The Pacific Northwest has long been famous for its incredible mountain biking. Riders who have experienced the loamy singletrack of the PNW speak about it with reverence. It’s the real deal, and every serious mountain biker should aspire to take a riding trip to the PNW at some point in their life.
With so many options, it can be challenging to figure out how to prioritize your riding time. There are just so many trails and riding areas to check out, there’s a lifetime of exploring to do in the area for locals and visitors alike. So we’re here to help narrow it down for you. We’ve experienced a huge range of PNW riding, and these are the days that stood out, the rides that we’ll reminisce about for years to come. If you only get to experience mountain biking in the PNW once in your life, these are the trails you need to hit.
Before you can start riding though, you’ve got to get here, with your biking gear, unless of course, you’re a local – then you can just skip ahead to the good, the trails. If you’re flying in to visit, Seattle and Portland are both easy to fly into, and have an abundance of trails nearby. Choosing between them really comes down to the price of flights, and if you’re trying to ride in Canada at all on your trip. It’s a much shorter jaunt across the border from Seattle than Portland. Alternatively, you could fly into Seattle and make a big looping road trip back down to Portland for your flight home. Either way, you’re going to want a rental car that can fit a bike.
If you don’t feel like packing your mountain bike up and flying with it, both Seattle and Portland have bike shops with great rental programs. You can save yourself a lot of hassle by just renting a bike for the trip, and not bothering with flying with it at all. It’s pretty nice to just fly with a small carry on with some spare clothes and bike shorts and your bike helmet.
While there are dry trails all year round in the PNW, the best time to ride is between May and September. You’re less likely to get rained out, and you won’t need to worry about snow on the trails. Regardless of your timing though, pack a good raincoat. This is a rainforest after all.
Tiger Mountain features some of the best riding close to Seattle. The whole trail network is centered around mountain biking, with climbing trails and downhill-specific trails. Tiger is a great place to start your trip because it’s designed around progression, there are trails for every ability level here. So you can start out slow, take it easy, and figure out the terrain, before you start pushing yourself on more challenging trails.
Trails like Joy Ride offer a fast, buff flow trail experience, while Predator is a truly gnarly technical downhill only trail. Regardless of what you like to do on the bike, you’ll find a trail you love at Tiger. And as an added bonus, the view of Mt. Rainier from the top is incredible.
North of Seattle, in Bellingham, lies Galbraith mountain. Similar to Tiger, Galbraith is a riding center with trails for everyone. It’s just got a lot more of them, 65 miles of trail in fact. It’s worth spending a few days riding Galbraith, to give yourself time to figure out what trails and loops you like the most.
If you’re looking for long, interesting XC loops, Galbraith can provide in spades. The same goes for steep, technical, gnarly downhill trails. But what makes Galbraith so magical is its freestyle trails. There are more jumps, drops, and berms here than you’ll know what to do with. And there’s jumps sized for everyone. It’s easy to get warmed up on smaller lines and then be pushing yourself on huge jumps before you know it. If you only have time to make it to one destination on this list, you should make riding Galbraith a priority.
If you’re riding in Oregon, you owe it to yourself to check out Black Rock. While it doesn’t have as many miles of trails as some other destinations, the trails it does have are packed with features. Black Rock is more gravity-oriented than some of the other destinations on this list, it’s all about downhill and freeride trails. So if you want to push yourself as you blast through shoulder-high ferns, Black Rock is your destination. Just make sure to swing by a mountain bike shop before hitting the trails if you’re missing any protective gear, because with the steeper the trails, the harder the falls.
If you’re looking for a little more well-rounded mountain bike experience in Oregon, Post Canyon delivers. Here you’re riding in the shadow of Mt Hood, which would be exciting even on boring trails. But Post Canyon’s trails are anything but boring. There’s a good mix of buff flow trails and more natural technical riding here. Nothing at Post Canyon is too big or gnarly though, so it’s more beginner-friendly.
We’re big fans of the “Bad Motor Scooter” descent, it’s an awesome flow trail littered with small tabletops and rollers. It’s fast, and makes you feel like a superhero. On the other end of the spectrum, Mitchell Ridge is more raw and technical but offers awesome views from the ridge. Regardless of what you’re looking for, Post Canyon has it.
The problem with bucket lists is that they’re often nebulous ideas of things you might do someday. So it’s time to set dates to complete those “maybes”. The PNW is calling, go get your tires muddy.