5 Best Mountain Bike Rides in Washington

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Located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the far northwest corner of the United States, Washington is one of the country’s best known secrets as an outdoor utopia—a state that consistently draws millions of visitors each year. 

Washington is situated just to the north of Oregon, west of Idaho, and south of the Canadian province of British Columbia, offering mountain bikers a wide variety of picturesque terrains with some of the most exciting and challenging rides in the country. 

To assist you in deciding the best way to spend your upcoming mountain bike voyage in Washington, below we have highlighted 5 of the more popular trails in the state.

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Galbraith Mountain

Located in the beautiful city of Bellingham—the northernmost city in the contiguous United States—Galbraith Mountain is a 30-mile multiple-route trail designed primarily for intermediate to advanced riders due to its level of difficulty.  The trails of Galbraith Mountain, also known as Lookout Mountain, are technically challenging routes, meandering through large boulders and smaller rocks, root webs and angled roots, drop-offs and log crossings. Mountain bikers can be found riding these trails throughout the year, (even during the rainy season) as the wetter the conditions, the more challenging the trails. The most distinctive feature on the mountain is a tall stand of trees at the top that was left untouched after the most recent logging.

Galbraith Mountain can be found between Lakeway Drive to the north, Yew Street to the west and Samish Drive to the south in Bellingham.

Riverside State Park

Mountain bike riders of all levels will find just what they are looking for in Washington’s Riverside State Park, a beautiful area, nestled along the banks of the Spokane River just a few miles northwest of downtown Spokane. Riverside State Park features roughly 14,000 acres of pristine recreational land. In addition to mountain biking, the park offers recreational opportunities for a diverse group of users, including hikers, campers and equestrian users.

Riverside State Park has more than 50 miles of official trails open to mountain bikers, including a number of wildlife paths and rogue trails designed for the most experienced riders.  The majority of the park’s routes are dirt and double track in makeup, such as the trail that follows the churning Spokane River past water-sculpted boulders and craggy cliffs.  There are also a few choice single-track trails found hidden among the many miles of tree cover.  Riverside State Park is primarily favored by cross country riders who enjoy the maze of routes that can be tied together throughout the park. Riverside isn’t devoid of technical riding, but these areas are generally harder to get to and do not offer a lot of flow.

Devil’s Gulch

According to a survey of riders, Devil’s Gulch is one of the more popular trails in the entire state of Washington. Located in the city of Cashmere—in the heart of the eastern Cascade foothills—this trail begins with a modest, yet challenging forest road climb before cutting into the woods along Mission Creek below Mission Ridge.  Although not overly tough or technical in nature, Devil’s Gulch is ideal for strong climbers who desire a faster-than-average singletrack experience.

At the top of the ridge—roughly 3,600 ft. above sea level—the real adventure of Devil’s Gulch trail begins when the switchbacks start to appear, providing a unique challenge for even the most seasoned riders.  The final two miles of the course, while brutal on the lungs and legs, offer riders some spectacular views of the forest floor below.

Buck Mountain

Located in the little-known town of Winthrop, Washington, the Buck Mountain trail offers riders an abundance of challenging singletrack on a picturesque ridge surrounding the gorgeous Methow valley.  The most popular trail begins with a steep ascent up a forest service road followed by plenty of rolling single track. The single track meanders through sage covered hillsides and piney forestland before beginning a hair-raising descent to the point of origin.

The highlight of Buck Mountain Trail is a 9-mile stretch along the ridgeline of Buck Mountain. Forest roads on both the Southwest (Cub Creek Road) and Northeast (NF-100) provide access points to the trail.

Although not for beginners (unless they are willing to get off the bike and walk down some of the technical sections), Buck Mountain is the perfect cure for the intermediate to advanced riders in need of some classic mountain biking fun.

Beacon Hill

Nestled just a few short miles from the heart of downtown Spokane, Beacon Hill offers 30+ mountain biking trails collectively winding through 1,000 acres of public and private land. These wonderful trails, which cater to a wide range of ability levels, provide ample opportunities for cross country, all-mountain and downhill cycling.

Most of the trails at Beacon Hill are singletrack, with routes that crisscross and traverse the entire small mountain.  While signage is poor in some areas of the course, local riders have taken it upon themselves to color-code some of the routes according to their difficulty rating.

One of the true gems of Washington urban biking, Beacon hill should definitely be on the short list for any riders who happen to visit the Spokane region of the state.

image credit: Leavenworth.org 

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