Best locations in the Southwest for winter mountain biking
Are you a mountain biker that loves long-range views of massive mountain peaks on your rides? How about mostly warm, sunny weather in the dead of winter? Perhaps you’d enjoy endless miles of shreddy dirt pretty much always dry? If this place sounds like heaven to you, then you have to get out and ride in the Southwest this winter! The Southwest offers the perfect escape from the winter blues and wet, soggy trail conditions that much of the country suffers from. Here’s a rundown of some of the best locations in the Southwest for winter mountain biking.
Phoenix, Arizona - 68º and 3 days of rain per month on average
There are a surprising amount of trails for a metro area in Phoenix, making it an ideal city to visit if you’re able to do a more long-term stay. Campgrounds in the area are plentiful, along with reasonably-priced Airbnb’s, so if you’re a digital nomad who loves to ride, keep this one in mind!
If you’re seeking a warm and sunny getaway from a colder part of the country, this is your place. There are days that temps reach into the 70’s in the dead of winter, making this the warmest mountain bike destination on this list. There are 1,035 miles of trail and 24 recommended routes here, offering days upon days of exploration.
Downhill junkies might get frustrated with the minimal elevation loss on the area’s trails. Rarely are there more than 1,000’ vertical feet of drop on a route. That said, there are some fun and fast DH trails. They’re just short.
Las Vegas, Nevada - 62º and 2 days of rain per month on average
Ready for a party? Las Vegas doesn’t let mountain bikers down when it comes to its reputation for a good time. Aside from the city’s obvious benefits, the riding has plenty to offer despite only moderate elevation changes.
The metro area alone offers 642 miles of trail and 11 recommended routes on the MTB Project app. Are you a rock-tech junkie? Check out the 10-mile Cowboy Trails loop that ascends and descends around 1,400’ for a technically-challenging ride with stunning views the whole way.
Routes only provide modest elevation changes, and there’s little to no tree cover for shade. That’s about all we can come up with!
Sedona, Arizona - 60º and 4 days of rain per month on average
Mild temps, vistas in every direction, and 3-5 days’ worth of some of the best trails in the country––Sedona is the place to go in the winter!
Sedona has some of the highest-rated mountain biking in the country, no matter the level of skill. There are 235 miles of trail and 12 recommended routes there, with a good balance between green, blue, and black-rated trails.
Camping in the winter is hard to come by, so it’s better to book an Airbnb or hotel while you’re here. Everything costs more here, too.Pine Mountain, California - 52º and 6 days of rain per month on average
Photo Credit: Rider - Doron Weinstein on the MTB Project App
Pine Mountain near Descanso, CA, offers days of riding with a wide range of trail difficulty levels. There’s everything from green to black-diamond-rated trails here. If you’re into taking mountain bike road trips to camp as well, this trail system is in the Cleveland National Forest, so you’re allowed to tent camp in dispersed camp areas.
You can ride an IMBA Epic in the winter at moderately high elevations. Check out the 30-mile Cuyamaca to Noble Canyon route on the MTB Project app.
This is one of the more rainy areas on the list, and the temps at high elevation can be cold enough that you might encounter some snow, so keep an eye on the forecast and trail conditions before heading out.
St. George, Utah - 55º and 3 days of rain per month on average
Photo Credit: Rider: Todd McTallGuy, MTB Project App
Check out the 24-mile Hurricane Rim Loop IMBA Epic while you’re in St. George. This route boasts stellar canyon vistas, easy climbing, and ripping descents. There are 441 miles of trails and 17 recommended routes listed in the MTB Project app here, so there’s plenty to keep you busy.
If you like camping in primitive sites, the Red Cliffs Recreation Area is a BLM area with camping. There’s a ton of riding in the area, so it’s an ideal spot for making a week-long trip out of.
While the trails remain mostly dry enough to ride, temps can get down into the 40’s in the higher elevation areas in the winter, so it’s good to keep an extra layer in your pack.
Moab, Utah - 47º and 3 days of rain per month on average
Moab has been a mecca for mountain biking for decades now. The bald rock faces, ironically dubbed slickrock, offer one of the world’s most unique mountain biking experiences. Unless the rock is sandy, it offers a seemingly impossible grip for mountain bike tires, allowing you to climb up and descend down insanely steep pitches. The longer rides are best for shuttling, which isn’t always available in the winter. But there are still plenty of miles for riding loops and out-and-back rides if you’re flying solo.
Pros: Relatively low-traffic on the trails in the winter. The lodging is cheaper in the winter, and the town is less crowded overall, making it more pleasant for folks who don’t like jam-packed small towns.
The high-mileage, high-elevation routes like The Whole Enchilada are too cold and can’t be shuttled in winter, so if this is a bucket-list trip, choose a warmer time of year instead so that you can get the full experience. The average daily high temps aren’t all that warm in the winter but still better than sub-freezing.
Rokform can help you stay aware of your next turn at the upcoming trail junction wherever you ride. Rokform’s Bike Mount and phone cases keep your phone securely attached to your mountain bike so you can quickly access your navigation apps and camera on your iPhone 12 or Samsung S21 ULTRA smartphone.
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