Mountain Bike Trails in California

A vast area spanning 163,694.73 mi², the sun is out almost all year round, beaches, mountains, and plenty of sights of landmarks. These are the things that make California an amazing tourist destination. For the mountain biking community, it's even better with many bike trails for different experience levels, varied singletrack terrains, multiple changes in elevation, etc. If you plan on exploring California on a mountain bike, here are our suggestions for trails you should start with for the best experience.

Best Mountain Bike Trails in California

Los Angeles
El Prieto Loop is a fantastic trail for late evening, after-work biking, or morning workouts, as it has a diverse terrain. The El Prieto Loop is a network of multi-use
8.32 mi
The American River Trail, also known as Jedediah Smith memorial trail, is one of the most popular bike paths worldwide. The multi-use trail is paved and runs between the
32 mi
The North Natomas Loop is a network of Sacramento’s neighborhood trails. The trail network is a convenient access to the area’s amenities like parks, schools, and shopping
2.5 mi
The Gateway Oaks trail is a gentle out-and-back trail suitable for all biking skill levels. It runs north of the Sacramento River and is popular for road biking. Besides road
3.5 mi
The Folsom South Canal Recreation Trail is a famous paved biking path that parallels the canal. The 15.5-mile biking route is easy, and anyone, including cycling beginners,
15.5 mi
San Diego
Mother Miguel is the place to be if you need to flex your advanced biking skills. The difficult trail has enough challenges and rewarding views. The Mother Miguel, aka
2.05 mi
San Diego
The Baja Divide is a multi-use, established, off-pavement road popular among bike packers, campers, and hikers. Keep reading to discover its interesting features. The Baja
59.4 mi
San Diego
The Eagle Peak mountain trail is difficult out and back, ideal for advanced bikers. It is popular among bikers and hikers, especially in the winter and spring seasons. Read on
9.07 mi
San Diego
The San Clemente/Rose Canyons is an iconic flowing singletrack worth riding because of the beautiful views of the surrounding area. The San Clemente/Rose Canyons is a
15.8 mi
San Diego
The Stone Mountain trail is family-friendly and easy, with few technical features that make it ideal for beginner riders and family cycling adventures. The Stone Mountain
3.04 mi

California: Area Description

Since California is such a large area, the geography differs from place to place. For instance, about 25% of the state is considered a desert and comprises the Mojave, Great Basin, and Colorado deserts. As such, some trails go through these deserts, and they're characterized by minimal greenery, cactus plants on the side of the trails, and no shade.

It also gets hot on these trails, especially in the middle of the day.

Roots in the middle of the trails are rare, but there are plenty of rocks. As such, they can still make for difficult and technical rides depending on the particular trail in question.

Additionally, California is home to plenty of mountains, with examples such as Mount Shasta, Mount San Jacinto, Lassen Peak, and Mount Diablo, just to name a few. There are also many small, medium, and big hills across the state.

Given the higher elevations in and around the mountains, there's a lot more greenery, with tree canopies often available to provide shade to mountain bikers. This means these trails have significantly more roots and even the occasional log or branch on the singletracks.

The trails in the mountains and hilly parts of California provide many elevation changes, with harsh climbs being the order of the day. However, they also allow for fun and exciting descents.

Overall, the trails you encounter will likely depend on the part of California you're exploring. Irvine, for instance, is semi-arid with hilly terrain and should provide plenty of technical climbs and exciting descents. Some trails are rocky, so you'll need to be careful.

Oceanside is just as hilly as Irvine, although it's also slightly greener. On the other hand, Pasadena is significantly greener due to the higher altitudes and mountains like Mount Lowe.

Certain sections of California, like San Francisco and Santa Rosa, have their bike trails going through full woody forests.

Land area 163,694.73 mi² / 423,967 km²
Max elevation 13,435 ft
Min elevation -269 ft

Demographics of California

California is the most populous U.S. state, with the next most populous state, Texas, having an estimated 30 million people. The median age is 36.7 years old, and projections show that by 2030 one in five people will be 65 or older. There's also a trend of people moving out of the state.

Only 1.1% of commuters use bicycles as of 2020, with the number of people using mountain bike trails regularly being unclear. However, given the vastness of mountain bike trails, you won't have to share the trails with too many people when you explore.

However, that also depends on your city or region, with some cities having more mountain bikers than others.

Total population (in 2021) 39.24 million
Population density (in 2021) 251.3/sq mi²

Climate of California

The climate in California is fairly bike friendly, with most of the state averaging 40°F or higher for most of the year. As such, it's possible to explore the trails and mountains even in the winter.

Depending on altitude, some cities and sections of the state don't get much rainfall throughout the year. In Southeastern California, where the Mojave Desert is, you might not get much rainfall. That said, others can get up to 22.9 inches of rain a year.

Most of the rain will fall between October and April, so if you're in the state during this period and want to explore some of the trails, it might be good to check the weather forecast. Any time between mid-April and October is a great time to visit and explore the trails since there's hardly ever any rain.

Average temperature by months

HIGH Los Angeles San Francisco Sacramento Palm Springs Eureka
JAN 68°F 57°F 55°F 70°F 56°F
FEB 68°F 60°F 61°F 73°F 56°F
MAR 70°F 63°F 66°F 79°F 56°F
APR 72°F 65°F 73°F 86°F 57°F
MAY 74°F 67°F 81°F 93°F 59°F
JUN 78°F 69°F 89°F 102°F 61°F
JUL 83°F 70°F 93°F 106°F 62°F
AUG 84°F 70°F 93°F 105°F 63°F
SEP 83°F 72°F 88°F 100°F 64°F
OCT 78°F 70°F 78°F 89°F 62°F
NOV 72°F 63°F 64°F 77°F 58°F
DEC 67°F 57°F 55°F 69°F 55°F


LOW Los Angeles San Francisco Sacramento Palm Springs Eureka
JAN 49°F 46°F 40°F 47°F 42°F
FEB 50°F 49°F 43°F 50°F 43°F
MAR 52°F 51°F 46°F 54°F 43°F
APR 55°F 53°F 49°F 59°F 45°F
MAY 59°F 54°F 53°F 66°F 47°F
JUN 62°F 55°F 58°F 72°F 50°F
JUL 65°F 56°F 60°F 78°F 52°F
AUG 66°F 57°F 60°F 79°F 52°F
SEP 64°F 58°F 57°F 73°F 50°F
OCT 60°F 56°F 52°F 64°F 47°F
NOV 53°F 52°F 45°F 54°F 45°F
DEC 48°F 47°F 40°F 46°F 42°F

Infrastructure in California

The state is fairly bike friendly, with over 5,500 miles of bikeways with, some spanning through several counties. The roads in California are well-built and maintained and, as such, offer easy access to most of the trails.

The trails also seem pretty well maintained, with a few exceptions.

Sights and Landmarks in California

There are plenty of exciting sights and landmarks in California for mountain bikers. A good example is the Mount Lowe Railway trail. It goes through what was once the United States' only scenic overhead electric trolley train. The trail has signs showing the railway's history at certain intervals.

There are also trails that showcase landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge or go through parks like the Sequoia National Park.


Which California city has the best weather?

San Diego has good all-year weather. It stays sunny most of the time, with the temperatures ranging from 64°F on a cool day to 79°F on the other end. The rainy period is the same as in the rest of California, so between October and April, you should be checking the weather just to be safe.

What are some high-difficulty trails in California to challenge myself with?

Some examples of technical trails you might want to check out include the San Clemente Singletracks and Keen Camp Climb in Oceanside, the Trione-Annadel State Park – Big Loop in Santa Rosa, and the Solstice in San Francisco.

What should I keep in mind while exploring California on a mountain bike?

Many trails, especially those in the desert regions, don't have shade, so dress light, wear sunglasses if you have to, and carry plenty of water.