Which State Has the Best Mountain Biking?
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Pretty much wherever you go in the United States, you can find some form of mountain biking. Trails might range from short, mellow pedals through the woods to unsanctioned proving grounds with formidable drops and other crazy features.
But for the most part, there’s a good mix of singletrack in almost every state (except for maybe, sorry Oklahoma.. sorry Oklahoma).
But which state has the best mountain biking? Where should you go for varied terrain, hundreds of miles of singletrack, and a great mountain biking culture? Keep reading to find out!
First, let’s look at what makes for great mountain biking. Here is the criteria for picking the best singletrack state:
In order to be awarded the best mountain bike state in the US, the mountain biking terrain needs to be unique and varied.
Personally, I like to ride a wide variety of trails from slickrock slabs to high alpine traverses and everything in between.
The winning state must have lots of different options when it comes to where and what to ride.
Bike Parks are growing in popularity around the States, so it’s a no-brainer that the winning state should have at least a few bike parks.
And I’m not talking ‘only open on weekends’ or ‘10 miles of trail’ bike parks. The winning state should have state-of-the-art bike parks with full-time trail crews and DH trails ranging from beginner flow tracks all the way up to gnarly prolines.
If you’ve ridden in both the eastern and western United States, you know that access to public lands makes a big difference when it comes to mountain biking.
In the east, most mountain bike networks are contained in state parks, preserves, and private land. But in the west, mountain biking is spread far and wide over public lands.
Because of that access and expanse, I personally don’t think that east coast riding stacks up to west coast riding on a grander scale. (That doesn’t mean I don’t like east coast riding!)
What’s next? Mountain biking is an evolving and growing sport, so that means new trails should be planned, new networks laid out, grant and state money funneled into projects, mountain bike clubs formed and supported… the list goes on.
The best mountain bike state should have big plans for the future!
The top three states with the best mountain biking
Drum roll, please! Here are the top three US states with the best mountain biking:
For me, Utah is a clear winner when it comes to the best mountain biking in the US. There is just so much riding there and so many different types of trail.
TERRAIN: The mountain biking terrain in Utah is all over the place and that’s a good thing! From the red slickrock of Moab to the dialed bike parks in Park City to the cross-country trails around Salt Lake City, Utah is hands-down home to the most extensive and varied mountain biking in the US. And the views are incredible.
BIKE PARKS: In addition to miles and miles of pedaly singletrack, Utah also offers five lift-served mountain bike parks around the state. Most are located in northern Utah around Salt Lake City and Park City, but Brian Head Resort is down near Cedar City. The gold star bike park in Utah is Deer Valley and it really should be on every mountain biker’s bike-it list.
PUBLIC LANDS: Fun fact, Utah ranks third for percentage of public lands after Alaska and Nevada. 75.2% of Utah is public land, which is a lot! Now, this doesn’t mean we can ride our bikes anywhere on 3/4 of Utah, but it does mean that compared to many other states, access to and potential for mountain bike trails across the state is huge.
INNOVATION: There are a lot of great things happening in Utah to maintain and build upon the mountain biking networks already in place. One project I’m really excited about is the Pahvant Trail System going in at Richfield, Utah.
Utah Mountain Biking Blog Posts
Arizona is a strong runner-up to Utah. It’s home to tons of mountain biking including one of my favorite destinations of all time: Sedona. But it doesn’t quite have the variety or extensiveness of trail that Utah has.
TERRAIN: The mountain biking terrain in Arizona is stunning. From the red cliffs of Sedona to the blooming desert singletrack in Tucson to the pine forest trails of Prescott, Arizona may be the most scenic place to ride in the US. But it doesn’t quite match up to the variety that Utah offers.
BIKE PARKS: Sadly, Arizona has only one bike park: Sunrise Park Resort in Greer, Arizona. It’s small and owned by the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
PUBLIC LANDS: Over half of Arizona is public land, which leaves lots of open space to explore on two wheels!
INNOVATION: Page, Arizona is a place to watch. They recently received several grants from IMBA to build singletrack around the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Arizona Mountain Biking Blog Posts
Moving away from the southwest, Arkansas may be a surprise for some people, but over the last few years, Arkansas has really pushed mountain bike trail and community development. Like Utah and Arizona, Arkansas is now a destination for mountain bikers, no doubt about it.
TERRAIN: I will say that the variety of terrain is Arkansas is a bit lacking, but what they don’t have in elevation, they make up in features – natural and manmade. Almost every network you visit in Arkansas will have bike-park like features and unique natural terrain.
BIKE PARKS: There are not lift-served bike parks in Arkansas, but there is the shuttled-accessed Lake Leatherwood Gravity Park, which is freaking fun, and the pedal-accessed Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville. There’s also the shuttled-accessed Howler Bike Park just across the Missouri start border in Northwest Arkansas.
PUBLIC LANDS: Arkansas is around 17% public land, which as actually pretty good for being closer to the east coast. Much of this public lands are in the Ozarks and Ouachita National Forest, which both have a little bit of mountain biking. With the rate Arkansas is building and adopting singletrack, though, I have a feeling that these areas are going to become mountain biking destinations as well.
INNOVATION: Where to start!? Arkansas has really embraced mountain biking over the past few years and it seems like there’s always something happening whether that’s the Walton grandsons buying Rapha, the development of the Monument Trails networks, the approval of a Trail Building program at a community college… the innovation is endless.
Arkansas Mountain Biking Blog Posts
Honorable Mention: Vermont
I have to give my home state some love! Vermont has put a ton of money and work into building and upgrading mountain bike trails.
TERRAIN: You’ve probably heard of the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s available around the Green Mountain State. There are networks in all corners of Vermont and they are (mostly) good, especially the ones that have been adopted by mountain bike clubs.
Of course, Vermont is on the East Coast, so expect East Coast riding with rocks, roots, and punchy climbs, and short downhills (at least compared to the west coast).
BIKE PARKS: Vermont actually has at least 5 lift-served bike parks, which is more than any other East Coast state.
The most well-known ones are probably Burke Mountain in East Burke and Killington, which has three separate lifts, but there are a few smaller ones sprinkled throughout the state as well.
PUBLIC LANDS: Sadly, Vermont doesn’t have a lot of public lands. About 15.8% is owned by Federal and State agencies, which isn’t terrible, but still not close to public land accessibility out west.
The good news, though, is that a lot of private landowners in Vermont are open to having mountain bike trails – and mountain bikers – on their land. All of the Kingdom Trails is public land and my ‘home’ network which was largely built by my dad and his mountain bike club, covers over 40 miles of trail – all on private land.
Read next: Riding on private land is a privilege. Please brush up on your mountain biking etiquette so we can all continue to have fun out on the trails.
INNOVATION: Vermont has big plans! There’s actually a project called the Velomont Trail that aims to connect mountain biking trail networks across the state with a hut-to-hut route.
The project is still in its infancy, but they’ve already broken ground, so it’s happening!
Vermont Mountain Biking Blog Posts
Honorable Mention: Colorado
I should mention Colorado because I think many mountain bikers would agree that Colorado deserves to be a top contender.
Personally, I don’t love mountain biking in the Rocky Mountain State (even though my favorite trail of all-time is there!) because much of the singletrack in Colorado is repurposed hiking trail. Although, that is slowly changing.
I could just do without the super steep, long climbs with mediocre descents. Is there great mountain biking in Colorado? Absolutely, but as a whole, I think Utah, Arizona, and Arkansas have more fun and engaging stuff to offer.
That being said, a lot of people love mountain biking in Colorado. Just be prepared for some tough climbs depending on where you go!
Colorado Mountain Biking Blog Posts
Looking for more inspiration on where to ride in the US? Check out these related blog posts:
What’s your take on the best mountain biking in the US? Which states deserve the top three places for best singletrack?
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Until Arkansas gets their anti-trans/LGBTQ crap together they need to stay off any and all lists and WA State is far and away better than Arkansas in every way.
Bike companies aren’t moving to Bellingham for no reason.
Our state-wide advocacy group (Evergreen.org) is in a very friendly competition with Vermont for most members, but they draw from multiple heavily populated states. It’s on the list to visit.
I love Washington. I lived in Seattle for a few years and just got to Bellingham this past year. And yes, I agree that Arkansas is backwards (and moving even farther backwards) in terms of politics. But maybe if enough liberals move there for mountain biking we can change the future 🙂
Hartman rocks? really?
how about the 401, captain jacks, monarch crest, horsetheif, my local Dakota ridge, not to mention banana peel. lift served, destination, technical and social. CO has it all in spades. just don’t tell anyone. Fat biking too.
Vermont? mount snow has 600 vert, all blue by our standards. your killing me but thanks for keeping our secret. Utah. well yeah Moab is Moab.
Love Hartman Rocks! Colorado does have some great mountain biking – agreed. Hoping to spend more time exploring it this year.
Vermont is pretty awesome, lots of great singletrack, kingdom trails, some great parks at Killington, Burke Mtn and others
I agree! I’m actually from Vermont 🙂 There’s been a ton of trailwork there since I wrote this post, so I may add Vermont as a runner-up.
I agree with most of this list, but in defense of my home state, I think it checks a few more boxes than you mentioned:
1. Exciting new developments: Colorado is (probably) getting a purpose built lift serviced bike park (like highland, etc). That should be here in the next couple years. Additionally, there has been a bigger push lately to build more bike optimized trails. Local clubs have been really great in this regard. Maryland mountain and Floyd Hill are just two examples near Denver, but there are others elsewhere in the state.
2. Bike parks: Without using the internet, I can name 11 lift serviced bike parks in Colorado. There may be more.
3. Varied Terrain: I’m with you in terms of not living the uber-steep non-bike friendly multipurpose trails. There is also a lot of desert and otherwise low country riding here. The area around Grand Junction, for example, has some really great stuff that (I think, anyway) is just as cool as most of the stuff in Moab. There are other areas like this too: Phils World in Cortez, for example, and to a lesser extent, the areas around Gunnison. Closer to home, the Northern Front Range has stuff like this: Hall Ranch (although the hill comes climbs can be a little much there) and the hogback trails in Larimer County (though these aren’t as fun as desert ride rides on the western slope).
Anyway, I had to mention these because I used to live in Arizona and, while the riding there was great, Colorado kicks the crap out of that place.
Haha, thanks! This is actually an old post that needs some major updating. Colorado is growing on me now that I’ve ridden there more. I loved Hartman Rocks outside of Gunnison and I know I need to get to Fruita/Grand Junction. Ridgway Colorado is a new favorite as well. I’ll bump Colorado up when I update this post next 🙂