Best Mountain Biking Trails in California

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If you’re looking for some adrenaline rush, look no further than the mountain biking trails in California. From the steep and rocky ascents of Mount Diablo to Downieville’s fast and furious descents, California has the country’s most fulfilling mountain biking trails. The state’s varied terrain, beautiful landscapes, and mild climate make it a haven for mountain bikers of all skill levels.

Find Your Adrenaline Rush with These Must-Do Mountain Bike Trails in California

California is a haven for mountain bikers. With more than 4,000 miles of trails to explore, this region has no shortage of great riding. You can join in the fun from the scenic beauty of Death Valley National Park to the challenging terrain of Mount Tamalpais, no matter your skill level.

Whether you’re looking for a new favorite ride or curious about the history behind some of these routes, here are the best mountain bike trails you should try in California:

1.   Death Valley National Park Trails

Death Valley National Park has mountain biking trails that test your skill and endurance as you race through the rocky terrain. The park offers various trails, from easy, scenic rides to more challenging technical trails. The park’s unique landscape, which includes dunes, canyons, and mountains, provides a stunning backdrop for any ride.

For those looking for a more scenic experience, the mountain biking trails in Death Valley National Park are a must-see. However, this trail is not for the faint-hearted, so be prepared to experience some serious thrills.

Similarly, ensure you’re well-prepared for the ride, as it can be quite challenging. Come equipped with a full water bottle, snacks, and sunscreen. You’ll also want to wear a helmet and other protective gear.

2.   China Camp State Park Trails

This park in the San Rafael Area, on the shore of San Pablo Bay, is perfect if you’re looking for a true and rewarding mountain biking challenge. With over 15 miles of trails, China Camp State Park has something for everyone.

The park has a variety of terrain, from gentle slopes to steep hills, so that you can test your limits. And if you’re up for an even bigger challenge, there are advanced features like log piles and rock gardens.

One of the best things about China Camp State Park is that it’s easily accessible from San Francisco. It has some popular mountain biking trails with riders of all abilities. Popular trails here include

  • China Camp State Park Loop
  • Bay View Trail to Shoreline Trail Loop
  • Shoreline Trail, Oak Ridge Drive, and Bayview Trail Loop
  • Back Ranch Meadows
  • San Diego, Southern California

San Diego, California, is a great place for mountain biking. There are mountains everywhere with great singletrack trails. The mountains of San Diego County are perfect for beginner mountain bikers seeking to learn the trade or fitness enthusiasts who want to get some exercise on their way home from work!

For a more urban experience, the San Diego River Trail offers a flat and easy route through the city, with plenty of stops along the way to explore the local shops and cafes. The trail follows the river from Mission Bay to the heart of downtown San Diego, offering a unique perspective on the city.

The best mountain bike trails in southern California can be found in San Diego, which is home to many world-class mountain biking trails. Popular trails in the San Diego area include the Noble Canyon Trail, the Black Mountain Trail, and the Lake Hodges Trail.

4.   Mount Tamalpais Trails

Mount Tamalpais is a mountain that overlooks San Francisco, California. It’s about 50 miles north of the city and has several trails to explore. The best one is the Fire Road Trail, which is 10 miles long and goes through many habitats: redwoods, chaparral and oak woodlands.

The trail starts on Highway 1 at Muir Woods National Monument (a popular spot for hikers), then continues into Mill Valley before reaching the summit of Mount Tamalpais. Once at the top, you’ll have views from San Francisco Bay to Marin County to Sonoma County. There’s even more wildlife here than you’ll find in most other places in California.

Located just north of San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais trails will offer you iconic views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding Bay Area. The terrain is challenging, with steep climbs and technical descents, but the scenery makes it all worth it.

5.   Cowles Mountain, Southern California

Cowles mountains in Southern California offers a wide range of trails, from rugged and technical to more moderate and beginner-friendly. Some popular trails at Cowles Mountain include the Bridle Trail, Upper Hornblend Trail, and Lower Hornblend Trail. But if you want a more challenging ride, try these two trails:

The Snack Trail

This trail starts at the top of Cowles Mountain and winds down through some of San Diego’s most scenic spots. It’s moderate due to its length (about 2 miles) and elevation gain (approximately 1,200 feet).

The Outback Loop

This trail begins near Lake Harriet Park in Minneapolis and goes through some beautiful scenery along natural routes such as old ranch roads.

6.   Lake Tahoe Area MTB Trails

If you’re looking for a challenge, try the trails around Lake Tahoe. This is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains between California and Nevada. The lake covers an area of 5,525 square miles (13,300 km2) and is home to many fish species, including striped bass, trout and whitefish.

You’ll find lung-busting climbs and technical descents that will push your skills to the limit. The scenery is unbeatable, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to test your nerve on the way down. The area around South Lake Tahoe also features a variety of trails for beginners or experienced riders who want to explore the area on their bikes.

Some popular trails include Rubicon Trail, the Flume Trail, the Corral Trail, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and the Kirkwood Trail. But there are plenty of other options, so don’t be afraid to explore. Just be prepared for a serious workout—these trails are no joke!


7.   Topanga State Park

If you’re looking for entertainment and a quick adrenaline rush, look no further than Topanga State Park. This mountain biking trail is one of the most popular in California because it’s fast, challenging and full of surprises. You never know what’s going to be around the next bend.

The key to enjoying this trail is to keep your speed up. You’ll quickly wear out if you’re constantly stopping and starting. And make sure you stay on the lookout for hikers and horses; they have the right of way. This trail is perfect for intermediate and experienced riders looking for a challenge.

8.   Novato’s Indian Valley Trail

If you’re looking for a challenge, Novato’s Indian Valley Trail is worth checking out. This trail is mostly singletrack and has a few technical sections that will test your skills. But the payoff is worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the bay area. The trail is also nice and shady, so it’s a great option on hot days.

Just be sure to bring enough water, as there are no water fountains along the way. And watch out for hikers, as this trail is popular with them too.

9.   Santa Cruz Trails

Another great destination for mountain biking in California is Santa Cruz. Located on the state’s central coast, Santa Cruz is home to many beautiful trails that offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Some of the best trails in the Santa Cruz area include the Wilder Ranch State Park, the Soquel Demonstration Forest, and the Emma McCrary Trail. For a more laid-back ride, the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Trail offers a beautiful and scenic route through the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The trail starts at the base of Mount Herman and winds its way through the forest, offering stunning views of the coast and San Francisco Bay.

10.    Big Bear Lake Trails

In Southern California, Big Bear Lake boasts the best mountain biking trails. It is a great destination for mountain biking bikers seeking to enjoy a 20-mile ride with epic scenery.

The area offers a wide range of trails for riders of all skill levels. Popular biking trails in the Big Bear Lake area include the Skyline Trail, the Grey’s Peak Trail, and the Alpine Pedal Path.

The Gray’s Peak trail offers a challenging climb up the slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains, with stunning views of the surrounding forests and lakes. Riders should be extremely mindful of cars and other hikers on the trails.

On the other hand, the Alpine Pedal path meanders along Big Bear Lake’s north shore with spectacular views of the ski resorts on the south shore. Riders enjoy beautiful views of alpine meadows, pine forests, and seasonal wildflowers.

11.    Downieville Trails

One of California’s most popular mountain biking trails is the Downieville Classic. This trail offers a mix of singletrack and technical downhill sections that will test the skills and endurance of even the most experienced riders.

The flow trail, which winds its way through the forest, is a particular highlight and offers riders a fun and exhilarating experience. Depending on your skills, you can expect speed, loose rocks, creek crossings, tight switchback descending turns, and a few hike-a-bike sections. After the final descent, you’ll cross a bridge over a creek and begin a double-track climb.

However, the best part about this trail is the Downieville classic race. This is an epic 26.5-mile cross-country race to the Sierra Crest and back to town. You can also take a double dose with 15 miles of the Downieville Downhill in the All-Mountain World Championships to support Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship’s trail work.

12.    The Dipsea Trail

The Dipsea Trail is one of Marin County’s most popular mountain biking trails. The trail meanders through beautiful scenery in the area, including redwood forests, open meadows, and wildlife areas.

The Dipsea Trail is 7.4 miles long and features a mix of fire roads and singletrack. It’s also home to several challenging climbs and descents, making it a favorite among mountain bikers of all levels. The Dipsea is popular among hikers and runners, so be prepared to share the trail.

Of course, no list of mountain bike trails in California would be complete without mentioning the iconic Santa Monica Mountains. It has the Backbone Trail stretching from Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Park, offering a challenging and varied route.

What to Know About California Mountain Bike Trails

The first thing you should know about California’s mountain bike trails is that they are all very different. They include singletrack trails that you can ride with your bike and some hiking boots. There are also multi-use trails with many amenities—restaurants, camping grounds—and everything in between.

There are various places to rent bikes or buy new ones if you don’t have any. You can also use your bike on most trails if it’s in good shape and well-maintained. If you want to ride on the longer trails or go further than your local park, consider buying a road bike or even an electric one to tackle longer rides without breaking down along the way!

Final Thoughts

Overall, California boasts some of the country’s best mountain biking trails. From the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the coastal forests of Santa Cruz, California has every trail an avid mountain biker needs. Just be sure to always ride with caution and be aware of your surroundings. Get out there and have some fun!