It’s fall and no matter what the weather, it’s invigorating to be riding on dirt. Enjoy this list of trails for shoulder-season riding to experience cooler temperatures, fewer crowds and scenic vistas that reward the effort.
Mountain biking often calls upon core strength, stamina, great balance and bike handling skills. With bikes adapted for rough terrain, the appeal of this off-road sport speaks to many—from novice to expert alike. Who can resist the smooth dirt or rock as you effortlessly glide downhill, or the technical aspects of picking your way through roots and rocks, or the satisfaction of conquering a climb? We think you’ll agree that some of the best mountain biking is on federal lands.
Remember, safety first. Check with your local bike shop about bike and helmet rentals and remember to practice safe and responsible riding etiquette.
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Gambel's Quail, Arizona
Arizona Trail – Northern Trailhead
This northern section of the Arizona Trail, a trail that runs over 800 miles (1,287 km) from Mexico to Utah, is located west of Page, Arizona. From the trailhead, mountain bikers are treated to 12.5 miles (20.1 km) of trail south through the steep and rugged eastern flank of Buckskin Mountain. Expect sweeping views of the Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, Kaibab Plateau and southern Utah.
The Womble Trail stretches over 37 miles (59 km) from Northfork Lake to the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. This trail is considered to be one of the best singletrack trails in this area. Short segments of the trail meander along the bluffs of the Ouachita River, with breathtaking views. Hikers and mountain bikers can combine the Roundtop Trail with the Womble and Ouachita National Recreation Trail (west of Highway 27) to form an eight-mile loop (12 km).
Lake Tahoe Basin Management
Unit (Garrett Villanueva)
Unit (Garrett Villanueva)
Genoa Peak (Tahoe Rim Trail)
The Genoa Peak ride takes you on the Tahoe Rim Trailthat runs along the east shore of Lake Tahoe. Several views of the Carson Valley as well as glimpses of Lake Tahoe can be seen along this forested trail. Along with mountain biking in the area, visitors can camp nearby atNevada Beach Campground or Zephyr Cove Resort and Campground.
Santa Monica Mountains National
Recreation Area (NPS)
Recreation Area (NPS)
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Trails
The mountain bike trails traversing the Santa Monica Mountains weave through diverse terrain. From ridgetops to canyon floors, there are many opportunities for a great ride. Challenge yourself with an exhausting ascent that yields rewarding ocean views, or leisurely pedal along an oak-shaded stream. On any trek, always ride safely and responsibly and with minimal impact to the land.
North Fruita Desert (BLM)
Zippity Do Da
Don’t let the name fool you! Ranked “very difficult,” this is sure to be a leg-burner. The Zippity Do Da trail is a straight forward “out and back” trail, and is part of the bigger North Fruita Desert Trail System—allowing numerous opportunities to extend the length of your ride with several loop options. Stay a few days and explore the area—nearby North Fruita Desert Campground is open from March to November with 35 individual campsites, first-come, first-served.
Apalachicola National Forest
Munson Hills Mountain Bike Trail
The Munson Hills Off-Road Bike Trail offers a scenic and challenging ride through varied terrain. The original trail has expanded to include the Twilight Loop, for a total of 21 miles (33 km). The old sand dunes of Munson Hills were once Florida’s shoreline, and they now support towering longleaf pines and pristine ponds. The trail dips down through oak hammocks and winds its way through piney flatwoods, providing opportunities to observe songbirds, deer, fox squirrels, frogs, snakes and the gopher tortoise, a protected species whose burrows provide homes to as many as 40 other animals. Members of the local Southeast Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) chapter maintain the trail in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
Located on the J. Strom Thurmond Lake north of Augusta, Georgia, the Bartram Trail is a 27-mile (43 km) long trail that starts at West Dam recreation area and follows the shoreline to Keg Creek. Designated a National Recreation Trail, mountain bikers of all levels will find a comfortable distance on this trail while enjoying the local flora including trillium and Georgia asters. Visitors can add a bit more distance by riding the Lake Springs Loop, approximately 3 miles (4 km) through Lake Springs recreation area.
Croy Creek Trail System
Croy Creek Trail System
Mountain bikers of all levels will enjoy the rolling landscape of this relatively new trail system west of Hailey. From early spring to late fall, riders will find these fast and fun trails a necessary stop when visiting central Idaho.
City Creek Management Area Trail System
This network of 20 or so trails (PDF) is great for riding—with something for everyone. It’s still under-the-radar, though, so mountain bikers in the know should take advantage of the lack of crowds while they can. Terrain ranges from mild jeep roads to techie singletrack, through sage and cedar. The trails connect with other trails managed by the Bureau of Land Management Pocatello Field Office.
Trails at Coralville Lake
Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail
Appealing to the entire family, Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Traillocated at Coralville Lake’s Sugar Bottom Day Use Area, accommodates all types of rider offering well-marked trails indicating the level of difficulty. Through wooded valleys and prairies, mountain bikers can take in the beautiful views of Coralville Lake while riding top-notch singletrack. No need to hurry home, reserve a campsite at Sugar Bottom Campgroundand continue your adventure with nearby Sugar Bottom Disc Golf Course and hiking trails!
Perry Lake (USACE)
Located on Perry Lake in northeast Kansas, Skyline Trail (PDF) is part of the Perry State Park trail system. With over 15 miles (24 km) of easy-to-difficult rated riding, these trails will keep you on your toes as you experience Kansas hardwood forest and wooded hillsides. Many of the trails consist of hills, tight turns, off-camber sections, fast lines and technical rocky sections. Skyline Trail is rated easy and totals 3.5 miles (5.6 km)—and that’s just the beginning. Loops off of Skyline are numerous and even the most experienced rider will be challenged in this trail system.
Land Between the Lakes National
Recreation Area (Forest Service)
Recreation Area (Forest Service)
Canal Loop Trail
Located in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, the Canal Loop Trail (PDF) includes four connector trails covering 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to 14.2 miles (22.8 km). Popular because of the less strenuous terrain and scenic lake views, riders will still be challenged with the Kentucky Lake portion of the trail including fast singletrack and challenging climbs. Want more? Check out the numerous trails in the area.
Acadia National Park (NPS)
Winding through the heart of Acadia National Park (PDF), the carriage roads have crushed-rock surfaces perfect for your mountain bike. A gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family beginning in 1913, today’s carriage roads are closed to motor vehicle traffic allowing bicyclists to explore more than 40 miles (64 km) of Acadia’s diverse and beautiful landscape. Shared by hikers and equestrians, please remember, courtesy and safety are a priority.
Shiawassee National Wildlife
A more primitive trail near the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Shiawassee Rivers in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, the Woodland Trail will take riders through bottomland hardwood forest and past historic landmarks from early coal mining days. Additional loops include the Marsh and River Loops (PDF). Trail use may be limited due to seasonal flooding and wet conditions.
Bitterroot National Forest
Railroad Creek Mountain Bike Loop
Located in the Bitterroot National Forest south of Missoula, the Railroad Creek Mountain Bike Loop (PDF) is a 19-mile (30 km) intermediate ride on forest roads. Count on about six miles (9 km) of uphill with plenty of scenery and chances to spot local wildlife. Remember, although you are on forest roads, always watch for vehicle traffic.
Bloody Shins Trail (BLM)
Bloody Shins Trail
With a name like Bloody Shins Trail, how could we resist! With over 30 miles (48 km) of beginner to advanced trails, the Bloody Shins Trail system (PDF) is accessible from the Water Canyon Recreation Area near Winnemucca, Nevada. Whether you want a loop trail or to add a few side trails to increase your mileage, there is certain to be an adventure waiting with a name like that!
Nantahala National Forest
Tsali Recreation Area
Though some trails within the Nantahala National Forest are closed to bikes, the Tsali singletrack trails are nationally known for great mountain biking. Tsali (Sah-lee) Recreation Area’s four-loop system offers a variety of landscapes. You can climb one-foot wide rugged paths or travel flat, wide roads. Tsali’s trails meander through mixed pine and hardwoods on a peninsula stretching into Fontana Lake.
Kerr Scott Trail
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club cooperated to build this fantastic trail system. Their project started at Dark Mountain in November of 2002 with a visit from the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Care Crew. Over 35 miles (56 km) of purpose-built, sustainable trail have rolled out since then, including the (less difficult) Overmountain Victory Trail and, most recently, Warrior Creek trails. Each area has its own unique qualities. The entire system is within a historic corridor that follows the path of Daniel Boone, the Overmountain Men and plenty of moonshiners.
Deschutes National Forest
Now a mountain bike mecca, many riders call Bend, Oregon, home. If you’re traveling to central Oregon for vacation, bring your ride and explore the Mrazek Trail. Just outside of Bend, you’ll find the trailhead at the southern edge of Shevlin Park. From there, the trail takes you through varied terrain (PDF) including old-growth hemlock forest in Happy Valley. Loops in the area abound if you’re looking to make a day out of this ride!
Willamette National Forest
McKenzie River National Recreation Trail
Popular with mountain bikers and hikers, the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail closely follows the undulating McKenzie River. Log bridges, 600-year-old Douglas fir forests and white water are sure to make your ride memorable. The upper sections of the trail won’t disappoint–waterfalls and lava flows abound. Stay a while; reservations are available for nearby Paradise, Olallie andCold Water Cove campgrounds.
Allegrippis Trail System (USACE)
Located in the Allegheny Mountains of the Keystone State, the Allegrippis Trail System is considered by many to be one of the best mountain bike trails east of the Mississippi. Specifically designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, the trail is also open to any non-motorized use, including hiking. But the 32-mile (52 km) singletrack mountain bike trail system is known mostly for its riding potential. The mostly smooth, flowing surface and more challenging trails provide opportunities for every skill level and the lush, green foliage makes way for some intense colors, come autumn.
Northshore Trail (USACE)
At approximately 22 miles (35 km), the Northshore Trail at Grapevine Lake will tempt beginners and technical riders alike. With several trailheads for access (PDF), the trail provides one-way loops with the eastern side appealing to beginners and the west calling those looking for varied terrain and a challenge.
Kokopelli’s Trail is a 142-mile (228 km) multi-use trail from Loma, Colorado, to Moab, Utah. Most mountain bikers use this trail as a through route. Trail surfaces vary; the trail utilizes dirt roads (of all degrees of difficulty), paved roads and some small portions of narrow track. A multi-day Kokopelli’s Trail outing requires you to plan extensively—so take all the steps to make the most of your Moab mountain bike adventure. It’ll be one you won’t soon forget.
Uinta Basin (BLM)
The Bureau of Land Management lands in the Uinta Basin of Utah offer excellent mountain biking opportunities for any type of rider, from experienced to novice. Enjoy the miles of unpaved roads or seek out more adventurous routes on the area’s singletrack trails. The opportunities here range from narrow desert trails in the Red Fleet and McCoy Flats areas to the forested and rocky Flume Trail in Dry Fork Canyon, to the technical challenge of the Rojo Trail.
*Note: Most of the singletrack in the area was historically—or is currently—active livestock trail. Please respect livestock, range improvements and other trail users.
Virginia Creeper Trail
Virginia Creeper Trail
From Abingdon to Whitetop Station, the Virginia Creeper Trail spans just over 34 miles (54 km). This shared-use rail-trail truly has it all—history (Native Americans to rugged railroad), amazing downhill (nearly seven percent grade in some places), visitor centers, and friendly communities along the way—stop for a bite to eat or a cool drink. Partly located in the George Washington Jefferson National Forests, this trail is busy in the summer; follow trail etiquette and everyone is sure to enjoy this adventure. Bike shuttles and rentals are available in nearby communities.
Great River State Trail
Great River State Trail
The Great River State Trail is a 24-mile (38 km), scenic crushed limestone trail. It is also a piece of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail built on an abandoned railroad line. It passes through bottomland forest, sand prairie and riparian habitats in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The trail offers access to two national wildlife refuges, the town of Onalaska and the city of La Crosse, as well as local parks. History buffs can see Hopewell Native American mounds from a trail observation deck. The Great River State Trail connects to more trails inside Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and the bike trail offers wonderful views of Lake Onalaska and the Minnesota Bluffs from the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Putt Putt Trail (Forest Service)
Putt Putt Trail
Just as the name implies, this easy 3.5-mile (5.6 km) trail rambles through aspen and sagebrush leading to beautiful views of nearby Jackson. To increase your mileage or add difficulty, try one of the many connector loops off the Putt Putt trail.