The Country's Best Mountain Bike Trails
By Martha Chitwood
, last updated January 22, 2012
The country's best mountain bike trails range from a handful of extremely high-profile routes that everybody with a mountain bike knows about to dozens of obscure gems scattered across the continent. What makes a trail the “best” is often a subjective matter of taste and circumstance. Before you load your bike on the rack and hit the road, decide what you're looking for in a mountain bike trail and do some research to find one in your area that will deliver the adventure you seek.
Porcupine Rim Trail
Commonly referred to as “the Mecca of mountain bikers,” Moab, Utah is the home of the renowned Porcupine Rim Trail, near the top of every enthusiast's list of not-to-be-missed mountain bike trails. Porcupine Rim twists and turns along a single track for 14.5 miles, descending 2,700 feet to the banks of the majestic Colorado River. Go for the scenery, the thrills and the workout that make this justifiably famous trail a one-of-a-kind cycling experience.
Maah Daah Hey Trail
Much less well-known but also located west of the Mississippi, the Maah Daah Hey Trail in the Badlands of North Dakota presents a challenge and an opportunity for serious mountain bikers who think they've seen it all. Take your time and ride the entire 136-mile length of the trail, which winds along cliffs, through groves of aspen trees, and across stretches of prairie. Or, if you only have time for a day trip, pick the section that appeals most to your sensibilities.
Bear Brook State Park
Not all great mountain bike trails are found in the rugged West. The older, softer hills of the Appalachian chain that stretches along the Eastern seaboard from Georgia to Maine provide plenty of beautiful and exciting trails to suit all kinds of mountain bikers. If you're in New England, consider a visit to New Hampshire's Bear Brook State Park near Concord. Bear Brook features a couple of dozen trails, rated from easy to moderate to difficult. Brooks, meadows, forested areas, and granite outcrops are among the attractions for you to enjoy as you ride the trails.
Forks Area Trail System (FATS)
Even in regions not noted for their mountainous areas, some of the country's best mountain bike trails are emerging, thanks to a trend in purpose-built, man-made recreation areas specifically designed for mountain bike riders to enjoy. One notable example of this relatively new breed of bike trail is the Forks Area Trail System (FATS), located in South Carolina just a few miles northeast of Augusta, Georgia. About 35 miles of smooth, engineered track winds through thick forest and offers riders at all levels a variety of pleasures and challenges.
Graham Swamp Conservation Area + Sunderbruch Park
Don't assume there's no mountain biking to be done in the flattest states of the union, for even in low, level Iowa and Florida, you can find excellent trails that provide you with the chance to commune with nature and get a great workout on your bike. Check out Graham Swamp Cnservation Area in Flagler County, just a few miles from the Atlantic on Florida's eastern coast, for a wetlands adventure on sandy ground surrounded by a profusion of birds and other wildlife. If the Iowa prairie is your locale, give Sunderbrunch Park in Davenport a try. Color-coded trails indicate the relative ease or difficulty of the challenges they present, for a total of 7 miles of scenic woodland excitement on wheels.