Mountain Biking in National Parks? Hell Yes

Family vacations to national parks are clich? but essential for the recreation-savvy. For those in mountain biking families, though, a holiday can quickly turn sour if you arrive at a park to find there's no riding allowed.

However, over the past few years, rules and regulations in national parks across America have grown more welcoming to two-wheeled visitation, permitting the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and other groups to build trails for a new population of park-goers.

"There are 40 national parks where you can mountain bike on singletrack or dirt roads, so it's a lot more widespread than people realize," says Mark Eller, IMBA's communications director. "Most people don't know there's mountain biking in National Parks," or that bans have lifted, he says, "but there also hasn't been much good mountain biking in those parks until recently." IMBA signed a partnership agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) six years ago to develop and enhance more mountain bike opportunities, and has been chipping away at trails ever since.

There's definitely trail to crush already, but IMBA's biggest challenges in making parks more bike-friendly revolve around accessibility to current and future trails, and adding actual mountain bike focus so the rides are fun. Most parks just coming into mountain biking networks aren't full of fireroad trails or easy gravel doubletrack; areas like New River Gorge in West Virginia are all about singletrack, and while some trails are beginner-friendly, many now offer technical challenges for skilled cyclists. Quite a few early-adopter parks still haven't built much for mountain bikers, so expect a lot of gravel and bridle paths in addition to tiny segments of singletrack.

Some park rangers may still bristle when you roll up with a bike, but Eller says the overarching response to seeing mountain bikes in parks has been positive. "Some of the NPS staff are really excited about bringing these new visitors into their parks and doing really positive things for mountain bikers," he explains. Before you fill your Subaru's hitch rack, make sure to check the NPS website and make sure the park you're heading to allows bikes.

Our picks? These parks are leading the way in mountain bike infrastructure.

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