Given how different the state is from one end to the other, the mountain biking in New York can best be described as diverse.
There is no real central hub of mountain biking in the state. Rather, the trails are sprinkled throughout, ranging from the densely populated New York City area to the rugged and unforgiving upstate New York area.
In the extreme western part of the state, hundreds of miles away from the traffic and population density of New York City, you’ll find rugged and long cross country trails, such as the 30-mile cross country IMBA Epic trail in Ellicottville.
In between the two extremes of New York City and Ellicottville, you have such trails as Double Down in Cairo, New York, with its fast downhill trials and 9-mile gravel truck trail in Norwich, which works as a gravel trail in warmer months and a fat bike trail in the wintertime.
New York certainly offers a broad selection of mountain biking.
Here are 10 of the best mountain bike trails in New York.
1. 9-Mile Truck Trail, Norwich
Nestled in the cluster of state forests southeast of Syracuse, 9-Mile is an old Civilian Conservation Corps access road given new life as a gravel doubletrack.
Beginning at the now-abandoned Camp Pharsalia Prison, the trail itself is fairly basic, without many of the technical challenges found in other Upstate trails.
However, this local secret features some stunning natural beauty including the Round Pond wetlands and the view from atop the plateau midway, capped by Plymouth Reservoir at the opposite end.
A modest elevation gain of 530 feet and the decent length can make it a good workout for more experienced cyclists or a good way to build endurance for beginners.
2. Cunningham Park, Bellerose Terrace
Queens isn’t known for its altitude, but this singletrack features enough switchbacks, log hops, and dirt jumping to satisfy city dwellers who crave technical challenges and single-speed rides.
This trail includes segments rated easy, moderate, and advanced, making it an attractive option for all riders. What Cunningham lacks in elevation gain, it more than makes up for with lots of short, sharp climbs and varying speeds over its four-mile length, requiring more than a little stamina to get through at once.
Features include pump tracks and a jump park to provide an extra challenge. Alternatively, beginners or those in need of a quieter ride can easily ride around the obstacles.
3. Glacier Ridge, Farmingville
Long Island has gained popularity in recent years as a destination not just for city-dwellers in need of a consolation prize, but also for MTB riders from all over the state.
Glacier Ridge is the crown jewel of LI’s singletrack trails, with a four-mile main loop and a further seven of extended trails of varying difficulties. Almost all of this is composed of tight turns and switchbacks to present a challenge to skilled riders, with plenty of small logs, steep downhills, and bumpy terrain.
The climbs at Glacier Ridge are also steeper than anything one might expect to find this close to the city, with a max elevation gain of almost 800 feet, all at the far end of the Long Island Rail Road.
4. Meadowlark, Fort Salonga
Wedged between Huntington, Northport, and Fort Salonga, Meadowlark is a compact urban trail that manages to pack a lot in despite its small footprint.
This small singletrack features a good mix of hairpin turns and flows, with several moderate climbs dotted throughout and plenty of logs along its length. A moderate amount of technical skill will be needed to make it through the berms, roots, jumps, and table top which can be found there.
Plenty of natural scenery makes up the park in which the trail is situated, and it’s conveniently close to several other parks and wooded areas around Smithtown Bay.
As with many of the trails scattered around the edge of NYC, it’s open to hikers as well, so keep your eyes peeled to avoid accidents.
5. Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, Wallkill
When the Wallkill Valley Railroad shut down and abandoned its tracks, nearby towns stepped in to transform the railbed into this scenic mixed-use trail.
The trail is fairly level doubletrack throughout, paved with both gravel and dirt and with a slight increase in elevation of 239 feet. Two bike repair stations with bike pumps are located at the beginning and midway through the trail.
Along the way lie orchards, woodlands, local farms, and municipal parks. One of the big draws for this easy trail is the truss bridges that span gaps between hills. This is a particularly good choice for beginners interested in a day trip or for those who want to introduce their kids to mountain biking.
6. North Bethlehem Park Trail, McKownville
Just south of Albany, this trail is a popular destination for residents of the state capital who want a quick workout or an enjoyable ride on a weekend afternoon.
Made up of tight twists, ramps, bridges, log rolls, and some soft marshy lowland, this isn’t the most rigorous of trails, with a notable absence of rocks and roots. However, the trail is made up of four differently-graded trails forming a single loop.
This makes it appealing for more advanced riders, particularly since the more challenging upland trails are all out of immediate reach for residents of Schenectady and Albany.
Additionally, there are easily-identified ride-arounds for those who aren’t up for tackling the obstacles.
7. Double Down Elm Ridge, Cairo
Double Down is actually a combination of two trails, one long and gentle, the other short, steep, and demanding.
Part of the wider Elm Ridge trail network in the northern Catskills, each trail can be accessed from a shared trailhead. For those interested in tackling both, the junction of the two can be accessed at the midway point between both.
From there, it’s a simple matter to take the easier loop before following it around to begin the difficult portion, with rock banks, root webs, drops, and bridges on a steep downhill.
This extensive singletrack is also home to some outstanding views of Windham Peak and the valley below.
8. Sprain Ridge Loop, Ardsley
The Sprain Ridge Loop is not for the faint of heart.
Every inch of its nearly 8 miles of length is packed with technical challenges including 4-5 foot drops, berms, roots, rock gardens, and some tough climbs and descents.
Of particular note is a downhill jump line leading to a 40-foot drop into a shallow foothill creek. While the main loop around Sprain Ridge is just over four miles, the branch trails around it are just as challenging and can extend the ride to well over 12 miles total.
The town of Windham is very popular among outdoor enthusiasts in general, so try to start early on weekends here, or aim for a weekday, as the trail itself is a bit too narrow for comfortable passing.
9. Brant Lake Bike Park, Brant Lake
Brant Lake Park is a purpose-built MTB singletrack network consisting of four distinct trails, ranging in length from a few hundred yards to just over a mile.
It features a 1.3-mile long climbing trail, after which a separate cross country trail runs along the ridgeline of Bartonville Mountain, with an astonishing view of Lake George below.
It finishes off with a breezy flow trail downhill with a popular local restaurant at the bottom, or the short Rebound loop at the bottom can be ridden to do the whole thing in reverse.
Although it’s privately-built and well-maintained, with excellent signage, it’s free to the public.
10. Ellicottville Loop, Little Valley
When the IMBA appended Epic to the name of this trail, they weren’t kidding.
Comprising over 30 miles of scenic trails in the hills south of Buffalo, this trail is a lot more than just pretty, with over 3,000 feet of climbing and a total elevation gain of almost 1,000 feet.
Stretches of technical singletrack include some of the best-loved trails in the area, including Buzzard’s Breath and the Pale Ale trails. Flow descents help encourage riders to push through to the southern portion of the trail, where scattered bedrock boulders form Little Rock City.
Cyclists can’t use the trail through these rocks, but are welcome to make use of the ride-around to have a look at the view over the ledge.