Best Fall Rides: 4 of Our Favorite Mountain Biking Trails to Ride This Season

October 01 2021 – Matt Hoskins

Fall Mountain Bike riding
Fall Mountain Bike riding

Temperatures are dropping, smoky skies are clearing, and crowds are finally thinning - Fall is here, and what a wonderful season it is. After a busy summer full of outdoor adventures - road trips, bikepacking trips, camping trips and more - the arrival of fall signals a breath of fresh air. It’s a time to slow down and really savor the season.

But the end of the summer hustle doesn’t mean it’s time to pack up your gear for the season. As the days slowly shorten and the leaves start to change, fall brings the perfect conditions for mountain biking.

Without the deluge of afternoon storms and the baking heat of the midsummer sun, trail conditions improve, mosquitos disappear, and the weather cools down. To add to the magic, the leaves begin to change, transforming our favorite rides into explosions of vibrant color.

To celebrate this beautiful season, we asked Mazama customers across the country to share their favorite fall rides. Read on to learn about some of the best, then grab your gear and head for the trails!

Fall Riding in the Pacific Northwest
Mazama Designs was born in the Pacific Northwest, so of course, it’s one of our favorite places for mountain biking. From the sunny high desert to the lush coastal forests, the PNW beckons riders of all abilities and styles. With towering mountains, old-growth forests, glacial lakes, and a rugged coastline, this area of the country makes for some dramatic - and epic - riding.

When riding in the moderate fall weather of the Pacific Northwest, you can take advantage of the great conditions by packing light. With the Mazama Lumbar 1.5 L Reservoir, you can carry enough water while saving room in your pack for a rain jacket and extra layer.

Fall brings some of the best riding conditions to the Pacific Northwest. Cooling temperatures and changing leaves are some of the highlights mentioned by Mazama customers in this region. Here are a couple of their favorite rides:

Waldo Lake Trail: Bend, Oregon
Waldo Lake is a picturesque, crystal-clear lake in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. Waldo Lake Trail provides 20 epic miles of lakeside riding, with plenty of views along the way. The winds through boulders, swampy sections, burned forests, and more as it circumnavigates this pristine, snowmelt-fed lake. Designated as one of the International Mountain Biking Association’s EPICS, this backcountry route is challenging, beautiful, and well worth a visit.

"Waldo Lake is one of our favorite Fall rides. Any mosquitos are long gone and there are very few people on the trail so it's a serene and beautiful ride. There are a few technical sections and ups and downs to keep you on your toes, but rolling through the lush forest and awesome lake views make this ride worth the trip and a fulfilling and fun way to cap off the summer season.”"
- Cynthia Howcraft

Olympic Adventure Trail: Port Angeles, Washington
The 25-mile point-to-point Olympic Adventure Trail winds along the edge of the Olympic Peninsula. Pristine singletrack snakes through mossy forests and rolling hills before culminating at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. Views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympics make this popular trail one for your bucket list.

The Olympic Adventure Trail is a 25 mile dirt alternative to the paved Olympic Discovery Trail. It’s stretched between Lake Crescent and the Elwha River, and was designed for mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians. I haven’t ridden the OAT yet, but did the ODT last fall on my road bike, so riding the OAT on my mountain bike seems like the logical next step. It’s more single track than I’ve done before, but I’m always up for a challenge! And it takes you through some incredibly scenic (and hilly) forests, so it’ll be especially beautiful in the fall (and less crowded than in the summer)!
- @amysnooze

Lake Crescent, Washington

Outfit your fall ride in the Pacific Northwest: When riding in the moderate fall weather of the Pacific Northwest, you can take advantage of the great conditions by packing light. With the Mazama Lumbar 1.5 L Reservoir, you can carry enough water while saving room in your pack for a rain jacket and extra layer.

Fall Riding in the Southwest
Lots of people - mountain biker or not - associate the sunny, dry landscape of the Southwest with mountain biking. The smooth red slick rock, the canyons and desert, and the mountain biking mecca of Moab, Utah, all have a reputation within the sport. Tons of singletrack, gorgeous scenery, and endless wilderness make this area of the country a legendary mountain biking destination.

With fall in much of the Southwest still sunny and warm, it’s important to bring plenty of water on your biking adventures. The Mazama INTAKE 2L Insulated Reservoir holds lots of water and keeps it cold - even when that desert sun is shining.

This region really shines in the fall. With warm desert hues and the bright changing leaves, fall is the perfect time for a ride in the southwest. Here’s a favorite ride from a Mazama customer:

Enchanted Circle: Taos, New Mexico
The Enchanted Circle is an incredibly scenic region of northern New Mexico with tons of mountain biking, road biking, and other outdoor opportunities. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway circles Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point.  Angel Fire Bike Park, the largest bike park in the Rockies, is just one of the places to hit the trail and enjoy this gorgeous high-altitude terrain.

Love when the colors start to pop. When the sun starts to set on all the shades of yellow and the wildlife pop in for a visit it’s magical.
- @karenzaleski

Moreno Valley, NM

Fall Riding in the Midwest
Mountain bikers who call the West home may have never considered the Midwest as a place for outdoor recreation, much less a destination for mountain biking. But it’s time to rethink that idea - the Midwest, with its bounty of lakes, woods, and even mountains, has a ton to offer.

From the caverns of Kentucky, the Appalachians of Ohio, the Northwoods of Wisconsin, to the rugged Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there are all kinds of trail settings to explore.

The Midwest, though more mild in terrain, is known for bitter, unpredictable weather. The fall season is a tossup between pleasant days or winter-like conditions, and it can change on a dime. When the weather errs toward winter’s chill, the Mazama Tumalo Hydration Pack can fit over thicker, insulative layers.

Fewer crowds, vibrant forests, epic lake views, and surprisingly technical routes are all reasons to check out some Midwest trails this fall. Our trail recommendation for the Midwest comes from a rider in Wisconsin:

Hickory Ridge: Bloomer, Wisconsin
Hickory Ridge, in central Wisconsin, offers technical trails through forested ridges and around more than a dozen glacial lakes. These trails in the Chippewa County Forest offer a wilderness-like experience, and make you feel like you’re riding through pristine, untouched woods.

I recommend Hickory ridge trails in the Fall for a few reasons, the bugs are gone, the trails are flowy and fun, they don't beat you up and by Fall I'm done with big rocks, I just want a long enjoyable ride on fun trails in the middle of nowhere. Tight and twisty, well developed, tons of lakes and swamps and hills make it quintessential for the area. There are plenty of better known trail systems in the midwest, but I think Hickory Ridge is a hidden gem that surprises everyone who visits.
- James Kiffmeyer

Get Outside and Enjoy the Trails This Fall
As the leaves begin to change, take advantage of this perfect riding season before those first snowflakes start to fall. Cool weather, crisp and clean air, fewer crowds, and beautiful foliage make this an unbeatable time to explore both familiar and new trails.

Heading out for some epic rides this fall? Check out our hydration packs for easy, quick, convenient hydration on the trail.