From Tahoe to Park City to Oakridge, we’ve picked our favorite classic trails to ride at this time of year.
Don’t get us wrong: We like mountain biking any time of year. Spring, summer, fall—it’s all good. But there’s something special about riding your bike through the woods in the fall. Temperatures are cooler, leaves are turning golden shades of red and orange, and mountain biking feels like good conditioning for the ski season ahead. To celebrate the fall mountain biking season, we’ve polled our team and staff for some of their favorite trails to ride in the fall. Many of these require a shuttle and some advance planning; all of these trails require experience and responsible practices. (Want to help out with your local trails? Here’s how to get involved.)
Whole Enchilada, Moab, Utah
The Whole Enchilada is a legitimate undertaking. At 27 miles with over 7,500 feet of descending, it’s one of Moab’s most technical, full-on rides. You’ll take a shuttle deep into the La Sal Mountains to reach the start. Peak season here is October and November—if you ride this too late in the fall, there could be snow at the top; ride it too early and it could be scorching hot. Book a shuttle with the Whole Enchilada Shuttle Company ($40), bring plenty of water, and be sure to do your research on the trail and current conditions before you go.
Monarch Crest Trail, Salida, Colorado
You’ll start his iconic, high-altitude ride on Monarch Pass and ride for a good stretch along the Continental Divide. The Monarch Crest Trail is 36 miles with 5,800 feet of flowy, fun downhill, plus 2,000 feet of climbing. The high-alpine views from the crest are outstanding. Book a shuttle with High Valley Bike Shuttle ($39), which picks up in Poncha Springs. This ride is best from July through September; be sure to check snow conditions if you’re planning to head there outside of that window.
Tahoe Rim Trail, Incline, Nevada
There are so many great bikeable sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail, but our favorite come fall is riding from Mt. Rose Meadows to Chimney Beach. Important to know: Mountain bikes are only allowed to ride this section of trail on even-numbered calendar days, so please respect those regulations put in place by land managers. The trail itself covers 19 miles and descends 3,700 feet (with plenty of climbing, too). You’ll start at the trailhead on Highway 431, the Mt. Rose Highway, and end on the east shore of Lake Tahoe at Chimney Beach. Book a shuttle to the top of Mt. Rose with Flume Trail Mountain Bikes ($20) and make sure you leave a car at Chimney Beach.
South Boundary Trail, Taos, New Mexico
The South Boundary Trail is an International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) Epic, and for good reason. With 21 stunning miles and 4,300 feet down (as well as 2,000 feet up), it’s often considered one of New Mexico’s best cross-country mountain bike trails, a rolling funfest through the Sangre de Cristo Range. The groves of aspen trees along the route come to life in the fall. Book a ride with Shuttle Taos ($47). A section of the trail is currently closed, so check the latest conditions and opening status before you go.
The Womble, Mount Ida, Arkansas
Arkansas is officially on the map as a mountain biking destination and the Womble Trail was the first ride deemed an IMBA Epic in the state. You’ll cross 35 miles through the Ouachita Mountain Range in southwest Arkansas, crossing the Ouachita National Recreation Trail along the way. The trail climbs over 4,000 feet and descends about the same. You could plan an out-and-back ride or coordinate a shuttle for a one-way route. Ouachita River Haven offers shuttles, as well as camping and cabin rentals.
Government Trail, Aspen, Colorado
There’s something undeniably fun about biking within a ski area before the snow flies. You get to scope your lines before winter, pick up treasures (or trash) left behind by skiers, and enjoy the quiet before the storm. Riding from Snowmass to Aspen via the Government Trail is a fall favorite, thanks to changing aspen leaves and perfect temperatures. You’ll start at Snowmass, then ride 14 miles and climb 2,000 feet on dreamy, flowy singletrack through Buttermilk ski area and into downtown Aspen. Take the public bus back.
Downieville Downhill, Downieville, California
This one is hardly a secret, but it’s so fun we have to include it. For the Downieville Downhill, you’ll drop some 5,000 feet, across 15 curvy miles, from the top of Packer Saddle in the scenic Sierra Buttes to the charming old mining town of Downieville. Book a shuttle with Downieville Outfitters ($35), and you can grab coffee or post-ride food from the coffee shop next door.
Wasatch Crest Trail, Park City, Utah
You can’t beat the panoramic views from the ridgeline of the Wasatch Crest Trail, a 13-mile one-way route that connects Big Cottonwood Canyon with Park City. There are a few ways to tackle this ride that don’t involve a shuttle, but the plush way to do it is by starting with a shuttle to the top of Guardsman Pass. Check conditions before you go; if an early snowfall comes in the fall, this ride becomes impassable. Big Rack Shuttle leads multiple shuttles a day ($18.50) during the peak season.
Slate Valley, Poultney, Vermont
One of our team’s favorite trails in Vermont right now is the network of more than 50 miles of singletrack in Slate Valley, in the southwestern part of the state. The trails there are mostly the brainchild of master trail builder Hardy Avery, a cofounder of the Stowe Mountain Bike Club and longtime trail builder who’s known for his trails around Waterbury and Stowe. You can ride short, kid-friendly loops from the Fairgrounds trailhead or go for a climb from the Endless Brook trailhead. Use Trailforks to find your way around.
Alpine Trail, Oakridge, Oregon
You’ll have lots of options for world-class rides around the mountain bike mecca of Oakridge, but the Alpine Trail is a must-ride. From the trailhead, you’ll descend 13 miles and 4,000 feet, with 1,200 feet of climbing through old-growth forest, ending near the shoreWillamette s of the north fork of the River. (We’ve got a tip for a rad Hipcamp cabin nearby.) Book a shuttle or guided ride with Cogwild (from $20), which drives shuttles to the Alpine Trail from May through October.