The Steamboat Bike Park and Emerald Mountain have helped Steamboat Springs become a must-hit fat tire destination. Photo courtesy Joel Reichenberger
Looking to plan your next mountain biking vacation? You're in luck, the list that follows has a host of suitable landing spots sure to fulfill your wildest fat tire dreams. From sweet backcountry singletrack, to fabulous flow trails, to comprehensive ride centers, it's all here. Just add you and a bike for guaranteed fun.
This ultimate vacation destination list comes courtesy of our friends at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (better known as IMBA), who just wrapped up their biennial World Summit in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Part of the five-day powwow included awarding this year's most acclaimed mountain bike locales with the prestigious IMBA Model Trail Awards, which encompasses epic rides, full-service ride centers, flow trails and community bike parks. Honorees were a wide ranging bunch that stretched from Arkansas to Wyoming to Australia to Canada to a whole lot of amazing places in between.
(Find out why The Angry Singlespeeder says you're "not a real mountain biker" if you're not an IMBA member.)
But before we dive into the list of winners, we'd be remiss not to give a big shout-out to this year's World Summit host locale. We were among the fortunate 400 or so attendees who got to spend time riding in and around Steamboat Springs. Known as Bike Town USA (they've even trademarked the phrase), Steamboat was named a bronze-level ride center in 2013 thanks in part to all those trails (nearly 200 miles total), plus a thriving IMBA chapter (the Routt County Riders) which helped build many of those trails.
Steamboat's Emerald Mountain has 50 miles of singletrack and more than two dozen named trails. Photo courtesy Corey Kopischke
And while the weather didn't always cooperate during our stay, the vast abundance of trails more than delivered. The full-face gravity crowd was satiated by the emerging Steamboat Bike Park (50 miles of trails), while XC disciples could spend days ripping around the serpentine singletrack on nearby Emerald Mountain, which has more than two dozen named trails that covers another 50 miles.
Perhaps even more impressive, last November local voters approved more than $5 million in lodging tax proceeds to go directly toward building more trails. No surprise that when it came time for IMBA to pick this year's World Summit host, Steamboat beat out 15 other locations, including fellow Colorado mountain bike Meccas, Breckenridge and Crested Butte.
Now onto the IMBA award winners with text courtesy of IMBA and its communications czar Mark Eller. Also be sure to check back to Mtbr later this week to read about the heated debate surrounding electric mountain bikes, as well as a wide-ranging interview with Eller that touches on everything from fatbike access issues to why IMBA might not be the organization you thought it was. (Find out how to join here.)
Continue to Page 2 to learn about this year's IMBA Model Trail award winners »
The City of Bentonville has more than 40 miles of bike trails within city limits, 20 of which are natural-surface. Photo courtesy IMBA
2014 RIDE CENTERS
The IMBA Ride Center designation represents IMBA's Model Trail recognition for large-scale mountain bike facilities that offer something for every rider. Bring your full arsenal of bikes to these destination-worthy areas. From backcountry adventures to shuttle-served gravity trails, and from expert-only to family-friendly, you'll encounter the best the sport has to offer. IMBA staff selects candidates for Ride Centers recognition on an invitation-only basis. The Ride Center designation represents IMBA's recognition of large-scale mountain bike destinations that offer a wide range of great trails for every riding style. Ride Centers not only invite you to plan a multi-day trip with your full quiver of mountain bikes and the whole family, they take care of you both on and off the trail by being places where mountain bikers are welcomed. (Text descriptions courtesy Mark Eller/IMBA.)
BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS, SILVER
The City of Bentonville has more than 40 miles of bike trails within city limits, 20 of which are natural-surface. What sets it apart is that the majority of Bentonville's singletrack trails link directly to its urban trail system, allowing mountain bikers easy access to the city's amenities, including bike stations with air pumps and repair tools, shower facilities and Wi-Fi "check-in" spots. Trail highlights include the Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Trail, a 14-mile system featuring everything from beginner trails to a designated free ride area with log rides, rock drops, big jumps and wall rides. Nearby Hobbs State Park offers 24 miles of trails on a 12,000-acre property. Additionally, the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau has designated bicycle tourism as a priority and works in partnership with Friends at Slaughter (Pen) Trails to offer multiple race, ride and skills clinic events throughout the year.
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, SILVER
Santa Fe hosts a vibrant art community, unique festivals such as the Spanish and Indian Market, a world-renowned opera, and beautiful scenery. Numerous, well-signed rides can be accessed from downtown, or tackle the "Big Friggin Loop," a 68-mile trail and dirt road ride that is part of the grassroots New Mexico Endurance Series. Bring your dirt jumper and visit the Bike Skills Park of La Tierra to session its dirt jumps and unique freeride trails that wind in and out of juniper trees. Then gear up for a stunningly scenic singletrack ride through pine and aspen stands, up long climbs and down fast descents on the 10-mile Winsor Trail, which starts above 10,000 feet. Head northeast from town and you'll find the Angelfire Bike Park, where 60 miles of lift-accessed trails await. End your day sipping brews from one of five Santa Fe breweries.
British Columbia's Silver Star Resort has 30 miles of downhill trails, and another 30 of superb cross-country singletrack. Photo courtesy IMBA
SILVER STAR RESORT, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA, SILVER
Silver Star is well known for its more than 30 miles of outstanding downhill trails in and around the resort. In addition, a 30-mile singletrack trail network is nearing completion. This network will attract more riders to the area and give provide a place to ride both excellent downhill and cross-county trails on the same day or same trip. The Okanagan Valley's warm summers mean that the resort's high-elevation singletrack will give riders of all styles a chance to escape summer heat.
TETON REGION, WYOMING/IDAHO, SILVER
Within 30 minutes of Victor, ID, you'll find the Grand Targhee Resort, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, greater Snow King area, and Teton Pass, providing enough trails to entertain for several days of riding. Beyond the resorts, you could spend weeks riding everything from bike parks and beginner-friendly trails to flowing purpose-built, downhill-specific trails. Numerous trail systems can be linked without getting in a car. The Teton Ride Center experience is also a lifestyle located in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, filled with a variety of outdoor adventures complemented by awe-inspiring views, wildlife, rivers, brewpubs, ethnic restaurants, live music and mountain culture.
TUCSON, ARIZONA, SILVER
The Tucson Region Ride Center offers a cactus-filled, sandy, rocky, desert mountain bike playground that you may never have heard of but absolutely must experience. With more than 400 miles of trails scattered throughout four mountain ranges surrounding the Tucson Valley, there's something for everyone, whether you want to put together a multi-day bikepacking trip, hit some dirt jumps, explore rolling rock playgrounds or spin smooth singletrack through stands of several-hundred-year-old saguaro cactus. Beginner, intermediate and advanced riders who want to explore, learn or just send it all have a place to play in the Tucson area.
ROARING FORK AND ASPEN SNOWMASS, COLORADO, BRONZE
The Elk Mountain Range that towers over the Aspen Snowmass area is renowned for rugged, glacier-carved valleys yielding to incredible high alpine views. This Ride Center offers challenging classics like the Government and Sunnyside Trails, bike-specific flow trails including Airline and Cozyline, an expanding lift-assisted gravity trail system at Snowmass, miles of traditional singletrack and interconnected bike paths. Premier events and activities make the area a world-class destination for nature, culture and trail lovers. Trail system improvements are continually opening up opportunities for new riders to experience the incredible forests and mountain views.
CHEQUAMEGON, WISCONSIN, BRONZE
Traversing the vast public lands of northwest Wisconsin, the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) trails offer the largest collection of singletrack rides in the Midwest at more than 80 miles, including the 31-mile Rock Lake IMBA Epic and 44 miles of continuous singletrack from Hayward to Cable. Trails range from easy riding through towering pines to rocky and rugged routes through glacier-sculpted forests, all of which can be combined for multi-day rides. In addition to the incredible natural beauty of the region, many trails include unique features such as the 60-foot armored drop called "Wall Street," a 180-foot log ride called "River Pig," and a 90-foot, 18-inch wide traverse called "No-Hands Bridge."
FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS, BRONZE
Fayetteville offers more than 50 miles of riding for all skill levels, with multiple trail systems near the heart of downtown. Special to the area are the trails of Mt. Kessler and Mt. Sequoyah, which offer a backcountry experience through the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains. Fayetteville has numerous amenities to offer: 4,000 acres of parks, more than 40 miles of paved trails, several bike shops and more than 300 restaurants in addition to an award-winning farmer's market, the Walton Arts Center and the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks.
MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN, BRONZE
The Marquette County Trails Network Ride Center consists of three separate clusters of trails totaling more than 50 miles of singletrack near the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Marquette South Trails feature the greatest variety, with 30 miles ranging from beginner-level singletrack to extreme, expert-level downhill courses. The Marquette North Trails focus on the natural beauty of the Dead River Valley and the Harlow Lake State Forest. There are several miles of easier trail near the Tourist Park trailhead in Marquette's city limits, while the Harlow Lake area features challenging freeride trails built on granite outcrops. Additionally, the Range Trails in nearby Ishpeming are highlighted by a number of tight, twisting trails that maximize the rugged terrain. Finally, certain trails in all three clusters are groomed for winter snow bike riding.
Endless sunshine and hundreds of miles of trails make the Valley of the Sun an ideal fat tire locale. Photo courtesy IMBA
VALLEY OF THE SUN, PHOENIX-SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA, BRONZE
The greater Phoenix and Scottsdale area is known for its 340 or more days of sunshine per year and perfect fall, winter and spring riding conditions. If you're cold and wet at home, plan an escape to the beautiful Sonoran Desert where you will find hundreds of miles of trails, stunning scenery, the largest urban preserve in the U.S. and very friendly locals. Bring the family and enjoy all the Valley of the Sun has to offer.
Continue to Page 3 to see this year's IMBA Epics »
Australia's 35-mile Alpine Epic Trail delivers a stunning journey through backcountry wild lands. Photo courtesy IMBA
IMBA has used the Epic designation for more than a decade. With the addition of new Model Trail classifications in recent years, IMBA has returned the Epics to the original intent of the designation - demanding, singletrack adventures in a natural setting. The current Epics celebrate true backcountry riding experiences that are technically and physically challenging, more than 80 percent singletrack and at least 20 miles in length. All of theses Epics offer amazing opportunities to interact with the natural world. (Text descriptions courtesy Mark Eller/IMBA.)
AUSTRALIAN ALPINE EPIC TRAIL, AUSTRALIA
Built by the resort team at Mt. Buller, the country's only Ride Center, this half- to full-day, 35-mile ride delivers a stunning journey through backcountry wild lands.
CANNELL TRAIL, SHERMAN PASS, CALIFORNIA
You'll need all of your lung capacity, plus technical skills, on this alpine Epic with steep, high-altitude climbs and long, rugged downhill sections. This 26-mile ride in the Sierra Mountains is remote and can take anywhere from three hours to a full day to complete. Highlights include scenic Cannell Meadow, views of Mt. Whitney and "The Plunge," a near-continuous descent of 5,000 feet. Shuttle the Cannell Trail and prepare for multiple changes in climate zones as you descend from 10,000 feet to 2,600 feet. (Read more about the Cannell Trail in our Ultimate Base Camp Series.)
California's 26-mile Cannell Trail in the Sierra Mountains is remote and can take anywhere from three hours to a full day to complete. Photo courtesy IMBA
GOODWATER TRAIL, LAKE GEORGETOWN, TEXAS
The Goodwater Trail is a 26-mile loop around Lake Georgetown (near Austin) offering sweeping views of the lake as it weaves through cedar stands and cactus-strewn fields of limestone. The hills are minimal but the trail is very technical, with tire-shredding rock gardens and plenty of challenge. The route travels through five parks, three of which have water and camping available, and all of which have convenient trailheads, making this Epic supremely easy to access.
GRAND TARGHEE LOOP, WYOMING
Prepare for solitude in the Tetons and an escape from the summer's heat on this ride that begins and ends conveniently at the Grand Targhee Resort. The Grand Targhee Loop is 25 miles on 100-percent singletrack. It features a mix of smooth, intermediate-friendly trail with plenty of technical sections to keep skilled riders alert and excited. The route winds through alpine meadows blanketed in wildflowers, forests of pine and aspen trees and jaw-dropping views of the Tetons.
LAKE OUACHITA VISTA TRAIL, ARKANSAS
The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, also known as "The LOViT", offers 45 miles of singletrack along the southern shore of Lake Ouachita in west-central Arkansas. Each section of the trail has its own unique character, and riders of all skill levels are challenged by the heart-pumping ascents and long, rewarding descents of five mountains. The trail provides a deep woods experience that includes panoramic views of Lake Ouachita and its emerald islands, a long section through a high-canopy forest of ancient hardwood and pines and an array of wildflowers. The trail is easily accessed, featuring 13 trailheads, nine campgrounds and six lakeside resorts.
UPPER BUFFALO, ARKANSAS
The Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trail offers about 40 miles of singletrack surrounding the highest point in the Ozark Mountains. This gem of Midwest riding laces around the headwaters of the Buffalo National River on a mixture of narrow, hand-built singletrack and machine-cut flow trails. The ride is extremely remote and offers stunning scenery past steep cliffs, turquoise waterfalls, abundant wildlife and old-growth hardwood forests.
Continue to Page 4 to see where the best Flow Trails are »
Petzen, Austria, sits at about 1,000 meters high and provides about 6 miles of flowing riding terrain in a beautiful countryside setting. Photo courtesy IMBA
2014 FLOW TRAILS
As the sport of mountain biking has evolved over the past decades, it has driven the development of a new style of trail with features and concepts that push the limits of traditional singletrack. Flow trails are what you make them: leisurely rides with your kids where beginners can roll over dirt features and bypass technical ones, or an exploration of skills and airtime for fast, talented riders. (Text descriptions courtesy Mark Eller/IMBA.)
FLOW COUNTRY TRAIL PETZEN, KARNTEN, AUSTRIA
Petzen sits at about 1,000 meters high and provides about 6 miles of flowing riding terrain in a beautiful countryside setting. The trail was purpose-built for bikes and designed to stand up to serious rain while being environmentally and socially sound.
KASHMIR, WHITEFISH SKI RESORT, MONTANA
Kashmir is the highlight of the new trails at Whitefish. At 2.5 miles long, the trail descends 1,684 vertical feet along the western ridge of the mountain, joining several existing trails. Kashmir intersects the Summit Trail six times, meaning you can start small and work your way up to including more advanced sections.
SADDLE UP, SUN VALLEY, IDAHO
A world-class ride at a world-class ski resort, this 4-mile trail was created to provide a fun and friendly experience in the Sawtooth Mountains. The grades are tame and the rollers are smooth, but experienced riders seeking airtime need only to stay off the brakes.
SUPERFLOW TRAIL, CZECH REPUBLIC
In about 6 miles, Superflow provides eight unique sections, each with their own character. Big grade reversals, berms, rollers, drops, jumps and stone steps pepper the constantly changing terrain.
Continue to Page 5 to learn about the best community bike parks »
Boulder, Colorado's famed Alpine Bike Park has everything from slopestyle to a dedicated cyclocross track. Photo courtesy Alpine Bike Parks
2014 COMMUNITY BIKE PARKS
IMBA added recognition of Community Bike Parks to its Model Trail awards to recognize an important and emerging category of trail design. Well-designed bike parks accommodate a variety of skill levels, with progressive features and flow-based designs that encourage cyclists of all abilities, on all kinds of bikes, to ride together and learn from one another in the same space, at the same time. Don't miss IMBA's forthcoming book, Bike Parks: IMBA's Guide to New School Trails, to be released this fall.(Text descriptions courtesy Mark Eller/IMBA.)
ROCKBURN BRANCH SKILLS PARK, ELKRIDGE, MD
The 450-acre Rockburn Branch Skills Park has emerged as a gem for riders in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metro area. The Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (local IMBA chapter), Howard County Maryland and IMBA Trail Solutions created public-private partnerships with REI, CLIF Bar, Diamondback, Columbia and local businesses to ensure the completion of this project. Features of the park include a 5,000-square-foot pump track with a low-risk circuit for a wide range of skills; a flow trail that includes small rollers, berms, table-tops, berms and rock drops; a descending trail with an emphasis on technical log and rock features; a steep, rock-armored climbing trail; and an easy uphill return trail that takes riders back to the top. The crafted technical features mirror the gnarly Appalachian Mountain riding that riders encounter on nearby trails, including Patapsco State Park, to which Rockburn connects. Rockburn opened in June 2012.
VALMONT BIKE PARK, BOULDER, CO
Valmont Bike Park wasn't opened until 2011, but the park's history goes back to 1996 when passionate local cyclists began advocating that a plot of land near the airport be developed into a bike facility. The 40-acre park is easily accessed by the 200,000 people in the Boulder area, and attracts visitors from around the globe. The park was uniquely designed for both public day-to-day recreational use, programming, special events and world-class races.
Valmont Bike Park features two pump tracks, a dual slalom course, five progressive slopestyle lines, five progressive dirt jump lines, two staircase run-ups and a sandpit for cyclocross racing, a large network of beginner and intermediate singletrack trails with optional technical lines, a skills loop, a "tot track" for tricycles and push-bikes, a playground, event plaza, bike tool station, restrooms and picnic areas.
Valmont Bike Park is managed by the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department, just like public baseball fields and other traditional public play spaces. City management deploys a professional maintenance staff to ensure a consistent, high-quality experience for visitors. The park regularly hosts city planners and bicycle industry representatives from across the U.S. and around the world who come to glimpse a next-generation bicycle facility.