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from the journal

The Best Mountain Biking Trails in California

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With nearly 900 miles stretching from its northern to the southern border, California has an incredible range of trails for mountain biking. With lush valleys, rugged mountains, and beautiful coastlines, there is a trail for just about everybody to enjoy. Pull on your best mountain biking shorts, because spring is coming and it’s time to hit some of the best mountain biking trails that the golden state has to offer. 

Mount Tamalpais Summit Loop

Mount Tamalpais has been known as one of the best mountain biking trails since the 1970s, when a group of local bikers helped to popularize mountain biking as a sport. Even before this, Mount Tamalpais has been a popular destination for camping and weekend getaways since Mount Tamalpais State Park and the Muir Woods National Monument were created early in the 1900s.

This mountain biking trail features a steady climb up to the peak of legendary Mount Tam itself. Along the trail, you can enjoy a dense forest rich with redwoods and many chances to catch your breath at scenic overlooks. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with an incredible view before dropping in for the return trip back down the steep mountain.

Encinal Canyon

For those who are just getting started mountain biking or looking to kick back on a relatively gentle hillside blanketed in chaparral, this trail is a perfect choice. With partially paved, well-maintained trails, gentle slopes, and fewer visitors, this trail offers a relaxing ride through a beautiful landscape. It is, however, shared by hikers and horseback riders, so taking it easy will make everyone safer.

Donner Lake Bike Loop

If you are looking for a weekend mountain biking getaway, then it is hard to beat the Donner Lake Bike Loop. This trail is accessible year-round, with a moderate number of visitors to be found and plenty of trails to spread out and avoid crowds.

Once you finish your ride around the pristine alpine lake, refuel with a post-ride meal on the north shore. Versatile SHREDLY gear will keep you comfortable for fishing, or paddle boarding at beautiful Donner Lake. Make it a weekend and  camp at one of the 154 sites in Donner Lake Memorial Park.

Will Rogers To Temescal Ridge

For beautiful city views, Santa Monica’s mountains offer an incredible ride that cannot be beaten. Don’t underestimate the full value experience that this easily accessed ride can offer.  With desert wildlife, rocky shale single track  and plenty of sharp switchbacks, you’ll get a wilderness experience without venturing out of cell range.

This trail starts with a 1½ mile climb before a bend in the trail will lead you to an incredible view of the ocean, downtown L.A., and Hollywood. This is also the perfect place to enjoy a break before a rattly descent over loose rocks. Once you hit the Backbone Trail sign, the trail has finished, and you can hop on the Temescal Ridge Trail fire road to find your way back, or you can hop onto one of the several connected roads to keep the fun going.

Santiago Oaks 10-Mile Enduro

For more  technical riding with jumps, drops and berms, the Santiago Oaks 10-mile Enduro is for you. Put on your best mountain bike apparel because this ride has got it all. It starts off with a short trip from Santiago Hills to the trailhead and then up a  fire road. Once you’re on the Roadrunner Loop single track, you will make your way to the Chutes climb, and by now, you will be feeling it. After getting  to the top, enjoy a breather and an amazing view before dropping your saddle and dropping into an exhilarating descent, which will make the climb worth every excruciating moment.

San Juan Trail

The San Juan Trail is often hailed as one of the greatest mountain biking trails in southern California. The San Juan Trail truly brings the mountain with approximately 3,500 feet of climbing if you ride it all the way out and back.

You will start off with a set of switchbacks followed by some more technical stretches of trail. On the descent, watch out for  crumbly granite that can feel like ball bearings under your tires,but overall the trails are well maintained and flowy fun. This is definitely a great trail for experienced mountain bikers.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon

With more than 4,000 acres between the Peñasquitos and Lopez canyons, this urban park in San Diego is one of the largest in the country. This famous park also hosts a vast trail network with some of the best single-track trails in California.

For mountain bikers, the Canyon Preserve East-West trail holds the best trails on the preserve. Riders can find some amazing natural scenery here, including an array of wildlife and even a waterfall. One of the most  unique features here is the “Tunnels.” These are trails cut through dense  California Manzanita trees that provide a tunnel-like canopy of shade.

Final Thoughts

For mountain biking enthusiasts, California is definitely your dream destination, so pack all your mtb clothing on your next visit. There are countless trails to enjoy, and these are just a fraction of them. Whether you are an experienced rider looking for your next adventure or a beginner looking for a way to get started, there are trails for you. 

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