Mountain biking is unique in that it offers both physical and mental benefits. Of course, extended mountain biking is a great way to get in shape, but the mindful focus required can also help clear the mind and leave you refreshed. And a big factor in completing a physically and mentally beneficial ride is the lack of crowds. Uncrowded trails, unfortunately, are becoming harder to find these days as more people get into the sport. However, there are still plenty of mountain bike meccas in America that fly completely under-the-radar. If you’re looking to embark on a trip to an awe-inspiring bike locale without many other visitors, take a look at these 10 standout locations.
San Luis Valley, CO
Winter Park, Crested Butte, and Buffalo Creek get all the accolades when it comes to Colorado mountain bike destinations. With a steadily growing population, it’s getting harder to find seldom-used trails in the Centennial State, but if you head to the San Luis Valley, found between the rugged Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains, you’ll find solitude in one of the most awe-inspiring settings in the state. The town of Del Norte, on the way to Wolf Creek Pass, offers a wide array of mountain bike trails for every experience level. The Stone Quarry trail system is perfect for beginners, while intermediates can link up trails in Penitente Canyon. If you’re up for a challenge or have the necessary skills, Bishop’s Rock is a 40-mile slick rock paradise that offers big jumps, white-knuckle descents, and lung-busting climbs. Be sure to visit Three Barrel Brewing in Del Norte for post-ride beverages.
Wyoming’s mountain bike content comes primarily from the Jackson area, and while the Tetons do offer world-class riding, the plains of Laramie should be on any serious rider’s list. There’s a ton of variety located within a half-hour drive of Laramie. Curt Gowdy State Park, 30 minutes southeast of town, is probably the most popular network of trails in the area, and really caters to upper-intermediate and advanced riders. If you’re into high elevation riding, the Snowy Mountains just west of Laramie offer expert singletrack climbs and service roads with incredible views back into Colorado and across the wide expanse of southern Wyoming. The Happy Jack system, 15 minutes from town, provides the most variety, with something for beginners and experts, alike.
Black Hills, SD
Best known as home to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills is also one of the best mountain biking destinations in the country. There are thousands of miles of singletrack, fire trails, railroad grades, and service roads stretching through prairies, meadows, aspen and pine forests, and mountainous terrain that are mouthwatering to mountain bikers. The Centennial Trail is the most iconic route in the area, stretching 111 miles long and providing a challenge for even the most seasoned pedalers while still offering routes for every ability level.
State College, PA
When you think of State College, you likely think of Penn State Nittany Lion football, but the town also proves there’s incredible mountain biking in the state of Pennsylvania. Rothrock State Forest, just outside of State College, covers a massive amount of space—96,250 acres to be exact. The 100-mile trail system is easily accessible and offers incredibly varied terrain from rugged ridgelines to wetlands to dense mixed-oak forests. The 36-mile Rothrock Trail Mix provides a challenge for eager bikers, while intermediate and beginner riders would do well by attending one of the weekly Thursday evening rides hosted by the Nittany Mountain Bike Association.
Oleta State Park, FL
Mountain biking doesn’t usually top the list of action sports associated with the state of Florida; wakeboarding probably takes that title. However, Oleta State Park, near Miami, provides a really unique mountain biking experience and caters to less seasoned riders. Pedaling through the 15 miles of trail through Mangrove forests offers an off-the-beaten-path mountain bike ride, and when you’re finished, there’s ample opportunity for fun in Florida’s biggest city.
PoliPoli Spring Natural Recreation Area, HI
Ever thought about riding your mountain bike down a 10,000-foot-tall volcano? Didn’t think so. But at PoliPoli Spring Natural Recreation Area, you can do just that. The route is definitely a downhill, gravity-style trail, so make sure to bring your protection, but ripping down the backside of the summit of Haleakala is an experience you’ll never forget. The recreation area also offers plenty of other singletrack options in beautiful and sublime cloud forest. And remember, this is Hawai’i, so any descent you decide on can be finished with a cold beverage on the beach.
If you find yourself traveling on I-70 through Kansas, head to Lake Wilson State Park for over 25 miles of trail surrounding the park’s namesake lake. This area certainly doesn’t fit the narrative image of Kansas, with giant sandstone cliffs dotting the prairie landscape, mountain biking here will definitely change your mind regarding what’s possible in Kansas. For those looking to take a breather, the park rents out cabins on the lake, too.
The most remote mountain biking system in Oklahoma, McGee Creek State Park is located in the southeast portion of the state near the town of Atoka. Visitors to McGee Creek will find hilly terrain through pine forests, with plenty of challenge for those who are looking for it. Because this area is so remote, the crowds are non-existent, but so are the facilities, so be sure to come prepared. When you arrive at the park, don’t forget to fill out a hiking permit card at the Ranger Station, as this area is truly “out there” and it’s important that the management can keep track of visitors.
If you’re looking for high-quality mountain biking in the Midwest, head to Marquette Country in Michigan. There are over 150 miles of trails in the area through deep forest, along rivers, up ridgelines, and even down to Lake Superior. The North Trails loop caters to those who prefer a more downhill experience, while Morgan Creek is a long, flowing singletrack trail for those who prefer smooth ascents and descents. The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a superhighway that provides access to most other trails in the network.The road also passes through the center of Marquette, allowing those who need a break a chance to grab a bite.
Hot Springs, AR
Hot Springs, Arkansas, offers a mouth-watering trail system overlooking the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. There are options for all ability levels here, and for the most experienced, three separate International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Epic Rides. The IMBA even designated Hot Springs as a Bronze-level Ride Center back in 2015. The Güdrun Mountain Bike Festival is held here every November and offers races, events, group rides, and gear demos.