Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Best Mountain Bike Trails in the U.S

With its varied terrain and miles of open space, the United States is a veritable dream for any extreme sports enthusiast, from mountain bikers to snowboarders, and with spring and summer just around the corner it’s the perfect time to tune up your mountain bike, get your gear in order, pack your bike helmet, and start planning which trails you’ll be hitting in the upcoming months.

Whether you are new to mountain biking or an experienced outdoor rider, there’s guaranteed to be a trail for you. We’ve done the legwork and run all the numbers – here are the best mountain biking trails in the U.S:

Gold Bar Rim Trail
Location: Moab Valley, Utah
Length: 8.5 miles each way; 17 miles total
Difficulty: 4

Gold Bar Rim offers spectacular views of the rugged Utah landscape including stunning views of Gold Bar Canyon and panoramic views of cliffs and Southwest skies. This trail, however, is not for the faint of heart as it encompasses 17 miles of rough terrain with steep cliffs and high climbs. The road conditions are mostly sandy punctuated with some surface rocks and other occasional obstacles, watch out for dusty breezes! The most difficult driving is up the final slopes to Gold Bar Rim, but those that are able to accomplish it are rewarded with amazing vistas. We recommend stocking plenty of fluids and energy bars if you’re planning on taking this one on, in addition to having all the necessary bike accessories and gear you need!

Yellow River Mountain Bike Trail
Location: Stone Mountain, Georgia
Length: About 10 miles
Difficulty: 3

The Yellow River Mountain trails offer excursions for riders of all levels -- River Loop is easier than Creek Loop in terms of climb and technicality so the latter is recommended for more advanced riders as there are several two difficult, long climbs followed by rapid descents. For those who wish to stick to the easier route, River Loop runs about 6 miles and has a few shorter, challenging climbs. This run is recommended for intermediate mountain bikers and beginners will find it quite difficult, but the rewards are plentiful – scenic river rides, blossoming flowers, and mild climate that means biking is a year-round activity. Watch out for horses and snakes, both of whom share the trails with riders and hikers!

Poison Spider
Location: Moab Valley, Utah
Length: About 13 miles
Difficulty: 5

Poison Spider is for the experienced rider only, this is the trail of terror, the one that can (and probably will) make grown men cry. Although physically and mentally challenging, the trails rewards you with gorgeous vistas, ancient Indian wall markings and intriguing wildlife. Along with Gold Bar Rim and Golden Spike, the Poison Spider trail forms the trifecta of Moab trails which are all linked together. This particular trail is marked with white jeeps that will keep you on course and designate where to go next; we recommend adhering to these markers as going off the trail can be hazardous. The terrain oscillates between thick sand, bumpy cobbles and rock ledges, and slickrock. Avoid the Portal Trail at all costs unless you are an absolutely expert mountain biker as any error on this section can result in severe consequences, even death.

Sweetwater Preserve
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Length: About 10 miles
Difficulty: 1-2 (doable, but challenging)

This trail is a dream for beginners – eight miles of singletrack built by mountain bikers, pristine desert views (including Saguaro cacti as far as the eye can see), tight turns, and swift loops. You can opt for a shorter right by taking the jeep road (cuts 2 miles off) or make it more challenging by hitting the semi-technical Red Canyon Trail. Our favorite for novices? The Homestead trail, which offers an easier descent but lovely views. The trail system is made up of 12 distinct loops that intersect in a choose-you-own-adventure way, making the trail a uniquely different experience for each rider. You can select shorter trails (.5 mi) to longer trails (1.5 mi), creating a ride that is a long and challenging as you like.

No matter your level of experience or the length of the trail, take precautions to ensure your safety and to maximize your experience. Always wear a helmet, be sure to take extra water and snacks (especially on long rides!), and always have extra bike tubes with you in case of an accident (don’t forget to take a tire pump too!).

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