So, after riding all these renowned, magnificent trails this year, which one was best? Websites like singletracks.com or mtbproject.com rank the world’s best mountain bike trails based on the ratings of users, so I used these rankings as an orientation. However, it is obvious that those highest ranked trails aren’t necessarily the best for everyone. It pretty much depends on the criteria and actually on personal preferences. Technical difficulty makes a trail challenging but not great. And the beauty of nature is even more difficult to rate. Anyway, here’s my take:
Whole Enchilada, UPS
Thunder Mountain Trail
Corviglia Flow Trail
McKenzie River Trail
Best trails with both breathtaking nature and trail fun are
- Thunder Mountain Trail (near Bryce Canyon, CO)
- McKenzie River Trail (Central Oregon, OR)
- Tahoe Rim Trail & Flume Trail (Lake Tahoe, NV)
Best trails in terms of fun and flow are
- Corviglia Flow Trail (St.Moritz, Switzerland)
- Bend Trails, e.g. Tiddlywinks (Bend, OR)
- Sandy Ridge Trail System (Portland, OR)
Best trails in terms of overall experience are
- Whole Enchilada (Moab, UT)
- Melogno Roller Coaster and NATO Base (Finale Ligure, Italy)
- MAG7 Trails (Moab, UT)
- Phil’s World (Cortez, CO)
- 18 Road Trails (Fruita, CO)
Although I am tempted to add more categories to list even more great trails I think it is better to stop here. My bottom line is: The best trails are where mountain bikers are to make them great trails, by painting dots on rocks, by shaping berms or by just riding on…
Finale Ligure (Italy) is probably my favourite mountain biking mecca in Europe and fall is just the perfect season to be there. The temperature is still warm but not as hot as in summer. And as well the water temperature at the beach is still decent for a refreshing swim after a long ride. The combination of awesome singletrack trails, scenic landscape, culture and beach is unique.
After hitting several of the best MTB-trails in the world this summer, Finale Ligure seemed to be the adequate spot for my season finale.
The trails from Melogno, Pian dei Corsi and Terre Rosse are rollercoaster-like. In fact, at least 2 trails in Finale are even called rollercoaster. Pedaling up all the way to the old NATO-base to access the fantastic downhill runs to Orco Feglino and then up again to descend to Final Borgo is an epic ride of 46 km and 1750 meters of elevation gain. So, I was happy to enjoy some shuttle rides in addition to the epic loop. Thanks, Hendrik and Isa, for the lift and the company!
I wrote about our MAG 7 ride already in an earlier post (Moab – Mountain Bike Mecca), however, now I have put this video together that shows a bit more of the magnificent flow on these magnificent trails.
Going back up on Gemini Bridges Rd. after Bull Run brings you to the trailhead of the Getaway Trail which simply means extended fun and pleasure with “flow on the rocks” for all levels of riders. The combination with the Moab Brands (Bar M) Trails makes it an epic but throughout pleasurable ride.
Elevated Biking would be my two-word-summary of the Monarch Crest Epic ride.
The trail starts at the Monarch Pass in an altitude of 11312 ft/3448 m and on the first miles of the ride you continue to gain elevation to an altitude of about 12000 ft/3646 m. The Monarch Crest Trail ascents and descents moderately, but ascents are in the beginning a little longer than descents and let you gasp for air unless you have slept for weeks in a hypobaric chamber. The elevated epic ride is made possible (or better enjoyable) by a shuttle service that carries bikes and riders from Poncha Springs to Monarch Pass for 20$.
The Monarch Crest Trail leads to the Continental Divide Trail, then to Silver Creek Trail that turns into Rainbow Trail. Including the fast slight downhill ride back to Poncha Springs on Hwy285 the total mileage of the ride is about 35 (55 km). Over the length of the ride you experience very different conditions: singletrack and doubletrack, surfaces from smooth packed dirt or sand to loose, bumpy rocks and finally to paved road.
The ride is most fun in the lower part of the Rainbow Trail as it winds alongside the hills and crosses numerous ravines with little creeks. Altogether, this epic ride is perhaps not distinctly spectacular, but it leaves you with a feeling of deep satisfaction for a while.
Crested Butte is a ski resort in fairly high altitude in the most beautiful alpine scenery. And this is basically what the mountain biking there is about.
My feeling was that Crested Butte is not as MTB-affine as e.g. Park City. Of the many different types of taxes and fees that were added to the room rate on our hotel bill not a lot could have gone into MTB-infrastructure. There is a downhill park, but there is not really a coherent trail system or purpose built trails.
The classic ride is the 401 trail. As a loop from Gothic Road, it starts with a climb in high altitude over 11000 ft/3400 m that makes it breathtaking before the views will cause the same again.
A favorite ride among locals is Doctor’s Park. Ideally done as shuttle, it wasn’t an option for us travelling in one car. A shuttle service did not exist, due to constraints of the local authorities (according to the website of a shuttle company that wasn’t in operation).
We finally did the Strand Hill Trail with moderate climbing and nice singletrack between birch trees and alpine meadows. A typical Crested Butte ride, yet moderate in length and altitude.
Phil’s World is a trail system that offers plenty of loop options for rides of different length. The trails are one directional to avoid oncoming traffic. What they all have in common is that they are zippy and fun, the famous Rib Cage Trail with berms and jumps in particular.
We did an evening ride of about 10 km and a ride the next morning of about 20 km. Without really knowing the history of the trail system, I just like to say: Thank you Phil for the pleasure!
Whole Enchilada is the most raved about MTB-ride in and outside of Moab. And as the name suggests, it has it all: high-altitude alpine riding, smooth slalom berms, slickrock, views, technical challenges, etc. It can be ridden as an epic loop with a length of 61 miles/100 km and a total elevation gain of 8300 feet/2500 meters.
For some reason we chose the shuttle ride option (like almost everybody else) that saved us almost about 1800 meters of climbing and costed only 25$. There is still a climbing part at the beginning up to Burro Pass that made us gasp and feel a bit dizzy due to the high altitude of 11.150 ft/3.400 m.
The trail from Burro Pass down is steep with some switchbacks and loose rocks, but all rideable. As the vegetation changes from alpine firs to birch trees the trail gets faster. In Hazzard County the trail is zippy and fun as it is winding through wide open plains. The Kokopelli Trail which is more a road than a trail leads to UPS and LPS, the upper and lower Porcupine Singletrack. This is the best section: the trail goes up and down slickrock with fast and flowy sections on packed sand surface. Views are stunning as the trail runs along the Porcupine Rim. At the intersection with the Sandflats Rd the Porcupine Rim Trail starts, a gnarly Jeep track that beats you up. Hard to enjoy.
Eventually, when you are well shaken, the Porcupine Rim Trail becomes a singletrack again. This is where the fun comes back. The trail turns towards the Colorado River Gorge and comes up with some tricky technical challenges and spits you finally out at a parking lot at the river. The paved bike path along the Colorado River brings you back into town with sore wrists from the hundreds of drops that you did on this 35 mile/55 km ride and a big, big smile on your face.
Whole Enchilada, UPS
Dinosaurs and mountain biking are the two things that make Fruita so special. In fact, there is a dinosaur-on-bike sculpture in downtown.
The two main mountain bike trail systems are the Kokopelli Trails above the Colorado River and the 18 Road Trails in the North Fruita Desert.
The Kokopelli Trails that consist of several loop trails (Mary’s, Horsethief’s, Wrangler’s) are mostly rocky or sandy and quite technical in some spots. The trail down to the Horsethief loop in particular, is where you better carry the bike (which can be still challenging and painful, as I can tell from own experience). The ride at the edge of cliffs is awesome due to the spectacular views. Either way you go, there are rock steps to go up or down. As I struggled to overcome some of the rock steps I couldn’t get into the flow in some sections. All in all, the Kokopelli Trails offer a great and challenging experience.
The 18 Road trails on the opposite side of town are quite different. The lunarlike landscape, but as well, the smooth and zippy trails are fantastic. The Prime Cut trail is the best uphill trail to access most other trails, e.g. Zippity, PBR, Chutes & Ladders, etc.
After going down the fast and smooth PBR Trail with some jumps and berms, we went up Prime Cut again to hit Zippity Do Da via Frontside Trail. What an outstanding ride! Zippy and fun on Frontside and then the smooth ride up and down the ridge in a peculiar landscape. Stunning and awesome. The double loop added up to 20 km and much more pictures that we took during the ride.
The Tahoe Rim & Flume Trail is a legendary MTB-ride through fascinating nature with stunning views. It is best done as shuttle ride starting at Tahoe Meadows on the Tahoe Rim Trail (shuttle services are available in Incline Village).
The trails are mostly smooth and easy, but the rocks and boulders add spice, particularly on the TRT. Jumping down boulders is fun, but in the uphill sections the rocks cause some challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge on the Flume Trail is to keep the eyes on the trail despite the stunning views.
The Tahoe Rim Trail circles the Lake Tahoe but not the entire trail is open for bikes. The part of the TRT in this ride is open to bikes only on even numbered days and quite some traffic (hikers and mountain bikers) should be expected during the summer months.
I loved the ride on the Rim Trail with all the rock steps up and down providing little kicks to the smooth trail. The ride on the Flume Trail was to me a sort of nature theatre. The lower half of the Flume Trail and the section around Marlette Lake is on dual-track and less exciting. Altogether the 40 km / 25 miles long ride is experience no mountain biker should miss.
The McKenzie River Trail is usually found at the top in the rankings of the best MTB trails. For good reason. It is a 40 km (25 miles) singletrack trail following a roaring mountain stream through pristine nature across lava flows and lush old grown forest. Ideally, it is done as a shuttle ride.
It was my 4th time that I did the MRT and it was still a fascinating experience. At the beginning I stayed on the western side of Clear Lake. The trail there is much smoother than the lava rock strewn trail on the eastern side. I wanted to avoid flat tires from the sharp rocks and save some energy, as I knew from my previous rides that it is challenging to keep up the concentration level for the whole distance. The MRT requires precise steering to manoeuver around the lava rocks and the big roots of giant trees.
The first half is technically more demanding, particularly in the old lava flow areas and in the proximity of the waterfalls. The McKenzie River suddenly disappears for quite a while and continues subterranean in lava tubes. After all that river roaring I found the silence amazing. Even more amazing is the azure-blue pool where the water reappears.
After the Trail Bridge Campground the trail is less technical and faster. However, the MRT might come up with a little surprise after the next turn…