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.

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.

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.

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.

bootleg canyon

Boot­leg 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.

White Sands National monument

White Sands National monumentThere’s some­thing spe­cial about sand: it’s soft, invit­ing, and it squish­es between your toes (but not in a dis­gust­ing way). Made up of par­ti­cles that are too light to be moved by wind but too heavy to remain sus­pend­ed in the air, sand forms dunes in areas with cer­tain geol­o­gy, the right wind con­di­tions, and spe­cial­ized topog­ra­phy. Flo­ra and fau­na adapt to live in the desert-like con­di­tions, and spec­tac­u­lar and del­i­cate land­scapes are made.

But beau­ty aside, there’s anoth­er rea­son to vis­it your local sand dune: sled­ding! Some say sled­ding on sand is actu­al­ly bet­ter than slid­ing on snow. Leave the snow saucer at home, because sand can rip up the plas­tic. Instead, rent or buy a board made of high-den­si­ty ther­mo­plas­tic, which is less like­ly to get gauged. For good slid­ing, look for a slope with an angle of at least 20 degrees. To go pro-style, pick up a puck of sand­board wax, and apply it to the bot­tom of your board between sled­ding missions.

White Sands Nation­al Mon­u­ment, New Mexico
15 miles south­west of Alam­ogor­do, New Mex­i­co, White Sands Nation­al Mon­u­ment is one of the most unique sand dunes in the world because the dunes are made of gyp­sum, rather than the more-com­mon quartz. The result? 275 square miles of glis­ten­ing marsh­mal­low-col­ored plains. At an ele­va­tion of 4,235 feet in the north­ern end of the Chi­huahuan Desert in the Tularosa Basin, the area stays rel­a­tive­ly cool in the sum­mer, mak­ing it an ide­al des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies and hard-core explor­ers alike. There’s easy camp­ing, end­less hik­ing, and an infor­ma­tive visitor’s cen­ter with infor­ma­tion­al tours. For some local his­to­ry, read up on the near­by White Sands Mis­sile Range.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah
Nes­tled in the south­east cor­ner of Zion Nation­al Park are the Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab, Utah. The sand was made by erod­ed Nava­jo sand­stone and gets its strik­ing hue from iron oxide, but it’s only one shade in a land­scape filled with rich col­ors: vibrant blue skies, lush green forests, red sand­stone cliffs. This recre­ation area has a nature trail, options for camp­ing, and more than 2,000 acres that are open to off-road vehi­cles. Just bring plen­ty of water, which isn’t read­i­ly avail­able locally.

The Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
Col­orado boasts the tallest dunes in North Amer­i­ca. The Great Sand Dunes Nation­al Park spreads across almost 40 square miles in the San Luis Val­ley of Col­orado, and the tallest hill, Star Dune, ris­es 750 feet above the dune floor. With the San­gre de Cristo Moun­tains on one side of the val­ley and the San Juan Moun­tains on the oth­er, locals call this area “mag­nif­i­cent.” As one local says, “I can’t imag­ine a bet­ter place to take my kids. We talk about the ani­mals and plants who have evolved to live in the sand, the kid’s sled, and my wife and I get to feel sand between our toes.”

Eure­ka Dunes, California
These dunes are locat­ed in the remote Eure­ka Val­ley, an enclosed basin that lies north­west of Death Val­ley at an ele­va­tion of 3,000 feet. The Eure­ka Dunes are not a par­tic­u­lar­ly large dune field, cov­er­ing an area only three miles long and one mile wide, but they are the tallest sand dunes in Cal­i­for­nia and the sec­ond tallest dunes in North Amer­i­ca. The steep-sloped dunes rise more than 680 feet above the dry lakebed at their west­ern base, in front of the back­drop of the 4,000-foot Last Chance Mountains.