Cycling

Three Must-Visit Mountain Biking Destinations In The Southeast

Spring is here, and it’s time to start dreaming and planning your next mountain biking adventure getaway! There are so many great destinations around the country, so we took the liberty of reviewing three booming east coast mountain biking areas that offer great trails, beautiful views, and loads of other amenities.

Virginia’s Blue Ridge Region

The International Mountain Bicycling Association awarded Virginia’s Blue Ridge region the only Silver-Level designation on the east coast (there are multiple Bronze-Level Ride Centers on the East Coast but only one silver and no Gold-Level).

The Blue Ridge region firmly established itself as “America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital,” boasting over 300 miles of mountain bike trail systems through scenic backcountry and urban parks.

Located 10 miles from downtown Roanoke, Carvins Cove Natural Reserve sprawls over 12,000 acres and offers nearly 60 miles of trails. Riders have access to well-maintained cross-country single-tracks, fire roads, and free riding downhill trails with many options for all skill levels.

An easy drive up the road from Carvins Cove is George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Choose from a number of loop options and enjoy over 60 miles of advanced singletrack trails and fire roads. There are also campgrounds, making this a great destination for MTB touring and camping. The mountain biking trail systems border the famous Appalachian Trail, so you can take a break from the singletracks and enjoy world-class hiking (however, bikes are strictly prohibited on the AT).

If urban mountain biking is more your style, Mill Mountain Park offers nearly 10 miles of trails around downtown Roanoke. Whether you’re looking for a long climb or fun descent, Mill Mountain Park has it all! Most of the trails are considered moderate to difficult but there are quite a few to choose from. There are options for group rides or guided rides as well. (Don’t forget to visit the star on top of Mill Mountain while you are here!)

One perk of Virginia’s Blue Ridge region is the ability to set up a basecamp and take day trips to dozens of locations for world class mountain biking, hiking, paddling, and many other outdoor adventures. And after a long day out on the trail there are plenty of breweries, wineries, and local food joints where you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Whether you are looking for a campground, cabin, RV hookups, or bicycle-friendly hotel room, there are many options for accommodations. The Blue Ridge region has so embraced the bicycling community that some hotels even installed wash stations for mountain bikers to hose off their gear after a dirty day on the trail!

Coldwater Mountain, Alabama

Located about an hour east of Birmingham and nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains is the sleepy, historic town of Anniston. On first glance Anniston doesn’t look like much, but over the past few years this town has become a little powerhouse in outdoor adventure circles.

The IMBC awarded a Bronze-Level rating to Coldwater Mountain for the ways this region caters to mountain bikers of all levels. More than 35 miles of trails already crisscross over 4,000 acres and over 65 more miles of trails are already under construction or newly opened. All the reviews indicate that Coldwater Mountain is one of the best mountain biking trail systems in the Southeast!

A unique aspect of the Coldwater Mountain project was the goal of having a destination that welcomes cyclists of all skill levels. Entry-level trails run alongside the technical downhill sections so everyone can enjoy hours of pedaling around “red-dirt backcountry paradise”.

One of the featured trails at Coldwater Mountain is the adventurous Bomb Dog Loop. This 11.3 mile loop utilizes some of the most technologically advanced trail construction today, boasting berms, rollers, and jumps. There are several options to complete the loop, allowing riders to choose from multiple skill levels.

After a day on the trails, kick back at one of the great microbreweries and restaurants to enjoy some amazing cooking and southern hospitality.

Consider planning your adventure to coincide with the annual Coldwater Mountain Fat Tire Fest in October. Timed perfectly to take advantage of the comfortable fall weather, this weekend-long festival is packed with everything a mountain biker could want! Group rides, skills clinics, races, demo bikes, and a “Poker Ride” easily fill your day. Gather around campfires in the evening to share stories over a pint and some pizza or kick back and enjoy the live music.

Just a short jaunt up the road from Anniston is Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, AL. Parallel ridgelines create a mountain biking playground with over 20 miles of trails through nearly 10,000 acres in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. The 22 mile “Red Trail” loop is the crown jewel of Double Oak Mountain, offering something for riders of all levels.

In the spring, pedal through blooming Dogwood trees and stunning wildflowers. If you like a bit of competition you can sign up for the annual “Bump-N-Grind” cross-country mountain bike race.

Changing rooms and bike wash stations are scattered strategically around the park. Camping and cabins make it a perfect getaway location. When you’re ready for a break from pedaling, enjoy the archery park, fishing, hiking trails, and so much more!

Boone, North Carolina

This region is experiencing its own mountain biking and trail renaissance. Rocky Knob is a 185-acre bike park just east of the city and Beech Mountain Resort is packed with gnarly backcountry biking. Boone is battling to become one of the crown jewels of the east coast mountain biking scene and Blue Ridge Outdoors recons it could become the first gold-level riding center on the East Coast!

Rocky Knob is really one giant skills park with everything a rider could want. There are 8 miles of trails with seemingly endless variety. Stone Binge is a freeride area with a mix of boulders and wooden features. A new pumptrack is near the parking lot and challenging cross-country tracks crisscross the park. The Rocky Branch and Boat Rock trails combine for 900 feet of climbing through switchbacks.

Not far from Rocky Knob stands Beech Mountain, the highest ski resort east of the Mississippi River. Though originally known for skiing, Beech Mountain boasts more than 18 miles of mountain biking trails weaving through and around town.

Beech Mountain hosted the Gravity Games twice and the local mountain biking associations have not stopped improving the area since then. The town visitors center has a convenient bike wash rack and they even added a bar and brewpub at the top of the mountain for a pedal up pint (be sure to order their 5506 Pale Ale).

On weekends from June to September Beech Mountain operates an exciting downhill biking park with several trails around the ski slopes. Riders can hop onto the modified ski lifts with their bikes to access the trails. And don’t pass up the chance to participate in Mile High Yoga at Beech Mountain Resort’s Skybar observation deck.

The Emerald Outback trail park begins in Beech Mountain town and includes double track, singletrack, and every trail type imaginable. Most of the trails in the Emerald Outback are intermediate to advanced. Rising up to 5,400 feet in elevation in some areas, the Emerald Outback is the highest mountain bike system on the East coast.

If all that wasn’t enough to entice any mountain biker, the greater Boone area is also in the process of revitalizing the Wilson Creek trail system. There are miles of winding mountain bike trails and many forgotten trails still being rediscovered. If you plan to explore the Wilson Creek systems there are many trails worth pedaling but it’s a good idea to bring a map and GPS as the signage has not yet been fully updated.

There are plenty of places to stay in and around Boone, from campsites to luxury resorts. The Julian Price Campground is conveniently located near Grandfather Mountain and offers both tent and RV sites. A number of convenient hotels and other rental options are scattered within easy access of Rocky Knob.

After a day on the trails don’t pass up the chance to wander through Boone’s lively downtown area and visit the Appalachian Mountain Brewery. There are plenty of great local food joints. North Carolina prides itself on good barbeque and Boone is no exception.


Now that you’re ready to plan the mountain biking trip of a lifetime to the Southeast, do you have favorite MTB vacation destinations to recommend? Share in the comments!

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