JACKSON, WY – Last year, MTBparks.com launched the Riders’ Choice Awards via an online survey in an effort to identify the best North American bike parks—according to riders—in their respective regions. The idea was simple enough—rate bike parks according to categories like best flow, best features, best family destination, best for a weekend trip and so on. The overall results resulted in Top 5 rankings for eight distinct regions, and the goal—or so we thought—was to give passionate riders a chance to make their voices heard for what seemed like a worthy goal of providing valuable feedback to the resorts that were—or weren’t—giving riders the best experience.
This year, while many resorts fiercely defended their rankings, other resorts worked hard to put themselves on the map and stepped up a notch or two. As we compiled the results of this year’s survey and worked with bike parks across North America to gather information about what made them great, a larger picture began to come into focus.
We all ride bikes because it’s fun, and those of us that choose bike parks do so because they offer more smiles per mile than just about any other riding option. But the larger implications of these destinations that we rarely consider are the sense of community they provide for riders—this is readily evident in how passionately loyal some voters are to their favorite resorts—and the viable economic impact they have on not only the resorts themselves, but surrounding cities and towns.
The latter has caused ski resorts—many of which either put mountain biking on the backburner when it comes to allocating resources or haven’t given any credence to spinning lifts in the summer months—to sit up and pay attention as many regions continue to experience record lack of snowfall and dwindling ski pass sales. Mountain biking has the ability to build—and in some dramatic cases—save the mountain communities many of us love, whether we call them home or escape to them one weekend a year.
The Best Bike Parks in North America by Region
Mountain bikers are estimated to bring millions of dollars to riding destinations each season, funneling money into the local economies via lift tickets, lodging, beer, food and gas—and that’s still just a fraction of what ski towns bring in during the winter months (when there’s actually snow).
This sank in as I sat sipping a cold pint of frosty hops in a bar in Aspen, arguably the most iconic ski town in North America. Even during a relatively dry ski season, the joint was packed on a Wednesday night. And as I looked at a ski magazine on the wall and the ski passes stuck to the bar, I wondered about the possibilities of the equivalent bike town.
So, dear rider, why should you really care about a silly survey?
Sure, thanks to the survey, you can plan your summer riding trips knowing that this list represents the top bike parks in regions across North America—according to riders like you—who know these parks better than anyone else. Each of these top-rated mountain-bike parks in each region offers something unique. It goes without saying that a top-rated bike park in the Midwest is not going to provide the same experience as one might find in Western Canada, but it will provide you with a great experience and top notch riding in its respective region that's worth checking out.
But you are also helping to not only make your voice heard and provide resorts with the valuable feedback needed to improve existing infrastructures, but showing them that mountain bikers are a viable, dedicated base who should not be overlooked. This will only benefit us in having more options to ride for years to come, in places where we know we are welcome, the trails are built just for us and there’s a good chance that the guy next to you at the bar is as passionate about two wheels as you are—places with bike mags on the wall and MTBparks Passes stuck to it.
So, without further ado, we’ll step down from the soapbox and present the best bike parks in North America, as chosen by you, the riders. It is our hope that you’ll use this information to plan your next adventure, whether it’s a summer spent crossing the continent, or a weekend in the local mountains, and raise a glass to towns that celebrate two wheels.
by Don Stefanovich
This newly crowned east coast king was built by Gravity Logic, Inc., a fact made evident as the lush, green ferns of the deciduous forest disappear into your peripheral vision and the flow sculpted into the dark, tacky dirt somehow seems to multiply the 507 feet of vert. But don’t be fooled; tight, rocky singletrack and root staircases await those seeking a technical challenge.
Local Picks: You can sit on the patio at the T-Bar restaurant and enjoy some famous Sugarloaf Nachos or BBQ chicken and ribs with a cold pitcher while watching riders hit the last three tabletops of Supa Sweet before getting back on the lift.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “Sugar Daddy would be considered our signature trail. It was our first machine-excavated jump trail. It's a blue/intermediate trail packed with awesome jumps, step-ups, step-downs and our signature wooden feature, the wall ride. It's an intermediate run, so riders from novice to expert abilities ride this trail and have an exhilarating experience.”
What’s New: “We did several things last spring/summer to improve Sugarloaf Bike Park including rebuild existing features and added a few new features to Sugar Daddy and Supa Sweet. Ridgeline is a new top-to-bottom intermediate singletrack, and we also completed a new cross-country trail.”
3. Bromont, QC
Nestled in New Hampshire just 90 minutes north of Boston, there’s a good reason top pros plan trips around this park and it appears in countless edits and photoshoots. Known for its massive features and slopestyle lines, Highland is a freerider’s paradise, but with an emphasis on progression, it’s also a great place for the novice to get comfortable and up their game.
Local Picks: If you venture into the town of Tilton there is plenty to choose from, but the locals prefer the Tilt’n Diner (good for late night eats and hangover breakfasts) and Tilton House of Pizza.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “Highland caters to all abilities and each trail offers a solid platform for riders to progress. NE Style is probably our best-known advanced trail, while Cat’s Paw is great for intermediate riders and Central Park is a beginner favorite.”
What’s New: “Our Highland Trails team built an entire new beginner area located easily from the base lodge called Central Park. This area is designed for beginners of any age (including kids on balance bikes) to get comfortable with mountain bike terrain and flow style trails. We’ve built mini features of stuff you would find on the mountain.”
1. Highland, NH
3. Burke, VT
Located just over an hour from the bustling metropolis of Manhattan, Mountain Creek is a well-built resort on which the valuable—and often limited—real estate of Northeastern elevation is used to its full potential. With 40 miles of trail etched into just over 1,000 feet of vert, this Beast of the East offers a progressive riding experience with something for everyone, but is classically known as big bike territory.
Local Picks: Every Thursday in the summer Mountain Creek hosts its Thursday Night Race League with cash-in-the-hat fun races followed by karaoke and food and drink specials in the Biergarten until 11 p.m.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “The trail called Alpine is widely known as a must-ride during each visit. With a secondary ride line added last year, guests can create their own unique path to put on a show for the spectators riding the cabriolet directly above. Even though Alpine is rated as an advanced trail, the overall flow allows intermediate riders to enjoy the terrain, making it a fan favorite amongst all skill level riders. This trail includes both man-made wall rides and natural dirt features.”
What’s New: “Last season we put a lot of effort into improving the overall rider experience and trail flow for riders at all levels. We rebuilt the upper section of our beginner trail Green Horn, and we completely revamped one of our most popular blue freeride trails, Deviant. We also added in several new over/under merges to keep the traffic flow moving for all.”
2. Snowshoe, WV
4. Bryce, VA
5. Launch, PA
The Midwest isn’t known for its towering mountain peaks, so in order to build a lift-served, downhill destination behind the Cheddar Curtain, The Rock Sports Complex wound its ribbon of singletrack down a reclaimed landfill—but don’t let that put you off. These trails offer undulating, sustained descents uncommon in this slice of the States.
Local Picks: DiMaggio’s delivers stone-fired pizzas via a customized bike to riders anywhere on The Rock grounds.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “Our riders enjoy spending time on all of our trails but the most talked about trail is Tapeworm, our black flow line. A big part of that is because of how well the whole trail flows and each jump is pitched just right for effortless air.”
What’s New: “Last year we built a skills park designed around the beginner rider. It’s a progressive style park that can take the most novice rider and build their skills in a controlled and non-intimidating environment. Our Skills Park incorporates components like berm turns, beginner flow trails, balance features, progression features, log features, rock gardens, drop sections, jumplines and much more.”
1. The Rock, WI
Perched high in the Rockies and just a short drive from Colorado’s Front Range, Trestle is working hard to brand itself “Bike Park U.S.A.,” and it shows. With more than 40 miles of trails, built features and manicured runs are what this park is known for. Other resorts in the region offer more in the way of tech, but you can still find plenty of pucker factor here, and for an overall world-class bike park destination, Trestle should be on your short list.
Local Picks: The Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café near the lifts is a rider favorite, and and Library Brewery in town is known for its catalog of brews, while Pepe Osaka’s serves up fish tacos and tequila.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “It’s hard to narrow them all down because each trail has qualities that make it unique, but if you were to ask riders, they’d probably say Cruel and Unusual because it combines natural features with those that are man-made. The result is a trail that is challenging and a lot of fun. It also features nine switchbacks to keep riders on their toes! Honorable mentions include Rainmaker, which offers up massive jumps and the venerable Trestle DH for those looking for steep and technical.”
What’s New: “The newest addition trail-wise is Banana Peel, a pro-line slopestyle trail that includes a massive, stomach-churning wooden jump. Banana Peel provides some of the largest and most technically demanding pro-line features in the United States.”
2. Canyons, UT
3. Keystone, CO
With a summit elevation of nearly 11,000 feet just below a dormant volcano, Angel Fire offers a truly unique riding destination in Northern New Mexico. Forget the images of arid desert the state name conjurs; this returning Best of the Southwest resort is a forested gem featuring a variety of soil and weather including a monsoon season that allows builders to do amazing things with the dirt. Trails range from North Shore-inspired skinnies to massive jump lines, manicured flow and boulderiffic World Cup-esque superchunk.
Local Picks: Locals know the party is in the parking lot, and now you won't have to go far after a long day on the hill and après session. There is camping for only $15 per night on the Southwest corner of Vail and Squaw Valley, a rider favorite. The Sunset Grille and Pub ‘N Grub are popular watering holes, and Angel Fired Pizza in town is prime for a post-ride pitcher and pie.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “Boulder Dash. Think A-line with the volume turned down a bit. This fun blue jump trail has really great flow and the jumps are built perfect. The trail is over two miles in length with over 100 berms and over 80 jumps—it is sure to not disappoint.”
What’s New: “Hungry Hippo is a modern, progressive black jump trail; the trail crew went all out on this one and created one for the crowd without boundaries. This trail has huge hip-jumps that are moderate in size on the short side and huge on the outside (hence the name hungry hippo). This trail is impressive in scope as it is the largest built black trail in North America. Think supercross meets downhill.”
2. Mammoth, CA
5. Pajarito, NM
Featuring North America’s longest gondola serving 3,400 feet of ridable vert, SIlver Mountain’s short lines, long runs, dense forests and mix of tacky, loamy (and sometimes dusty) soil make it a surreal—yet relatively unknown—riding destination that should be on your radar regardless of what corner of the country you call home. Even advanced riders won’t want to skip the blue trails here—they offer some of the most fun on the mountain regardless of your ability.
Local Picks: Breakfast at Mountain Café is a morning tradition; Matt makes the best breakfast around and will smoke you downhill. Dollar slices at Wildcat Pizza between laps take care of lunch and Noah’s Canteen is the place to be for dinner and beers on the patio. There are plenty of places to camp locally and the grocery store is just down the street.
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “The Hammer is the original downhill trail at Silver Mountain. We rebuilt the Upper Hammer at the end of 2014, so we’re excited to try out all the new stuff his year. It crisscrosses the gondola line and features a wall ride as well as big berms, road gaps, tabletops and plenty of places to get sideways. If you’re going big, you might as well do it in front of a gondola full of people.”
What’s New: “The addition of new trails like Frankenbeans, Secret Squirrel and Cool Neatness really added some great variety to our trail system. We made a big effort to build tech trails the last two years and people have been loving it. We also spent a lot of time rebuilding existing trails and really trying to round out the riding experience. New signage and mapping were also crucial this year; with 3,400 vertical feet it’s important that riders can find their way around. It was really a whole new place by the end of the 2014 season.”
5. Big Sky, MT
Perhaps the best-known bike park in the world, it’s no surprise Whistler reclaims its number one rank. The trail crew here is top notch—builds and signage are some of the most accurate and consistent we’ve encountered. With everything from burly big-mountain lines, to titanic tabletops and silky smooth singletrack, this mountain makes the most of its natural and often rocky terrain. There truly is something for everyone, so beginners shouldn’t be discouraged by the pros in the lift line, but are encouraged to ease into it; the black trails here are probably harder than the ones back home.
Local Picks: Locals’ pick is Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill (GLC) on a Wednesday after the ‘Phat Wednesday’ race. When the lifts stop spinning, riders migrate to El Furniture Warehouse, aka El Furny, for poutine and pints. Did we mention all food on the menu is $4.95 CAD?
FROM THE BIKE PARK
Signature Trail: “If we had to pick one trail to represent the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, it would have to be A-Line because it was the first trail of its kind and really put the concept of lift-assisted biking on the map.”
What’s New: “In 2014 we gave back to the high-end rider with the addition of a new upper section of Dirt Merchant and the return of Clown Shoes in a more modern incarnation.”
1. Whistler, BC
5. Fernie, BC