5 Best Mountain Bike Rides in New York

Nicknamed the “Empire State,” New York is one of the most cosmopolitan states in the world and a great place to pursue the passion of mountain biking. From the bustling streets and beautiful skyline of New York City to the rugged hills of the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, the state of New York offers an assortment of varied riding opportunities for cyclists of all ages and ability levels.

New York, which is bordered to the south by New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and to the east by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, is the 29th-largest American state by total area, the fourth-most populous and the seventh-most densely populated state in the Union. The state has a maritime border with the Atlantic Ocean—making for some beautiful coastal riding—as well as an international border with the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the north and Ontario to the north and west.  New York, with an estimated population of 20 million residents, is often referred to as “New York State,” to distinguish it from New York City—the largest city in the state (and country) and its economic, political and cultural hub.

In the following article we will highlight five of New York’s most popular and well-ridden mountain biking trails, and provide a brief review outlining the characteristics of each course.

Shindagin Hollow

Located near the city of Dryden, New York, Shindagin Hollow features 20-plus miles of multi-use trails, including many courses that have been optimized specifically for mountain biking and include berms, roots, shale rock and many other technical trail features to tantalize riders.  Shindagin Hollow is a 5,000 acre state forest located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, very near the upstate city of Ithaca. Its trail system is managed and expertly maintained by Cycle-CNY, the local chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association, or IMBA.

The many trails at Shindagin Hollow are designed to accommodate riders of all ability levels. They are appropriately marked by color—red, blue and yellow—and by number—1 through 9. Generally speaking, the blue trails are slightly more challenging than the red trails, which are also a bit more challenging than the yellow trails.

The featured trail at Shindagin Hollow is called the “Outer Loop”—a 13-mile route that roughly encircles the entire trail network within, making for an unlimited number of ride combinations.  The Outer Loop includes a demanding 1,400-foot climb, several steep descents, berms, roots, rocks and more, incorporating the best this wonderful state forest has to offer.

The caretakers of the Shindagin Hollow trail network—Cycle-CNY—has worked diligently for the past decade to make these courses such a wonderful treat for riders to enjoy. During that time, thousands of riders have tested their skills here, including many who participate in scheduled group rides during the warmer times of the year.

Pittstown State Forest

Located just off Ward Hollow Road in Pittstown, New York, near the state capital of Albany, the Pittstown State Forest offers eight gorgeous miles of well-maintained trails, with courses for all levels of riders.

Pittstown State Forest is a 1,155-acre state forest situated at the base of the Rensselaer Plateau, a location that gives the park’s trails an assortment of different terrains and a wide range of elevation changes throughout.  All of the courses at Pittstown State Forest are single track by design and the terrain varies from hard-packed dirt to soft sand to rock-laden climbs and descents. Each of these well-laid-out trails includes a variety of technical challenges that intermediate to advanced riders look for, including rocks, roots, berms, bridges and precipitous drops with limited visibility.

The trail system at Pittstown State Forest is under the stewardship of the SMBA, a group that works hard to consistently maintain the park’s trails so as to give every rider a chance to enjoy them and the challenges they present.

Windham Mountain

An expert-rated course located in the city of Windham, Windham Mountain is a four-mile course that offers riders an extraordinarily unique downhill riding experience, and is generally considered the longest and most challenging “jump course” in the eastern half of the country. Carved through the rocky and difficult terrain of the Catskill Mountains, the Windham Mountain Bike Park was developed and expertly-designed by the experts at “Gravity Logic,’ giving riders of all levels a chance to enjoy various portions of the course, Each trail is serviced by a high-speed quad lift, meaning riders never need to pedal uphill, and all of these fast trails feature challenges that include rocks, roots, berms and a variety of different jumps and drop offs.

In June, the designers of Windham Mountain Bike Park added two new intermediate-level courses that intersect with the current expert trail known as the “Citizen’s Downhill,” and a new course to accommodate novice riders and family groups is slated to open in the Summer of 2017.  The park has also recently opened a technical skills park, which includes features such as tabletops, berms, a mini rock garden and much more—enough to keep riders entertained for hours.

Cunningham Park

Located in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of New York City, Cunningham Park includes seven miles of interconnected loop trails for riders of all ages and ability levels. From its smooth, wide, meandering beginner trails to its fast and twisty intermediate loops to its technically-advanced single track courses on well-groomed rolling dirt, Cunningham Park truly delivers as a multi-use mountain bike park.

Featuring urban riding at its best, Cunningham Park, which officially opened in 2007, is the first designated mountain biking trail in New York City, with courses that wind through some of the most beautiful scenery the city has to offer. 240-plus acres of Cunningham Park are designated as a “Forever Wild Preserve,” providing riders with a glimpse of forest habitat, vernal pools and gorgeous kettle ponds for sensitive wildlife.

All of the trails at Cunningham Park are well-marked and color-coded and carefully planned and designed for the beginner to advanced rider.  The two “Green Circle Blaze” trails are wide and generally smooth, forming an out-and-back loop that is perfect for novices and family groups looking to enjoy the park’s scenery. The “Blue Blaze” trails, for intermediate-level riders, offer fast and tight single track riding with several steep sections and cantilever turns, while the “Black Diamond” expert-rated course features very steep and rough terrain with an assortment of technical challenges.

The mountain biking trail system at Cunningham Park was developed in partnership with C.L.I.M.B (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bikers), an organization committed to promoting urban-based cycling in and around the New York City area.

Stewart State Forest

Located in the town of New Windsor, New York in Orange County, the Stewart State Forest offers an extensive network with over 50 miles of trails and 16 miles of fire roads. Here riders will find endless opportunities for out-and-back riding, loop rides or a combination of the two.

The various terrains and surfaces at Stewart State Forest include hard-packed single track and wide, old dirt farm and gravel fire roads with gradual hills.  The trails hosted by this popular mountain biking park range from double track to smooth, fast and flowing trails to more challenging tight and twisty single track with mud, roots and technical rock gardens that can be very difficult to navigate.  The courses travel through hardwood forests, farm fields and wetlands. The area is generally flat with gently rolling hills and short power climbs and descents on some of the single track.

All of the courses at Stewart State Forest are shared, so riders are urged to keep their eyes peeled for hikers, joggers and those on horseback. During the winter, the trails also double as routes for snowmobile riding and cross-country skiing.

Stewart State Forest is open year-round, although its trail system is closed between the months of October to December for the park’s Big Game hunting season.

image credit: Flickr/Andy Vathis 

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