You found your calling, barreling downhill. Nothing makes you happier than hitting the trails. You want unobscured, year-round access to the best mountain biking available.
But where should you live?
In case you’re not yet ready to take the leap, I’ve put together a list of great places to help you explore your options and find your favorite trails close to cheap accommodations.
In geographical order from east to west, I present to you the top 12 American mountain biking towns:
- East Burke, Vermont
- Harrisonburg, Virginia
- Copper Harbor, Michigan
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Bentonville, Arkansas
- Duluth, Minnesota
- Crested Butte, Colorado
- Park City, Utah
- Sun Valley, Idaho
- Downieville, California
- Bend, Oregon
Mountain biking has grown in popularity over the years and so have exciting and expansive trails all over the United States and around the world. With so many options to choose from, it’s difficult to decide which of these mountain biking towns will work best for you. For details on each of these exciting mountain bike destinations, I’m breaking them down one by one and highlighting the most popular trails at each location:
Best Cities for Mountain Biking
East Burke, Vermont
Widely regarded as having the best mountain biking trails on the East Coast, East Burke is home to Kingdom Trails, a 100-mile trail system with the best views that any New England riding experience has to offer. The season spans May through October, but the fall experience is not one to be missed.
— Kingdom Trails (@kingtrails) October 1, 2020
These well-maintained trails require a pass. At $20 a day, $30 for the month, or $75 for a year’s membership, it’s well worth it. The slew of benefits include discounts on merchandise, lodging, rentals and wilderness courses. This provides access to trails for all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, and knowledgeable staff are able to help you.
This place is teeny tiny, with a population of around 100 people. If you’re looking to get away from it all, East Burke is the place to go.
The city of Harrisonburg joined forces with the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition to secure federal funding to create a premier destination for mountain bikers. And what a location it is! George Washington National Forest is over a million acres and now boasts nearly 500 miles of track weaving throughout the park.
Virginia Mountain Bike Trail. Day 5 rolling south on Dowell’s Draft towards Shenandoah Mountain Trail. pic.twitter.com/K4kRd2Js
— Chris Scott (@chrisscottistan) October 10, 2011
One of the most celebrated annual events is the Shenandoah Festival, when the town unites in celebrating its vast trails.
If downhill riding is more your style, there are two lift-accessed bike parks within 45 minutes of town.
This college town is home to James Madison University and comes equipped with its very own local food and drink options, as well as modern arts and a cultural atmosphere.
Copper Harbor, Michigan
Looking for a challenge? Copper Harbor has been ranked in the top five trail systems worldwide and has been dubbed “the British Columbia of the Midwest.”
— Travel Leaders ✈️ (@TravelLeadersIN) August 5, 2015
The miles of single track offer gorgeous views of Lake Superior. It’s scenic for sure, but this is no leisurely Sunday cruise. Most tracks here are designed for intermediate to experienced bikers.
The location is currently in the process of an expansion through an adjacent timber yard. There will soon be more beginner options and plenty of secluded space to camp and get away from hectic city life.
If you need to rent gear, the Keweenaw Adventure Company is a highly trusted outfitter that also does tours. Bonus: if you’re interested in getting out on the lake, this company also offers kayaking tours and rentals on Lake Superior. You might as well take advantage of all the exciting outdoor adventures Copper Harbor has to offer! (And if you plan on taking your own kayak to any of the cities on this list, see our post about how to carry a kayak on a bike.)
Fast becoming a premier destination for cycling, Louisville has already hosted the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships and is well on its way to becoming the first metropolitan city with 100 miles of single track. So if you’re determined to relocate to somewhere close to great trails but are unwilling to give up all the amenities that city life has to offer, Louisville may be the best option for you.
— Swiftwick (@swiftwick) February 2, 2013
Louisville seems to have it all: conventional bike paths, miles of technical areas for short but steep climbs, hilly fast trails through 300 acres of hardwood, and the world’s very first underground bicycle park. With 320,000 feet of jump lines, 45 trails, BMX, single & pump tracks, what more could a bike enthusiast want?
If you’re on the hunt for low cost of living to compliment your amazing trail adventures, look no further than Chattanooga. This Tennessee town has a median home price of $142,000 and comes complete with 100 miles of suburb quality single track.
With multiple amazing trail systems, Enterprise South is great for beginners, and Stinger’s Ridge provides a single track right from the downtown core. But Raccoon Mountain is the premiere spot with 24 miles of technical trail descents. You won’t be disappointed.
— Visit Chattanooga (@visitchatt) April 7, 2018
Chattanooga has plenty to offer for an extended visit or relocation, including aquariums, museums, galleries, and a zoo. And if you love music, the world-famous city of Nashville is just over two hours away.
Bentonville is another hidden gem in the Midwest thanks to a generous donation by the Walton Family Foundation, founded by Tom Walton, a mountain bike enthusiast whose grandfather happens to have founded Walmart. They’ve put Bentonville on the map.
— Arkansas Tourism (@artourism) February 2, 2021
Bentonville is a premier location for tests by Bike Magazine, has hosted an International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit, and has been the home of the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival since 1989.
Best known for the 23-mile Slaughter Pen Loop, Bentonville also has the 22-mile Back Loop and over 100 miles of single track leading right to downtown where you can enjoy all the local food trucks, coffee shops and craft beer to quench your thirst after a day’s ride.
Readers of Outside magazine voted Duluth the #1 outdoor town. It’s one of six places in the world to be considered a Gold-Level Ride Center by IMBA. The challenging tracks with scenic views are sure to keep you on your pedals with 178 miles of trails through 6,834 acres of park.
Spirit Mountain is home to lift-accessed intermediate and advanced trails, while 85 miles of single track wind around the town.
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The downside to visiting Duluth is that camping is not free, which is why you should just move there and enjoy everything it has to offer all year round!
Crested Butte, Colorado
Known to many as the birthplace of mountain biking and with over 700 miles of trails, Crested Butte attracts many outdoor enthusiasts. Hosting annual races and mountain biking festivals, this town is all about mountain biking culture.
— RootsRated (@RootsRated) August 4, 2016
You can ride right out of town on the Snodgrass 7.3-mile intermediate loop out and back. Or you might want to tackle the 401, which is a 14-mile loop that’s famous for being one of the highest trails in the U.S. with a max elevation of 11,349 feet.
And you wouldn’t want to miss Evolution Park at Mt. Crested Butte. It’s not the biggest, but it still offers 30 miles of single track.
Gear rental options include the Rental Demo Center at the resorts base or you can rent on the mountain from Elevation Hotel with Elevate/Butte & Co. bike shop.
Planning to stay awhile? You can camp for free at Washington Gulch Rd. or Oh Be Joyful Recreation Area.
Park City, Utah
Park City’s claim to fame is that it was once the only city to be honored with the title of Gold-Level Ride Center by IMBA. No need to wonder why. With world-class bike parks, places to freeride, intricate cross-country trails, bike lanes that span the city, picturesque bike paths, lift-access downhill rides and roughly 400 miles of single track, Park City is a mountain biking destination that has something to offer every mountain biker at all experience levels.
If you’ll be going for a long ride, be sure to check out our post about the best mountain bike chamois you can find.
Looking for somewhere comfortable to crash after a day of hitting the trails? There are plenty of resorts in the Park City area, such as Canyons, Deer Valley Resort or Park City Mountain, that cater to cyclists with direct access to lift-assisted riding.
Since Park City has a high population density, you’ll never run out of options for restaurants, bars, music, or activities for the kids. And it’s not too far from Salt Lake City.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Many people don’t think of Idaho when they hear mountain biking, but Sun Valley is a hidden gem for adventurous mountain bikers.
There’s a 10-mile trail around town and 30 miles of paved bike paths throughout Sun Valley. Adams Gulch is the beginner/intermediate trail to ride right out of town on.
But most riders are there for Bald Mountain. This intermediate/advanced trail has a 3,400-foot descent. Stay at the Sun Valley Resort for lift access or take advantage of the numerous free camping sites for up to 16 days just up the road.
Home of the Downieville Classic, a two-day bike festival that attracts riders from around the world. Consisting of a 5,000-foot drop over 15 miles, this is the longest and most challenging bike race in the United States.
Downieville is not for the faint of heart. Geared toward intermediate and advanced riders, these technical trails include multiple sections limited to hike-a-bike access.
Attracting scores of fortune hunters during the California gold rush, Downieville has many attractions devoted to its rich mining history.
Close-by stops not to be missed include Truckee and North Tahoe with their own superb riding options. There are well over 500 miles of bike trails in total.
The perfect blend of city and town, Bend is no longer a secret destination. Boasting over 300 miles of trails with year-round access, Bend is the perfect spot to settle down in. If you exhaust these trails, within a 90-minute drive there’s access to another 700 miles of downhill riding on Oakridge and the technical McKenzie River Trail.
Mountain bike ride in bend Oregon. pic.twitter.com/iDTt1UVLpb
— Kevin Barker© (@orbeabikes52) June 4, 2018
Thanks to Phil’s Trail Complex with its 3,400-foot ride from Mt. Bachelor to Bend, it will be a little while before you exhaust your options for adventure.
Don’t forget to take in the beautiful views on the Deschutes River, with 11 options for craft brew. You won’t be thirsty for options when it comes to beer or mountain bike trails in Bend.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Whistler, B.C., in a list of mountain bike towns. Just north of the border and attracting world-class riders for decades, Whistler is a well-known and celebrated hotspot for West Coast riding.
— Betsy Bouche (@betsybouche) May 30, 2015
Hosting some of the biggest mountain biking competitions of the year, such as Red Bull 400 and Joyride, Whistler is home to 145 miles of trail and IMBA’s 13-mile trail, Comfortably Numb.
So for Canadian mountain bikers, there’s no need to border hop when we have some of the world’s most renown trails right in our own backyard.
There it is! A complete list of the best mountain biking cities across the United States. Some you are no doubt already familiar with, some you may be excited to check out next. All of these mountain biking towns are worth a visit.
With so many hidden gems close to where I live in Vancouver, I can’t wait to hit the trails and discover some lesser known spots. But with the popularity of the sport, nothing worth riding stays secret for long!
I hope this list helps in narrowing down your options for relocation.
Thinking of going camping with an e-bike? See our post about how to charge a bike while camping.
And if you plan on going riding at night, check out our post on the 12 best mountain bike lights for night riding.