With its proximity in and around such well-known mountains as Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Oregon’s Mt. Hood, Washington state is an ideal place for mountain biking.
In fact, it’s hard to find a trail in the state that doesn’t feature amazing views of one of these famous peaks.
The bulk of the state’s mountain biking trails are located in the Western half, which is the state’s more mountainous side. It’s hard to overstate the incredible views and terrain you’ll bike through in Washington state.
There’s Ape Canyon, which takes you up the side of famed active volcano Mt. Saint Helen’s, which last erupted in 2008. And then there’s Tiger Mountain, a double black diamond trail with epic views of Mt. Rainier.
The Northwestern part of the state around Bellingham also features a cluster of excellent trails. If stunts are your thing, check out the Evolution and Unemployment trails, which feature plenty of doubles, table tops, drops, and ladders.
For kinder, gentler trails, head to the southwest part of the state, where you’ll find Falls Creek, with its water crossings, waterfall and swimming hole, and Klickitat, an easy trail that skirts a river and offers excellent views.
While many of Washington’s trails are open year round, be sure to check the weather, as snow during the winter will close trails.
Here are 10 of the best mountain bike trails in Washington.
1. Ape Canyon, Amboy
Perched in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens, this IMBA Epic ride combines an immensely challenging track with views of the destruction caused by the 1980 volcanic eruption.
Opening with the shady, quiet, but tough Ape Canyon Trail, the route has views of the mountain from the very beginning. Gaps in the ridgeline along the way will allow views of the wide plains which were flattened and stripped of vegetation by the eruption.
After climbing out of the canyon, riders will come to precarious ridgeline trails before reaching the pumice fields beneath Mt. Adams. Riding through this dusty moon-like landscape will then lead to the Plains of Abraham, marked by miles of scrub and plenty of volcanic rock.
2. Tiger Mountain Loop, Mirromont
Six multi-use trails criss-cross Tiger Mountain State Forest, comprising an extensive loop that’s as fun as it is difficult. The park is a popular destination for residents of the coastal cities since it’s the nearest MTB site with some of the best rides.
About a quarter of the route is easy doubletrack, with the rest made up of tight singletrack through dense trees. Tiger Mountain contains just about every kind of technical and natural feature one could imagine, including flows, steep climbs, and fast descents, pumps, gaps, berms, roots, and rocks.
Much of the forested sections throw up challenges in the form of tight turns and small drops, and many of the downhills have tricky technical aspects requiring some tact to navigate.
3. Evolution, Unemployment Line, and Atomic Dog Descent, Bellingham
This route represents the best the network at Galbraith Mountain has to offer.
A mix of all-mountain, cross-country, and freeride-style trails, much of the route is tight singletrack offset by gentler doubletrack.
Unemployment Line is chiefly made up of ascents, while Evolution and Atomic Dog each feature plenty of berms, drops, plank trails, and tables.
After an initial ride across easy doubletrack and over a wooden bridge, there are lots of rollers and obstacles including ramps and plank trails. Most of these can be tackled at low speeds by beginners, but the trail is clear enough that it can be walked by nervous bikers.
More advanced riders may find it more fun to tackle these at higher speeds, however.
4. Freund Creek, Leavenworth
Washington contains one of the densest concentrations of national parks in the country. These contain countless natural wonders like the dusty, pine-covered Freund Canyon.
The trail mirrors the path of the creek in the valley below. The trail is ridden counterclockwise, with the entrance down a fire road beyond the route’s exit. It begins with a long, steady, taxing climb with full views of the canyon before reaching the high point.
At several points, the trail forks off to the right, but these should be avoided unless you’re up for some grueling uphills. Otherwise, cleave to the left to stay on the canyon trail.
The downhills are the great reward on this trail, incorporating washout jumps, berms, and tables. Check your brakes before you come, since you’ll be counting on them.
5. Middle Fork Snoqualmie Loop, Tanner
Tucked back in the hills of Snohomish County, this trail follows the route of the Snoqualmie River through lush greenery and past epic scenes of natural splendor.
Starting off from the trailhead outside of Tanner, the track goes along the north bank of the river for several miles. The first section is the easiest and often ridden by beginners as an out-and-back.
The second most popular segment is the following one, where a hot spring can be found. This is also the most technical portion, with plenty of roots, rocks, and muddy ruts to negotiate.
Finally, the third and final stretch on the approach to the trailhead is the wildest and least-frequented. This section requires stamina and patience, and might be easier to walk for less experienced riders.
6. Ranger Creek Loop, Buckley
This loop through Snoqualmie National Forest is one of the best, most rewarding ways to catch exquisite views of the North Cascades.
The opening section of the trail is a long, hard trek up 10 miles of fire roads. At the summit of this climb, you’ll be treated to some of the best views of Mt. Rainier anywhere.
Next comes the descent down the actual Ranger Creek Trail. This is a rapid technical downhill on benched singletrack, with frequent tight switchbacks. Partway down is the Ranger Creek Shelter, where you can catch a break before finishing the fast roll down to the highway.
Junctions on the back end of the route lead to both Skookum Flats Trail and White River Trail.
7. Falls Creek, Carson
This is one of the most scenic routes in Washington, cutting through deep misty forests past breathtaking natural scenery.
Opening with a flowy, fun downhill for just over a mile, the route then transitions to climbing and some XC-style terrain before you reach the titular waterfall. This cascade of water is Falls Creek itself, flowing down to create a fine misty area and offering a picturesque view.
Further on, there’s a large clear pool where elk, otters, and beaver can all be spotted. Beyond this, the remaining few miles consist of steep ridgeline singletrack with excellent views.
Hikers also frequent this trail, so take care on the final leg.
8. Sun Mountain, Winthrop
Sun Mountain includes some outstanding trails between Patterson Mountain and Gobblers Knob, ranging from simple and breezy to complex and tough. These can be ridden in any combination one chooses from several trailheads, although it’s common to take it as a south to north loop starting from the Chickadee Trailhead.
Starting off with simple riding past Patterson Lake, the route soon turns into fast flows, doubletrack climbs, and some wildly steep descents. The valley around the Sun Mountain area is largely pine and dry scrub, making for gorgeous vistas at the trail’s many high spots.
The majority of the trail’s surfaces are hard-packed soil, but there’s plenty of silt and sand in some areas. Pay attention to the signage around here, because a number of neighboring trails are for hikers only.
9. Klickitat River Trail, Dallesport
Crossing through miles of grassy hills and open pine woods, this trail hugs the path of the Klickitat River for much of its length as well as incorporating some old rail beds for even doubletrack.
The river segment holds some excellent views of nature and wildlife, brushing against the edges of several farms and ranches. Local cows have been known to wander onto this path, so keep your eyes peeled and a bike bell handy.
Much of the trail is either, and it’s an ideal pick for beginners to session in order to level up their skills. Otherwise, it’s a satisfying ride with plenty of charming scenery for local riders.
10. Devil’s Gulch, Cashmere
One word defines the enduring appeal of this tough ride; downhills. Apart from testing riders’ endurance with lengthy, exposed climbs, the rapid technical descents are especially compelling.
The ride begins with a 10-mile trek up dusty gravel fire roads. Although this segment can be shuttled, topping it will make the descent all the sweeter. Mission Creek will be crossed several times during the ascent.
At the top of this grind, the singletrack begins, climbing up several hundred more feet before the downhill begins. After a handful of ups and downs, the trail flattens out until you hit a series of tight, technical switchbacks.
The final leg of the descent is made up of lightning-fast runs along the creek, dipping down to the water occasionally. Finally, a thickly-vegetated section and a wooden bridge lead back to the trailhead.