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12 Best Cities in the US For Mountain Bikers

Becky riding bike on singletrack trail above views of Las Vegas, Nevada

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Are you a mountain biker stuck in a city? Or maybe you actually enjoy living in a metropolis… I will be the first to admit that I do not like cities. They’re fun to visit for a few days, but I need my green space and singletrack trails to be accessible sans traffic.

Whether you choose to live in a metropolitan area or your job demands it, there are actually some cities around the United States that are pretty darn good for mountain biking.

In this post, I share what I consider to be the best municipalities for singletrack fun. Keep in mind that this is a subjective list. If you have a nomination for your favorite mountain biking city, let me know in the comments!

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Criteria for selecting the best mountain biking Cities

Before I get into which cities make the list, let’s set some criteria:

  1. Must be over 50,000 people, since that is the definition of a city
  2. Have at least 150 miles of good singletrack within easy driving distance. It’s gotta be worth sitting in traffic for.
  3. Boast a thriving mountain biking community
  4. Have a variety of terrain and landscapes. Bike parks are a plus!

The top mountain biking Cities in the US

In no particular order…

1. Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Population: 200,478 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 200+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Deer Valley Bike Park, Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Antelope Island

If you take a look at Salt Lake City on TrailForks or MTB Project, you know why this metropolis makes the list of best mountain biking cities. There are hundreds of miles of singletrack around Salt Lake City and hundreds more in neighboring towns and communities like Park City.

From the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which will one day span 280 miles from the Idaho border to Nephi and passes just north of the city, to FIVE bike parks within an hour’s drive, Salt Lake City is a mountain biker’s playground.

And if you can’t possibly make it through the winters without riding your bike? Just head south to Moab or Hurricane.

2. Phoenix, Arizona

  • Population: 1.625 million (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 300+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: South Mountain, Desert Botanical Gardens, so much mountain biking!

Despite its gargantuan size, I actually really like Phoenix. It’s a cool city with lots to do and unlike some other desert destinations, Phoenix isn’t all brown and dry. The surrounding landscape is studded with cacti and desert vegetation and if you visit after the monsoons, everything is actually really green and flowering. It’s beautiful!

But what about the mountain biking, you ask? It’s awesome! If I was going to choose any destination for endless cross-country riding it would be Phoenix. There is some tech there, too, especially if you head to South Mountain, but Phoenix really shines for its fun, flowy, XC terrain.

3. Bentonville, Arkansas

  • Population: 56,734 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 150+ miles (with more in nearby Bella Vista)
  • Noteworthy attractions: Coler Mountain Bike Preserve, Crystal Bridges Museum, Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project

The secret is out about Bentonville, Arkansas. Considering that it was a small, quiet, unnoteworthy town just a decade ago, Bentonville has come a loooong way. Much of the town’s revival is thanks to the Walton Foundation, which has poured millions of dollars into this region to make it a mountain biking destination. It’s pretty freaking cool.

From the pedal-accessed bike park at Coler Preserve to the literally in-town trails that crisscross the city, Bentonville is a place all mountain bikers should experience at least once.

And the fun doesn’t just stop in Bentonville. All of Arkansas is embracing singletrack, so add another week to your trip to hit some of the other noteworthy networks.

4. Knoxville, Tennessee

  • Population: 192,648 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 140+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Windrock Bike Park, Market Square, good food and music

I recently visited Knoxville, Tennessee for a housesitting gig and I have to say, I was really impressed. I needed another week (or two) to really get to know the whole area, but what I did ride, I loved. The Knoxville Urban Wilderness has tons of trails for all types of riders including a paved skills area and pump track.

There’s also the nearby shuttle-accessed Windrock Bike Park. I haven’t ridden there yet, but I’ve heard it’s awesome and quite gnarly!

The city of Knoxville is pretty cool and chill as well. There are some great restaurants, a river that runs through town, a cute downtown area at Market Square, and lots of music venues, as would be expected for Tennessee.

5. Asheville, North Carolina

  • Population: 94,067 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 200+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Kanuga Bike Park, craft beer scene, Appalachian Mountains, Biltmore Estate

Asheville, Asheville, Asheville. Ask any mountain biker about the best cities for mountain biking and Asheville will most definitely be on the list. It’s gained a reputation over the past few years for its great mountain biking community, events (like the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race), and beer scene, which mountain bikers tend to flock to.

There are some trail networks close to the outskirts of the city, but most mountain bikers will want to travel a bit farther south to Brevard and Dupont State Forest. There’s also the pedal-accessed Kanuga Bike Park for new school fun if you need a break from the rugged Pisgah Forest.

6. Duluth, Minnesota

  • Population: 86,372 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 250+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Spirit Mountain Bike Park, Duluth Traverse Trail

I’m going to need help with this one (leave a comment below!), but while researching for this blog post, I found that Duluth, Minnesota is a Gold Level IMBA Ride Center, so there’s gotta be something good going on there!

There is a bike park that overlooks Lake Superior and the Duluth Traverse Trail, which is a purpose-built mountain bike trail (and multi-use trail) that links up neighborhoods, trail networks, and parks around Duluth.

If you’ve ridden Duluth, leave a comment and let us know what the city and trails are like!

7. Roanoke, Virginia

  • Population: 98,865 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 300+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Blue Ridge Parkway

Roanoke is located in the ridges and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia. It’s got a southern feel with historic buildings and tree-lined streets.

There are several trail networks surrounding Roanoke including Mill Mountain, Douthat State Park, and Carvins Cove. I haven’t ridden in Roanoke (yet!) but IMBA has designated it a Silver Level ride center.

8. Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Population: 646,790 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 700+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Vegas! Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam

If you know anything about me, you may be surprised that I love Las Vegas. I don’t love the glitz and glamour and casinos, but I love the mountain biking, the food, and the wild donkeys. So many wild donkeys!

Vegas is actually a really cool city and the mountain biking there is awesome. There’s lots of pedaly singletrack for the XC enthusiasts and there’s some pretty gnarly downhill stuff at Bootleg Canyon for the adrenaline junkies. And lots of stuff in between.

Plus, Sin City offers any type of entertainment you might want from inredible food to shows (like Cirque du Soleil!) to nightlife.

9. Tucson, Arizona

  • Population: 543,242 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 500+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Saguaro National Park, Mt. Lemmon, Mexican food

Quirky, eclectic, and colorful, Tucson is a fun city to visit, especially for mountain bikers. Like it’s neighbor to the north, Phoenix, Tucson has lots of cross-country trail riding but you can defintely find bigger stuff here, too.

Mt. Lemmon is home to the Lemmon Drop, which is an all-day expert-only affair that drops riders almost 10,000 feet over 30+ miles. It’s intense, but fun if you’re looking for an adventure!

Catalina State Park is also a must-ride for its beautiful desert terrain and Arizona slickrock riding.

10. Carson City, Nevada

  • Population: 58,993 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 200+
  • Noteworthy attractions: Lake Tahoe

Despite living in the Eastern Sierra of California for 6 years, I haven’t explored Carson City as much as I’d like. I’ve driven through many times, but always on my way to somewhere else.

But Carson City is actually home to a ton of great mountain biking and its proximity to Lake Tahoe open up even more miles.

Kings to Ash Canyon is one of the best rides to do – I’ve done a small portion of it, but ran into too much snow, so I had to turn around. There’s also the Tahoe Rim & Flume Trail IMBA Epic, which is one of the most scenic rides I’ve ever done.

The one big downside to Carson City, though, is that it doesn’t have as big of a mountain biking community as other cities on this list.

11. Bellingham, Washington

  • Population: 92,289 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 300+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Galbraith Mountain, Whatcom Falls Park, Chuckanut Drive, Mt. Baker

Bellingham is the Moab of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a mountain biking playground with Galbraith Mountain at the center of it.

I spent 10 days exploring this massive network and I still didn’t get all the riding in that I wanted to do. It’s huge! And there are some huge features in there – stuff that I’ll never hit. But that’s why big industry names like Transition Bikes and Hannah Bergemann call Bellingham home.

The city of Bellingham is really cool, too. It has more of a town vibe, so I was surprised to see that it’s home to almost 100K people.

12. Bend, Oregon

  • Population: 102,059 (2021 census)
  • Miles of trail: 800+ miles
  • Noteworthy attractions: Deschutes River, Mt. Bachelor Bike Park

I really like Bend, Oregon. I actually spent most of a summer there and really got to know the trails and town vibe. It has grown a ton over the past few years, though, so it’s not the small, quiet Bend that most people remember. It is unfortunate, but with growth comes opportunity, right?

The main trail network in Bend is Phil’s, which offers primarily XC riding, but the farther up the slope you go, the more ‘techy’ it gets. I put techy in quotes because there’s really not a lot of technical terrain in Bend unless you head up to Mt. Bachelor Bike Park.

If you head to Bend, I recommend booking at least one or two shuttles with Cog Wild. You can easily do 20+ mile days, but don’t expect it to be all downhill!

Undecided: Denver, Colorado

I’m going to get a lot of haters if I don’t include Denver. I’m sure Denver has some great mountain biking, but from what I’ve ridden, it’s not my favorite. I’m willing to give it more chances, but I just haven’t spent a lot of time there to really get to know the networks. I also don’t know the city of Denver very well either.

I will say that Valmont Bike Park is really cool and I did enjoy riding at Buffalo Creek, but that’s over an hour away.

Convince me in the comments that Denver deserves to be on this list!

Mountain Biking Gear Favorites

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Alright, I know there are going to be some “you should have included’s” and “I disagree” arguments. What cities did I leave out? What city do you love most for mountain biking? Leave a comment below!

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12 Comments

  1. Interesting that Colorado makes the list only as a courtesy. Denver is not much of a mountain biking destination. Neither Valmont nor Buffalo Creek are in Denver. 50,000 people? Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins, Grand Junction? But TONS of great riding just outside of Denver. Golden, Evergreen, Conifer, Pine, Blackhawk, Clear Creek.

    1. I do think Grand Junction should be on the list – I missed that one. And I’ve heard good things about Colorado Springs. I guess I just feel like Denver sprawls so much that Golden and Boulder are pretty much Denver now.

  2. Not sure it’s a “destination” but if one finds themselves in Seattle or needs to get away from family while visiting, there some amazing riding in what the locals call the “Green Triangle” along I90, with Tiger Mountain, Raging River, Tokul, Olallie, Duthie Hill and a few others that would be considered back country and can really get you out there.

    1. Thanks, Troy! I did actually consider adding Seattle since I lived there for a few years, but thinking about the traffic to get to those places made me leave it off the list :). I didn’t get to Olallie, but I love all the other networks.

  3. Duluth, MN, had some fabulous mountain bike trails for all skill levels. Duluth sits on a rocky hillside above Lake Superior. Many of the trails are hilly, rocky, and technical. The Duluth Traverse links all of the trails systems together. Spirit Mountain, a downhill ski park in the winter, provides some serious gravity options with lift service back to the top.

      1. If you’re going to Duluth, take some time to visit Giant’s Ridge and Cuyuna Lakes. Easily done in the same trip because they’re all about 2 hours apart.
        I agree with Byron, I’ve ridden all over the northern states and western Canada. Duluth are the most fun xc trails I’ve ever ridden so far.

  4. Thanks for the list. I lived in Vegas in the 90’s when the trails near Blue Diamond were first being built from wild horse trails. Vegas definitely should be on the list.
    I want to go to every place on this list!

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