The Best Mountain Bike Trails in the American Southwest

The American Southwest is one of the most adventure-endowed regions in the world, and when it comes to mountain biking, few other places can compare. Whether you’re looking for downhill, singletrack, or just an excuse to see some awesome scenery, the American Southwest won’t leave you disappointed.

moab utahThe Whole Enchilada—Moab, Utah
If you happen to find yourself in Moab, you can basically point your mountain bike in any direction and find some amazing rides. Considered one of the best mountain biking destinations in North America, if not the world, Moab contains the right combination of out-of-this-world scenery, a wide range of high-desert riding and canyon cruising, and a welcoming community that really ties everything together. Throw in all the other excitement that Moab has to offer, including two nearby National Parks and plenty of public land for camping, and this Southwest destination can keep your wheels turning and your wanderlust satisfied for years to come.

While routes like the Slickrock Bike Trail and the Moab Rim Trail are worth checking out during your visit, if you want to get a taste of everything Moab offers, the Whole Enchilada Trail encompasses multiple different trail sections and scenery for an incredible ride. Including more than 25 miles of riding, spanning the distance between the top of the La Sal Mountains and the banks of the Colorado River, the Whole Enchilada is not for the light-hearted or first-time rider. Shuttles are nearly a must to access this trail, and winter riding atop the La Sal Mountains is pretty much out of the question, making for late shoulder seasons and summer the best time to take a bite out of the Whole Enchilada.

black canyonBlack Canyon Trail—Phoenix, Arizona
Touted as the Arizona Outback, the Black Canyon mountain bike trail system entices many riders from Phoenix and beyond to explore the treasure trove of trails found at the base of the Bradshaw Mountains. Paralleling the boundary of the Prescott National Forest, the Black Canyon trail encompasses more than 60 miles of trail, with plenty of access to explore the whole thing over a handful of weekends. Riders on the Black Canyon Trail can expect to cruise by saguaro cacti, sprawling sagebrush and many other distinct features of the Sonoran Desert, giving riders ample opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery. With so many miles to choose from, and a seemingly endless desert environment to contend with, it’s best to carry some knowledge of the area or the appropriate guidance to help you navigate the desert landscapes safely.

white mesaWhite Mesa Bike Trails—Albuquerque, New Mexico
Located just about 50 miles north of the bike-friendly community of Albuquerque, the White Mesa bike trails await with otherworldly surroundings to explore. Featuring a dazzling display of desert geology, riders can expect to navigate through an environment of vibrant colors, rocky outcroppings and fast-flowing singletrack. With just over eight miles of trails to explore, experienced riders can make the White Mesa a quick morning route, but if you have time, the enticing terrain and far-away feeling of this remote riding will encourage you to stay longer. White Mesa is an excellent winter riding option, as opposed to the summer months when the heat can be stifling and dangerous, making these New Mexico mountain biking trails a great way to battle the winter blues.

bootleg canyonBootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park—Boulder City, Nevada
Located not far from the glimmering lights of the Las Vegas strip, Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park is an internationally known destination for downhill, cross-country and some of the most fun you can have on a mountain bike. Featuring more than 36 miles of interconnecting trails that meander through desert landscapes, with occasional glimpses at the sparkling waters of Lake Mead, all levels of riders can find something to challenge themselves at Bootleg Canyon. Boulder City’s full-service bike shop, All Mountain Cyclery, provides shuttles to the top of the downhill sections throughout the year, making for a fast way to understand why the International Mountain Bicycling Association has dubbed Bootleg Canyon one of their EPIC Rides.

Odessa Mountain Bike Park—Odessa, Texas
Created and operated by the Permian Basin Bicycle Association (PBBA), the Odessa Mountain Bike park provides a slice of singletrack heaven amidst a desert landscape. To explore the nine miles of trails found at the Odessa Mountain Bike Park, you must wear a helmet and you also must be a member of the PBBA ($25/year). Pay your dues though, and you’ll quickly see the value. Featuring two abandoned caliche pits that define many of the sprawling intermediate routes, and some flowy elevation changes, the Odessa Mountain Bike park also has a beginner loop that encircles the entire property. Connecting from there, more experienced riders can hit obstacles like rock gardens and ridgelines, showing everyone who visits the Odessa Mountain Bike Park a good time.

Turkey Springs / Brockover Mesa Area—Pagosa Springs, Colorado
While it might be up to some debate whether southern Colorado can be considered the American Southwest, if one thing can be agreed upon, it’s that the southern foothills of the Rocky Mountains contain excellent mountain biking. No better example of that can be found than the town and community of Pagosa Springs, about 50 miles north of the New Mexico border, which boasts an impressive number of trail systems nearby. If you are new to the Pagosa Springs area, or are just looking for a well-tested classic, the Turkey Springs / Brockover Mesa area in the nearby San Juan National Forest is right for you. Featuring more than 100 miles of trails to explore and link up, even if this isn’t part of the American Southwest, this little slice of Rocky Mountain riding is well worth exploring.