Exploring new places by mountain bike is my favourite way to travel, and I’ve been lucky enough to ride in many stunning locations around the world. Whether I was guiding clients on a mountain bike tour or riding with friends, my top travelling memories are from behind a set of handlebars on trails that were totally new to me.
When it comes to favourites, here’s my list of some of the best places to mountain bike in the world, along with a few places I haven’t been to (yet) but come highly recommended by fellow riders and friends.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
One of the world’s most famous mountaineering and skiing destinations also offers an incredibly unique mountain bike experience. The town of Zermatt sits below the Matterhorn, and from there you can access trails using a combo of funicular railways, gondolas and trams. When you step off the Gornergrat Bahn railway at 3089m elevation, you get a 360-degree view of the Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and the Matter Valley, with nearly 1500m of singletrack ahead of you to the valley.
2. South Chilcotin Mountains: BC, Canada
There are few places in the world that offer riding as epic and beautiful as the high alpine singletracks of the South Chilcotins. This vast area gives mountain bikers so many options for legendary flow, big days of riding and accessing adventure, including travelling into the backcountry by float plane.
3. Laugavegur Route: Iceland
One of the most geographically interesting places in the world, Iceland’s a true adventure when it comes to riding destinations. The Laugavegur, a famous hut-to-hut trek, is a 55km ride through changing landscapes of hardened lava flow, desolate mountain passes and meandering river valleys. All with challenging weather conditions. Riding in Iceland is not for the faint of heart as it’s a true backcountry experience with limited support and services, but it’ll leave you with amazing life-long memories.
4. Sea-to-Sky Corridor: BC, Canada
When it comes to mountain biking, the Sea-to-Sky corridor is home to some of the most famous trails in the entire world. Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton have extensive networks with something for every level of rider. Whether you want to warm up on Whistler’s Zappa Trail network, challenge yourself in Squamish on Somewhere Out There, or navigate Pemberton’s dry and rocky routes, it’s all at your fingertips in the Sea-to-Sky. To sample the best of the best, guided MEC mountain bike trips weave through BC’s crown jewel of trail riding.
5. Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown has become an international adventure destination and a popular escape for North Americans looking to chase summer. The town sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by XC, all-mountain and lift-access mountain biking. Trails like Salmon Run in the Fernhill Trails area give you 578m of descending, which puts you nearly at lake level.
6. Kananaskis Country: Alberta, Canada
West of Calgary in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Kananaskis Country has an amazing network of cross-country singletrack. I grew up riding the trails in West Bragg Creek, and they’re a great option for putting together intermediate-level rides. One of my personal favourites is the Jumpingpound Ridge/Cox Hill descent. It is without doubt one of the best rides in Alberta.
7. Liguria, Italy
The coastal region in northwestern Italy has amazing beaches, diverse trails, and is a prime destination for riders in spring because of the mild climate. The trails of Finale Ligure have gained in popularity since they host the Enduro World Series year after year, but the entire area has so much to offer. Calice Ligure has some fantastic singletrack descents, and Calizzano is a must-ride if you’re interested in high-speed flow trails.
8. Portes du Soleil, France
The Portes du Soleil is a riding network that’s made up of 12 different resorts. Linked together across the borders of France and Switzerland, the trail network uses 20 mountain lifts and varies from full DH bike park style to perfect alpine singletrack. The access to alpine riding and tracks for every level of rider have made the Portes du Soleil a world-famous destination.
9. Moab: Utah, United States
Home to some of the top riding on the planet, Moab’s trails come in a wide variety of technical difficulties. Slickrock and Porcupine Rim are some of Moab’s most well-known trails, and offer incredibly tacky trail conditions and stunning views. Moab’s a quick flight away from most major cities in Canada, and it can make a great spring getaway to help get your legs in shape for the season.
10. Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec
Mont-Saint-Anne has more to offer than just the XC and DH race tracks made famous by the UCI World Cup events. At the top, you’ll see huge views of the Saint Lawrence and be treated to a choice of nearly 50 trails built upon its slopes. Another bonus? Since it’s about 30 minutes from the rich culture of Quebec City, you can stay in the city and use its central location as the perfect staging ground to other nearby up-and-coming riding destinations, like Sentiers du Moulin and Vallée Bras-du-Nord.
Want to get inspired to ride more trails? Check out some of the many mountain bike groups across Canada MEC has helped support over the years, and some of the trail highlights in those areas.
Top photo: Mattias Fredriksson