12 Trails for Fall Mountain Biking
A mountain biker rides a trail near Moab, Utah. (Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA)
No matter what the weather, fall is an invigorating time 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.
Remember, safety first. Always wear a helmet and other appropriate protective gear and respect the Rules of the Trail. Also, check trail conditions prior to venturing off-road. Trails may be closed for many reasons, especially with quickly changing seasonal weather conditions.
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Black Canyon Trail
Mountain bikers wind alongside saguaro cactus as the sun sets on a day of riding along the Black Canyon Trail. (Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA)
The 80 mile (128 km) Black Canyon Trail provides mountain bikers with a long range back country trail riding opportunity. This historic National Recreation Trail is of national significance, following a route used since the times of pre-historic Native American travelers and traders. This trail provides a challenging ride experience characterized by rough, unstable soils and rocks, with various trail grades and numerous elevation changes within a harsh desert climate. The trail meanders through the Sonoran Desert landscape, including saguaro forests and rugged canyons.
Womble Trail, Ouachita National Forest
Beautiful views for those who venture out in the Ouachita National Forest. (US Forest Service)
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).
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Trails
Santa Monica National Recreation Area (Julian Rosenbloom, Share the Experience)
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. There are more than three dozen trails that range from challenging single track to leisure fire roads that cater to the advanced to beginner riders. On any trek, always ride safely and responsibly and with minimal impact to the land.
Munson Hills Mountain Bike Trail, Apalachicola National Forest
Enjoying the ride on the Munson Hills Trail of the Apalachicola National Forest. (Elio Dimacali)
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.
Bartram Trail, J. Strom Thurmond Lake
Cyclists approach a rock bridge along the Bartram Trail. (David Fun, SORBA CRSA)
Located on the J. Strom Thurmond Lake north of Augusta, Georgia, the Bartram National Recreation 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.
Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail, Coralville Lake
All riders welcome on the Sugar Bottom trails at Coralville Lake. (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Appealing to the entire family, Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail located at Coralville Lake’s Sugar Bottom Day Use Area, accommodates all riders and offers well-marked trails indicating the level of difficulty. Through wooded valleys and prairies, you can take in the beautiful views of Coralville Lake while riding top-notch single track. No need to hurry home, reserve a campsite at Sugar Bottom Campground and continue your adventure with nearby Sugar Bottom Disc Golf Course and hiking trails!
Canal Loop Trail, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
This rewarding view is just one reason to ride in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (John Fagan, Share the Experience)
The Canal Loop Trail (PDF) includes three connector trails covering 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to 14.2 miles (22.8 km) and are rated as moderate to difficult. 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.
Tsali Recreation Area, Nantahala National Forest
Within steps of Fontana Lake, Tsali Recreation Area has a little something for everyone. (Dot Shiva, Share the Experience)
Though some trails within the Nantahala National Forest are closed to bikes, the Tsali singletrack trails are nationally known for great mountain biking and generally rated as moderately difficult. Tsali (Sah-lee) Recreation Area’s four-loop system offers a variety of landscapes, and offer alternating days for mountain bikes and horses, so check before you go. 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.
W. Kerr Scott Lake Trail System, Kerr Scott Lake
Biking the W. Kerr Scott Lake Trail. (US Army Corps of Engineers)
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 40 miles (64 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.
Allegrippis Trail, Raystown Lake
This epic mountain bike destination is a must ride. (US Army Corps of Engineers)
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.
Kokopelli’s Trail, Colorado to Moab
Mountain biker on the popular Slick Rock Trail near Moab, Utah. (Ralf Burgert, Share the Experience)
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.
Meadowood Grand Tour
Riders can test their skills along wooden skinnies and berms throughout the Progressive Bike Ramp. (Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA)
The Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of the Nation’s capital in Lorton, VA. The Meadowood Grand Tour offers nearly 7 miles (11 km) of biking trails open year round to the public, from sunrise to sunset. The South Branch Loop Trail is a beginner trail that totals 4.7 miles (7.5 km) of mixed use hiking and biking and is one of only a few natural surface trails open to mountain bikes on public land in the greater Washington, D.C. area. There are three intermediate trails that were constructed solely dedicated to mountain biking. The "Boss" and "Stinger" trails combine to provide 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of trail with a great deal of technical variety. They boast a 300 foot (91 m) Progressive Bike Ramp, multiple table tops, wooden skinnies, and large fast wooden berms. The "Yard Sale" is a very fun, fast free flowing trail that totals .67 miles (1.07 km).