Why drive to the trailhead when you can pitch a tent or park your van within riding distance of the trail? We rounded up 20 of the best places in the U.S. where you can mountain bike right from your campsite.
Picture this: You’re on a camping and mountain biking road trip and life is good. Your biggest goals for each day are to find a scenic place to post up for the night and to ride a fun trail. Sure, you could camp in one place and ride in another, but things get extra dreamy when you’re literally camping in the same general zone as the trails. When you’re posted up close to the trailhead, that means you don’t have to break down camp each morning or load bikes onto racks or sort out who’s shuttling who. You can just pedal off from camp and skip the car entirely.
But finding a campsite that’s riding distance to high-quality mountain bike trails is harder than it sounds. So, we’re taking some of the homework out of it for you and sharing a few of our favorite places to camp where you can ride directly from your campsite. We’ve separated these campsites into three main categories: public campgrounds, private campgrounds, and dispersed camping. Here’s what to expect from each.
Public Campgrounds Where You Can Bike From Camp
Not many national parks allow mountain biking. A few of them do—places like Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio and New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia have been forward-thinking about inviting mountain bikers in. But most national parks that allow cyclists limit riders to dirt roads and off the singletrack that’s reserved for hiking.
But state parks have a slightly different story. Across the U.S., you’ll find a lot of state parks with growing trail systems and purpose-built mountain bike trails, all within easy access from the park campgrounds.
The beauty of a state park campground? It’s affordable, it’s clean and well maintained, and it comes with basic amenities like fire pits, picnic tables, bathrooms, and trash cans. The downsides of a state park campground? They can be crowded and tough to reserve a campsite, especially at popular spots. Which means you need to get online early and book ahead.
That said, here are some of our favorite state park campgrounds, state recreation areas, and a few reservable National Forest campgrounds where mountain biking is right out the tent door.State Park Campgrounds
Privately-Owned Campgrounds With Trail Access
These days, a growing number of private landowners are opening their land up to campers via sites like Hipcamp, Tentrr, and Harvest Hosts. The upside to these spots is that you’re likely away from crowded public campgrounds, in a more secluded campsite, and these sites often have more availability when the popular state parks are sold out. The cost is usually higher, but you’ll also get upgraded amenities, like hot showers, canvas tents, or propane fire pits. Some of these places are literally in the host’s backyard, so be prepared to mingle with your host. (Maybe they’ll recommend their favorite nearby trail.)
There are also a lot of great privately-owned campgrounds out there. Unlike a government-run campsite, you’ll likely have on-site staff, a few more amenities (like: a pool or a bike washing station, perhaps?), and better cancellation policies if you need to change plans at the last minute. Again, the price will be higher per night than a state park, but you’re getting a bit more bang for your buck.
Here are seven great private campgrounds with stellar access to mountain biking.Private Campgrounds
Dispersed Camping Near Mountain Bike Trails
America has a vast amount of public lands, and we’re very lucky to be able to enjoy all those wild places. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows dispersed camping for up to 14 days in allotted areas through the West, and a lot of national forests around the country also allow free, primitive camping outside of designated campgrounds.
The real perks to dispersed camping are a) it’s free, with no reservations needed and b) you’re out in the woods, enjoying a real wilderness experience on your own. But dispersed camping comes with major responsibilities, too. Leave no trace principles apply, so pack out what you packed in (that means all waste!). Follow all fire guidelines, which means no fires if there’s a fire ban (seriously). And you won’t get things like a picnic table, water spigots, toilets, or trash removal. You’re really on your own out there, so take care of the place and leave it better than you found it.
Finding dispersed camping near mountain bike trails can be tricky—you’re not allowed to camp overnight at trailheads, in most places, but if you’re savvy, you can find Forest Service roadways with pre-established dispersed sites or BLM land that’s riding distance to the trail network. We’re not going to tell you exactly where to go dispersed camping—that’s up to you and discovering the perfect spot is part of the fun—but we’ll tell you some general zones near mountain biking where, if you look around, you might find a good spot.Dispersed Camping