Enjoy this list of trails for shoulder-season riding to experience cooler temperatures, fewer crowds and scenic vistas that reward the effort.
Remember, safety first. Always wear a helmet and other appropriate protective gear, respect the rules of the trail and ride responsibly. Also, check trail conditions prior to venturing off-road. Trails may be closed for many reasons, especially with quickly changing seasonal weather conditions.
No matter what the weather, fall is an invigorating time to be riding on dirt
Black Canyon Trail, Arizona (Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA)
The 80 mile (128 km) Black Canyon Trail provides mountain bikers with a long range backcountry trail riding opportunity. This historic National Recreation Trail is of national significance, following a route used since the times of pre-historic Native American travelers and traders. This trail provides a challenging ride experience characterized by rough, unstable soils and rocks, with various trail grades and numerous elevation changes within a harsh desert climate. The trail meanders through the Sonoran Desert landscape, including saguaro forests and rugged canyons.
Ouachita National Forest (USFS)
The Womble Trail stretches over 37 miles (59 km) from Northfork Lake to the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. This trail is considered to be one of the best singletrack trails in this area. Short segments of the trail meander along the bluffs of the Ouachita River, with breathtaking views. Hikers and mountain bikers can combine the Roundtop Trail with the Womble and Ouachita National Recreation Trail (west of Highway 27) to form an eight-mile loop (12 km).
Apalachicola National Forest (Elio Dimacali)
The Munson Hills Off-Road Bike Trail offers a scenic and challenging ride through varied terrain. The original trail has expanded to include the Twilight Loop, for a total of 21 miles (33 km). The old sand dunes of Munson Hills were once Florida’s shoreline, and they now support towering longleaf pines and pristine ponds. The trail dips down through oak hammocks and winds its way through piney flatwoods, providing opportunities to observe songbirds, deer, fox squirrels, frogs, snakes and the gopher tortoise, a protected species whose burrows provide homes to as many as 40 other animals. Members of the local Southeast Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) chapter maintain the trail in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
J. Strom Thurmond Lake (David Funk, SORBA CRSA)
Located on the J. Strom Thurmond Lake north of Augusta, Georgia, the Bartram National Recreation Trail is a 27-mile (43 km) long trail that starts at West Dam recreation area and follows the shoreline to Keg Creek. Designated a National Recreation Trail, mountain bikers of all levels will find a comfortable distance on this trail while enjoying the local flora including trillium and Georgia asters. Visitors can add a bit more distance by riding the Lake Springs Loop, approximately 3 miles (4 km) through Lake Springs Recreation Area.
Coralville Lake (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Appealing to the entire family, Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail located at Coralville Lake’s Sugar Bottom Day Use Area, accommodates all riders and offers well-marked trails indicating the level of difficulty. Through wooded valleys and prairies, you can take in the beautiful views of Coralville Lake while riding top-notch single track. No need to hurry home, reserve a campsite at Sugar Bottom Campground and continue your adventure with nearby Sugar Bottom Disc Golf Course and hiking trails!
Land Between the Lakes (USFS)
The Canal Loop Trail (PDF) is an 11-mile (17 km) single track loop trail with four connector trails to add another three miles (4 km) to your Land Between the Lakes adventure. As you navigate the loop, you'll be treated to a view of both shorelines – Lake Barkley to the northeast and Kentucky Lake to the southwest. Rated moderate to difficult, some sections offer less strenuous terrain and scenic lake views while others include fast single track and challenging climbs. Want more? Check out the numerous trails in the area.
Nantahala National Forest (Dot Shiva, Share the Experience)
The Nantahala National Forest's Tsali singletrack trails are nationally known for great mountain biking and generally rated as moderately difficult. Tsali (Sah-lee) Recreation Area’s four-loop system offers a variety of landscapes, and offer alternating days for mountain bikes and horses, so check before you go. You can climb one-foot wide rugged paths or travel flat, wide roads. Tsali’s trails meander through mixed pine and hardwoods on a peninsula stretching into Fontana Lake.
Kerr Scott Lake (Han Heusinkveld)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club cooperated to build this fantastic trail system. Their project started at Dark Mountain in November of 2002 with a visit from the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Care Crew. Over 40 miles (64 km) of purpose-built, sustainable trail have rolled out since then, including the (less difficult) Overmountain Victory Trail and, most recently, Warrior Creek trails. Each area has its own unique qualities. The entire system is within a historic corridor that follows the path of Daniel Boone, the Overmountain Men and plenty of moonshiners.
Raystown Lake (David Gray, USACE)
Located in the Allegheny Mountains of the Keystone State, the Allegrippis Trail System is considered by many to be one of the best mountain bike trails east of the Mississippi. Specifically designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, the trail is also open to any non-motorized use, including hiking. But the 30-mile (48 km) singletrack mountain bike trail system is known mostly for its riding potential. The mostly smooth, flowing surface and more challenging trails provide opportunities for every skill level and the lush, green foliage makes way for some intense colors, come autumn.
Warm-up for your ride on the Raystown Mountain Bike Skills Park. The park was designed as a training and practice venue for the thousands of people who visit the Allegrippis Trails annually to mountain bike and enjoy the beauty of Central Pennsylvania.
Kokopelli's Trail (Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA)
Kokopelli’s Trail is a 142-mile (228 km) multi-use trail from Loma, Colorado, to Moab, Utah. Most mountain bikers use this trail as a through route. Trail surfaces vary; the trail utilizes dirt roads (of all degrees of difficulty), paved roads and some small portions of narrow track. A multi-day Kokopelli’s Trail outing requires you to plan extensively—so take all the steps to make the most of your Moab mountain bike adventure. It’ll be one you won’t soon forget.
Meadowood Trail System (Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA)
The Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of the Nation’s capital in Lorton, VA. The Meadowood Grand Tour offers nearly 7 miles (11 km) of biking trails open year round to the public, from sunrise to sunset. The South Branch Loop Trail is a beginner trail that totals 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of mixed use hiking and biking and is one of only a few natural surface trails open to mountain bikes on public land in the greater Washington, D.C. area. There are three intermediate trails that were constructed solely dedicated to mountain biking. The Boss and Stinger trails combine to provide almost one mile (1.6 km) of trail with a great deal of technical variety. They boast a 300 foot (91 m) Progressive Bike Ramp, multiple table tops, wooden skinnies, and large fast wooden berms. The Yard Sale is a very fun, fast free flowing trail that totals .5 miles (.8 km).