WilloughVale Inn is located on Lake Willoughby where the view alone is worth a million bucks. Order the strip steak.”
“Mike’s Tiki Bar has outdoor seating in the center of East Burke village. Sit at the bar table or on the lawn and enjoy any one of the 30 craft brews available. One of my favorites is the Long Trail Limbo.”
Go for a hike and/or a swim at Lake Willoughby. Nothing refreshes on a hot summer day like a jump off Devil’s Rock.
Photograph by Kennan Harvey
Located in southwest Colorado, bordered by huge mountains and high desert, Durango enjoys a near perfect climate and a long mountain biking season. With a wide variety of trails, easy access (think two-hour loops leaving downtown in all four directions) and a history of breeding elite cyclists (local riders include legends such as Ned Overend, Juli Furtado, Myles Rockwell, and Tom Danielson), Durango is a cycling hotbed within a bike-crazy state.
From the rock-free Meadow Loop in Horse Gulch to the technical downhill of the Haflin Creek shuttle run, the trail options in Durango run the gamut. Hermosa Creek Trail—a 26-mile backcountry descent from Durango Mountain Resort back to Durango—is considered one of Colorado’s and even the country’s best rides. Durango is known for fast cross-country trails, but more and more downhill and enduro-style trails are popping up. The ski area is developing a new flow trail and new downhill-specific trails are going in off Raider Ridge, the steep face to the east of town. Some of the Missionary Ridge Trails that were destroyed in a fire in 2002 are making a comeback, with more and more volunteers (and the active local trail advocacy group called Trails 2000) clearing trails like Stevens Creek and First Fork.
The Animas River Trail follows the river through the heart of Durango, a gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community. The local youth cycling program is more than 350 kids strong and churns out national champions each year. Durango’s Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is one of the largest and longest continuously run bicycling events in the country (the mountain bike race runs through the brewery). Home to Fort Lewis College, Durango enjoys a youthful vibrancy, cultural offerings, and a great restaurant/brewery/coffee shop scene.
Ask a Local
Former professional mountain biker Sarah Tescher founded Durango Devo, one of the most successful youth-cycling development programs in the country, and now works with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado. Here are her recommendations.
“For a big travel bike, it’s up Raider Ridge, down Medicine, back up and down Snake Charmer and back up to finish on Kitty Charmer. On a single speed, all the trails in Overend Mountain Park are supersweet, especially Talladega Pimple to Star Wars. Dalla Mountain Park is where to go for airs. Once the snow melts, the high country is supreme. The Colorado Trail from Molas to Bolam is the most epic trail with spectacular views—you’re just above 11,000 feet for most of the ride.”
Budget: “Homewood Suites is owned by a family who has supported cycling in Durango for more than 40 years.”
Plush: “The Rochester Hotel and the Leland House are both owned by the same local, who is a big supporter of the community as a whole. Plus, both hotels are historical and sweetly renovated. They also have loaner townies to cruise around town on.“
Budget: “The fish tacos at Zia Taqueria or the chicken pesto wrap at RGP's Flame-Grilled Wraps.”
Gourmet: “El Moro (order a Moscow mule and the roasted beef bone marrow) or Cyprus Cafe (order spanakopita or beef sliders from the local James Ranch).”
“Sip a Riverside Kolsch outside the Animas Brewing Company or the seasonal Mexican Logger at Ska Brewing, which is a bit out of town but totally worth it. If it’s late, head to El Rancho for live music.”
“Rent a tube and float the river. Pull into the Durango Discovery Museum and grab a beer and brats on the way down. A sunset hike up the ABC/Nature Trail to Fort Lewis College offers the best view of town.”
Photograph by Skip Brown
A small college town in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is enjoying a mountain bike boom that’s bringing the community front and center as an example of productive cooperation. Most locals chip in with trail maintenance and many of the underground events require trail-work days. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) designated the area a bronze-level ride center for its progressive trail-building philosophy and organized network that caters to everyone from novices to the many hard-core mountain bikers who call “the Burg” home.
Around 500 miles of diverse trail weave around town and the George Washington National Forest. Novices can start off on the green loops at Hillandale Park and work their way up to intermediate and advanced trails. Ride the lift at the new Gravity Logic-designed Bryce Mountain Bike Park for downhill flow trails or ante up for one of the epics—the Southern Traverse or Spruce Knob.
Harrisonburg’s backcountry trails are rugged and technical and enjoyed by adventurous riders who want a challenge. The new technically advanced Table Rock trail navigates rocks that require big moves and tests your balance with narrow rock lines and high-speed, off-camber sections. The new Tillman West flow trail caters to beginners and kids and rides well in both directions.
The revitalized and bike-friendly downtown includes 19th-century architecture, ethnic restaurants, local fare, event-heavy bike shops, breweries, and a designated Arts and Cultural District. James Madison University keeps Harrisonburg’s population youthful. Twenty miles from Harrisonburg, the Stokesville Campground is home to the annual Shenandoah Mountain Bike Festival and the legendary Shenandoah 100 race and is poised to become a bike destination on its own.
Ask a Local
Jeremiah Bishop is a national champion mountain biker and elite endurance mountain biker for the Topeak Ergon Racing team. He hosts the most challenging gran fondo in the states—the annual Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg. Here are his recommendations.
“Lookout Mountain has the best of both worlds—it’s fast and technical. It’s been revamped with some flow sections that funnel you into high-speed rock gardens and then bring you back up to speed at just the right time for a thrilling ride. With the advanced optional lines, it rides different each time.”
Budget: “The Village Inn for its southern hospitality and buffet that includes okra fried steak and collards.”
Plush: “The Joshua Wilton House is totally worth the money because of the experience. It has history—it was built in 1888—and class and it’s within walking distance of the bars, dining, and shopping in the old downtown.”
Budget: “The Little Grill Collective serves up a groovy atmosphere, local ingredients, and great people who make it memorable. I love the blue monkey with local eggs, local raspberry preserves, and real maple syrup.”
Gourmet: “The Local Chop & Grill House has top-notch dining without the top hat. The food is outstanding and sourced from the Shenandoah Valley's renowned farms. The food is prepared in a classic style that reminds me of the best restaurants of France but with a little less butter.”
“Billy Jack's Wing & Draft Shack is a local rider-owned bar. I like to sit up front for a good view. I order the chicken and waffles with a muddy pig doughnut (Nutella and bacon), and I wash that down with a Rum Barrel Aged Belgian Dubbel brewed by Brothers Craft Brewing. It’s a strong pairing, but the calories will prepare for another climb up Reddish Knob.”
“Check out Endless Caverns—the end has never been found! There’s also smallmouth bass fishing on the Shenandoah River or try one of the country’s only via ferratas (a route equipped with fixed cables, ladders, and bridges for safer rock climbing) at the NROCKS Outdoor Center in nearby Circleville, West Virginia.”
Photograph by Jordan Siemens
Located in Central Oregon’s high desert at the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains, Bend offers around 300 miles of easily accessible linked trails—and the majority of them are true singletrack. Exhaust these smooth, rolling, pumicy trails that are rideable almost all year and you have more than 700 more miles of trails within a 90-minute drive, including rowdy downhill shuttles in Oakridge and the technical McKenzie River Trail, Oregon’s signature ride.
From the west side of Bend, all the fun, flowy trails, including the Whoops Trail (jumps and berms) within the popular Phil’s Trail network, are a short pedal from town. In between town and Mount Bachelor Ski Resort, the Wanoga trail system includes local favorites like Tyler’s Traverse, a sustained downhill flow trail with banked corners and fun rollers. Mount Bachelor completes construction on its bike park this summer.
The mountain bike touring company Cog Wild offers shuttle rides (and guided trips) to Mount Bachelor, from which you can ride up to 35 miles of singletrack through alpine meadows and past multiple lakes and waterfalls on your way back to Bend. Less than an hour from Bend, the Ochoco National Forest is working with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, a bike advocacy group, to increase the Lookout Mountain Trail network. In Sisters, an old-west town 23 miles from Bend, the Petersen Ridge system includes 30 miles of singletrack, multiple loop options, and beautiful views.
Bend has boomed to a population of 81,000, but its compact downtown and charming west side, filled with historic homes (rent one on Airbnb.com), riverfront parks, and towering trees, makes the town feel much smaller. Its food scene rivals and perhaps beats most any American ski town (and so do its prices) and Bend has the most craft breweries per capita in the country—don’t miss the Bend Ale Trail.
Beyond the bike trails, Smith Rock State Park lures rock climbers from around the world, the Deschutes River offers Class V boating, four major river networks mean year-round steelhead fishing, and 65 miles of running trails near town prompted Trail Runner magazine to name Bend a “Top Trail Town.”
Ask a Local
Bend-based professional mountain biker and skills instructor Lindsey Voreis travels around North America in a Sprinter van named Valkor, inspiring women to mountain bike through her Ladies AllRide clinics. Here are her recommendations.
“The North Fork-Flagline-Southfork loop is magical and has a little bit of everything—climbing, waterfalls, high alpine flow, long downhill sections that have you smiling for days. Flagline doesn’t open until August 15 each summer.”
Budget: “For the active traveler who just needs a place to rest their head at night, the Rainbow Motel fits the bill and is close to downtown.”
Plush: “Wall Street Suites is within walking distance to downtown and across the street from the river. It recently underwent a complete renovation, and the rooms include kitchens with granite countertops, slate, marble and sandstone floors, and private bedrooms. Plus, they have their own private dog park, so pups are welcome.”
Budget: “The Lot is a food-cart courtyard with five food carts and 16 beer taps. You can roll up on your bike, choose your style of food, grab a beer, wine, or cider, and kick it in this nice covered, yet open space. I go for Thailandia because it's fresh and delicious after a ride.”
Gourmet: “5 Fusion and Sushi Bar is a really cool and inviting space downtown with a water feature on the ceiling. The fish melts in your mouth and the cocktails don't disappoint.”
“Barrio downtown has a cool vibe, good eats, and great cocktails. You’ll probably want to taste the famous local brew at Deschutes Brewery.”
“It's kind of a thing in Bend to float the Deschutes River through town on a hot day. You float through the Old Mill district (shopping and restaurants), past some cool houses, and end downtown in Drake Park, where you can catch a shuttle back up to your car. There’s also a new white-water play park on the route that's pretty cool.”
Photograph by Scott Markewitz
More than an hour’s winding drive from the nearest interstate, tucked into the Sierra foothills at the confluence of the North Yuba and Downie Rivers, the tiny town of Downieville relies on mountain bikers to keep it alive. Fewer than 350 people reside in what was California’s fifth largest town during the state’s gold rush, and the trails built by prospectors now lure adrenaline-seeking mountain bikers.
Most weekend warriors come to check the Downieville Downhill off their bucket list, but the area offers around 500 miles of trails. While the trail network includes something for every skill level, most of Downieville’s terrain is challenging, steep, fast, and rugged.
A short drive from town, in Lakes Basin, some technical and challenging new trails run along numerous alpine lakes and reach elevations of 8,000 feet. Mills Peak is also a relatively new favorite, ascending more than 3,000 vertical feet from the town of Graeagle to the top of Mills Peak (catch a shuttle if you’re not up for the climb). Locals call the descent one of the flowiest downhills you'll ever ride with just the right amount of technical riding. And the Brewing Lair in nearby Blairsden offers the perfect post-ride brew.
With historic buildings, narrow streets, and wooden sidewalks, Downieville is one of the most picturesque gold rush towns. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Downieville Classic, a two-day mountain bike festival that includes a point-to-point cross-country race from Sierra City to the crest of the Sierra Nevada and down to Downieville, as well as a downhill race that drops 5,000 vertical feet in 15 miles. Weekend entertainment includes a river-jump competition, mechanical bull riding, and live music.
Ask a Local
Yuba Expeditions pioneered the backcountry mountain biking in Downieville and was the first to offer shuttles to the area’s popular downhill runs. Owned and operated by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a nonprofit trail advocacy group, Yuba’s profits go right back into the trail system. Here are their recommendations.
Built by our parent company, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, the North Yuba Trail is an awesome newer cross-country out-and-back right from town that features perfectly banked switchbacks, flowing descents, and a climb that earns you a post-ride beer. For speed junkies, there may be no faster singletrack than Third Divide. People have been clocked going as fast as 40 miles an hour. It’s an otherworldly experience.
Budget: The Carriage House Inn was recently remodeled and the rooms now have decks overlooking the Downie River. The continental breakfast and coffee are great.
Plush: The Downieville Loft is a rental above Yuba Expeditions that sleeps six. You can roll out of bed and catch the shuttle.
Budget: At La Cocina Del Oro you can get a delicious $10 burrito made with quality ingredients. Get a table on the deck right over the Downie River.
The only bar in town is called St. Charles Place. It’s rich with history, crusty old miners, and bartenders who will tell you riveting tales about Downieville’s past.
A sixer of your favorite beer, a swimming hole, and a fishing pole. There are tons of great swimming holes within walking distance of town, but a particular favorite is right along the start of the North Yuba Trail.
Brevard, North Carolina
Photograph by Jeff Zimmerman
Mountain bikers out West might be surprised to hear the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina are one of the best places in the country to ride a mountain bike. Bike magazine called the trails around the town of Brevard “America’s Best Kept Secret.”
The nearby Pisgah National Forest offers a lifetime of mostly technical riding (locals estimate between 200 and 1,000 miles of singletrack) and DuPont State Recreational Forest offers around 100 miles of everything from machine-built flow trails to granite slickrock with sprawling views. At the entrance to Pisgah National Forest, Bike Farm—a mountain bike base camp and guide/coaching service—is constructing a new network of trails (cross-country, freeride, and downhill shuttle runs) and a skills park on its 440-acre biketopia.
With a population of around 8,000, Brevard has old-school small-town charm, great barbecue, and bike shops that serve coffee and beer. The town is surrounded by more than just singletrack. Outside magazine named the town one of the country’s “five best places to raise outdoor kids.” Climbers flock to Looking Glass Rock and boaters paddle the French Broad River. The Brevard Music Center Festival hosts more than 80 opera, chamber, and orchestra performances each summer, and this year’s tenth annual Mountain Song Festival will bring in the bluegrass heavyweights. The area hosts several cycling events, including the famed Pisgah Stage Race, a five-day endurance mountain bike race through the rocky, rooted terrain Pisgah is known for.
Ask a Local
Eva Surls co-founded Bike Farm, a mountain bike-centered base camp and guide service located in Pisgah Forest. Here are her recommendations.
“Pisgah’s Pilot Rock is technical, challenging, and always pushes me. The climb up via the Laurel Mountain Trail is absolutely beautiful singletrack, and true Pisgah technical.”
Budget: “Pisgah Forest is too pretty to stay in a budget hotel. The Bike Farm offers tent camping, glamping in four-season tents in the trees, hot water showers, a bathhouse, and front-door access to the area’s best trails.”
Plush: “The Red House Inn is a beautiful historic house in downtown Brevard with the best breakfast in town. The owner is a mountain biker and can cater to a cyclist’s needs.”
Budget: “Crank Coffee serves amazing smoothies, coffee, bagels, pastries, and soups all inside Sycamore Cycles bike shop at the entrance to Pisgah Forest. My favorite smoothie is the Bike Farmer with bananas, kale, almond milk, almond butter, and protein powder.”
Gourmet: “Everything is good at Jamie's Creole Brasserie. They source from local farmers and bring a Creole flavor to the mountains of North Carolina. It's worth it.”
“The Pisgah Tavern in the Hub bike shop is a bar in a bike shop. Need I say more? Any seat at the bar is great because you can watch the crew wrench on bikes while you enjoy your beer, but the back porch is the place to sit on a sunny day.”
“The water around Brevard, whether a trail side creek, a waterfall, or the Davidson River, is part of the magic of this area. Hang by the river or jump off Whale's Back into the really cool swimming hole. You can also canyoneer with Joe at Pura Vida Adventures, fly-fish with the guys at Davidson River Outfitters, or climb with Fox Mountain Guides.”
100 Best American Adventures
Top National Geographic Adventures Trips
A coast-to-coast bicycle ride is just one of our favorite 10 classic adventures.