11 Mountain Bike Trails to Ride Before You Die
Here are 9 mountain bike trails to ride before you die. Many are just a short distance from our headquarters in Utah. To get the perfect bike setup for any of these trails, check out our mountain bikes.
1. Captain Ahab (Moab, UT)
Nestled in the backyard of mountain biking mecca, Moab, Utah, the Captain Ahab Trail is a 9.4 mile long technical trail. It rolls through the red rock of southern Utah over pristine Moab singletrack. The trail starts with a 3.1 mile climb that is scattered with short descents. From the top of the climb the trail turns south and east. The start of the descent is headed by a large rock drop. From this point forward you’d have to be dead to not have a smile plastered across your face. This trail is visually stunning and technically thrilling. Do not miss a chance to ride this trail.
2. Gooseberry Mesa (Hurricane, UT)
15 miles east of Hurricane, Utah, a town situated close to St. George, Utah, resides the Gooseberry Mesa Trail. This 13.1 mile long world class trail starts on a slickrock mesa at an elevation of 5,200 feet. With only 570 feet of ascent the climbing this not too steep. However, don’t be fooled. It is not uncommon for this ride to take up to four hours. Bring plenty of water with you. The trail system in the area is almost maze like, but the trail is well marked with signs. The slickrock is painted with white dots to direct riders along their way. Gooseberry Mesa is a local and global favorite.
3: Teocalli Ridge Loop (Crested Butte, CO)
The Teocalli Ridge Trail begins just east of Colorado Highway 135. Start your ride on West Brush Creek Road and follow the sign directing you to Teocalli Mountain Trail. Use the couple of miles of smooth road climbing to take in the majestic the view of the high alpine mountain peaks all around. Once you hit the Teocalli Mountain Trail the climbing gets tough. As you near the top of the ridge, the trail will veer to the right. Soon after a short downhill the section the climbing picks back up again. The top of the trail offers a great viewpoint and prime time to stop for lunch. Then, the fun begins. The downhill starts with a gradual slope scattered with roots/rocks. Recent trail building has seen the addition of new switchbacks that has removed some of the really technical sections of the trail. The very bottom portion opens into a smooth, flowing meadow. This is a must ride classic.
4: O’Leary Trail Loop (Mckenzie Bridge, OR)
The O’Leary Trail Loop is a backcountry adventure filled with narrow single track, tight switchbacks, and throttling climbs. This trail begins at the Olallie North trailhead. Climbing begins immediately; get used to it. At the top of the climb you can savor the beautiful views of the Cascade mountains. Once the trail turns down, it does so with tenacity and speed. The turns become sharp and the rocks and roots increase in frequency. Once you break into the emerald green forest, you’ll feel like you are in a different world, one where the trail was tailor made just for you. Along the final descent whoops, shouts, and hurrays will abound. This is a world class trail that is a riot to ride.
5: Lookout Mountain Loop (Bridgewater, VA)
The Lookout Mountain Loop is the jack of all trades when it comes to mountain bike trails. Smooth climbing, fast descents, and technical rocky sections are smattered throughout. The climbing begins up a double track where it connects to a smooth single track that winds through the mountains. In a new re-routed section of the trail, progressively built new sections lead through and around boulder fields. After the re-routed section the trail changes again and drops you on an exposed ridgeline. After the ridge climb, the long descent begins. Mossy rocks and technical sections are found along the descent. Finally, the last stretch of the trail crosses a suspension bridge over a creek that will lead you to the final section of trail leading back to the trailhead.
6: Mid Mountain Loop (Park City, UT)
The Mid Mountain Loop is one of the Salt Lake Valley area’s best rides. Located just east of Salt Lake in the Park City area, this ride is epic. With 23 miles of spectacular single track that winds through the Rocky Mountains, you will encounter incredible vistas, stunning views, wildflowers in the summer, and vibrant foliage in the fall. The climb is smooth due to the number of riders who utilize this incredible trail. You can just spin on up the hills no problem. The trail leads through a number of summer and winter resorts. As a result, the descent for this trail is sweet. One of the best aspects of this trail is the number of options for descents and different options for loops that can be connected via this trail. This is simply fantastic mountain biking.
7: Doctor Park (Crested Butte, CO)
This unbelievable ride packed into the upper alpine reaches of the Colorado Rockies is a must ride if you are in or around the Crested Butte area of Colorado. Doctor Park starts with a slow, grinding climb that will give you plenty of opportunities for take in the beautiful views and admire the astonishing peaks you can see along the trail. At times the river crossings can become deep and walking some of the river crossing is suggested. Once you enter the trees the ground is often damp and can be muddy. The best part of Doctor Park is the downhill. Starting with smooth singletrack that transitions into technical and more aggressive riding this descent is legendary. At the bottom of the descent, the trail opens up into flowy, fast sections. By the end of the downhill your breaks will be scorching and your soul will be energized with post ride euphoria.
8: Downieville Downhill (Downieville, CA)
This amazing ride is located in the mountains of California. This shuttled trail is one of the best in the world. The ride begins on a smooth singletrack that is a great warm up for the ride. After the warm up you’ll meet up with the Butcher Trail. This is the most technical part of the Downieville. It is littered with high speed descending, loose rocks, river crossing, and tight switchbacks. After the Butcher Trail comes the smooth flowing singletrack of lower Downieville. This is a high speed trail that will have you hooting and howling the whole way down.
9: Phil’s World (Cortez, CO)
This trail system is one of the very best. Located in the Rocky Mountains of Cortez, Colorado this trail system is maintained by the Kokopelli Bike Club. The trails are directional and run in a clockwise direction. Once you hit the trails you’ll feel like you are completely alone in the vast expanse of this trail system. The big, long climbs to reach the top of the trails are met by ever bigger and more monstrous descents. One trail, Vertebrae, is a roller coaster! There are bermed turns and pump track like jumps that are a blast to ride. If you are looking for more technical riding the Moki downhill trail is for you. After shooting through a small ledge filled descent, you’ll have one more climb before the Rib Cage. This is a twisty, flowy, jump filled trail that has great berms. It is classic, super fun mountain biking. Don’t miss a chance to ride here.
10. Flow Trail, Demo Forest (Santa Cruz, CA)
MTBR’s Francis Cebedo took us on this incredible trail. It’s actually a system of trails (our ride included 4,500 feet of climbing and spine-tingling descents) but one of the most notable is a 12 minute downhill stretch with berms over 6 feet tall in some corners. It’s so smooth and fast that no other word describes it except “flow.” Flying down the trail with sticky dirt under a canopy of trees is a dreamlike experience. We’re dying to go back!
11. No Name Trails (Utah)
OK, some of our favorite trails are left unnamed and they’re minutes from our headquarters. But come visit us and we’ll tell you in person how to get to them.
*Photos from mtbproject.com, mtbr.com, outdoorproject.com, Fezzari.com