Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

Where can you find the best mountain bike trails in Pennsylvania? Find out as we review ten of the many mountain biking trails Pennsylvania offers.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 02, 2022
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Mountain biking has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the last decade, and especially in the months since the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether as a high-school sport, an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, experience community with other riders, increase your aerobic exercise, fitness level, or calorie burn, or a combination of these factors, mountain biking is the new “it” thing.

As it is in the rest of the United States, mountain biking in Pennsylvania is experiencing an upsurge and increase in popularity. Pennsylvania is well known for its outdoor beauty and activities, and many outdoor enthusiasts flock to the state to experience these things. The state has seen an increase in trail access and infrastructure, further cementing its popularity among mountain biking enthusiasts. In fact, many of Pennsylvania’s mountain biking trails have been nominated for and given the designation of “ epic Trusted Source Search IMBA EPICS | IMBA Ride The IMBA EPICS designation denotes a true backcountry riding experience. IMBA EPICS are what many mountain bikers live for and make travel plans around: immersive rides that are technically and physically challenging, beautiful to behold and worthy of celebration. EPICS are demanding, majority singletrack trail experiences in a natural setting and at least 20 miles in length. ride.imba.com ” by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), with two trails given this notable distinction.

10 Best Mountain Bike Trails in Pennsylvania

1. Quebec Run Odyssey

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

The Quebec Run Odyssey Mountain bike trail is located in Hopwood, Pennsylvania. Near Forbes State Forest, in western Pennsylvania. It’s also near the Lick Hollow Picnic area, with parking available at either end of the loop.

Rated as difficult, this mountain biking trail is not for the faint of heart! The 27.4 miles of trail, comprised of 60% singletrack with almost equal parts road biking, is a challenging, technical, and rewarding ride. With an average grade of 5% and a maximum grade of 51%, your quads will burn! Even riding in the easier direction (from south to north) while minimizing tough climbs on difficult terrain will not eliminate having to ride hard.

Conquering this loop rewards Pennsylvania mountain bikers with exceptional riding and exhilarating experiences, including mountainous terrain, old school trails, stream crossings, impressive overlooks, rock gardens, and thrilling descents.

While in Forbes State Forest riding the Quebec Run Odyssey, make sure not to miss the Whitetail challenge! Whitetail is a 9.4 mile stretch of singletrack spanning the distance from the Tebolt trailhead to the Lick Hollow Picnic area. This Pennsylvania mountain biking trail is one of the most notable in the western part of the state. Its length and terrain give this trail a “difficult” rating, so it’s best to make sure you have one of these full suspension mountain bikes to help absorb the impact of the Whitetails rocky terrain. The Whitetail combines challenging ascents, an average grade of 6% — with a maximum grade of 21% — and fun, challenging descent into the Lick Hollow Picnic area. The picnic area is situated with ample parking, places to picnic, and toilets.

Keep in mind that the Quebec Run Odyssey trail is located in a remote area, so pack accordingly. It’s also in a hunting zone, so make sure to be aware of the season. To avoid any issues, plan to ride on Sundays, as the area prohibits hunting on Sundays.

While you’re in the area, check out nearby mountain biking trails, including OP Singletrack Sampler and Ohiopyle Shuttle Ride–Summit to Town. Both are ranked as intermediate trails, and both are in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. You could also ride at the nearby Fork Run Trails – rated difficult – just across the border in western Maryland.

2. Mick Jaggers

Located in Butler, Pennsylvania, the Mick Jaggers Mountain biking trail is an easy/intermediate loop located within the Alameda Park riding area. The green flow trail is a half-mile of singletrack that may look like nothing much. But Mick Jaggers boasts many banked turns, one bridge, and pump-track-style bump sections.

The trail’s 6% max grade, with a 2% average grade, will get your heart pumping. It’s a quick 4-minute ride with a 74-foot climb and a 63-foot descent.

Mick Jaggers is one of many in the 10 miles of machine-built and professionally maintained trails in the Alameda Park area about an hour north of Pittsburgh. Because of the way the Mick Jaggers Mountain biking trail is situated within the greater trail system, there are layers of loops to ride, ranging from easy to intermediate. Due to the construction of these trails, you often need to take an easy route to get to a more challenging one, which only adds to the fun! Loop around Mick Jaggers to your heart’s content or branch out from it to make your own route without having to repeat the same section twice.

You can head east from Mick Jaggers to tackle the Rainbows and Unicorns or Alien Armpit trails. Or you can go west and check out the Jungle Boogie, Jesse’s Girl, and Stacy’s Mom loops.

3. Laurel Trail

Just like the first trail on our list, the Laurel Trail is in Forbes State Forest in Boswell, Pennsylvania. As part of the Laurel Highlands Trail System, there are options for an easy/intermediate run and an advanced run.

Whichever loop you choose, it’s best to note that these trails should be avoided after any recent rain, as the nature of the soil and the mountaintop location can become dangerous. This area is also known for cross-country skiing since Laurel Ridge gets so much snow, and trails are closed to biking during snow cover.

Also, be aware of and on the lookout for rattlesnakes in warmer weather, as the Timber Rattlesnake is known to love the rocky terrain in the area. Be especially careful when you stop to rest or eat, as you’re likely to see them basking in the sun on the many rocks. Just leave them alone and give them a wide berth; they are generally docile and won’t bother you. But they must still be respected.

Intro to Laurel – which is rated as an easy/intermediate trail, is 14.3 miles of mostly singletrack. This ride highlights the easiest trails of the network and can be done as one continuous ride or broken up into three separate, shorter loops.

It is suggested that beginners ride the northern loops (2.9 miles and 5.9 miles) within the Intro to Laurel loop before extending their ride to the middle (3.2 miles) and southern (8.0 miles) loops. Most of the trails are non-technical. However, there are a handful of short, rocky sections which are unavoidable.

It’s best to start this ride at the warming hut – where you can also go to warm yourself when it’s cold – along the gravel section of Laurel Summit Road, just beyond the main parking lot.

Best of Laurel – rated as an advanced/difficult trail, is 20.4 miles of 90% singletrack trail. This Laurel Mountain ride includes the best and most challenging mountain biking trails in this area of Pennsylvania. Most trails are rocky but flow well. And there is little climbing involved, with a 2% average grade.

Expect to find varied terrain on this trail, with rock gardens, rock walls, roots, rock crevices, bridges, many rocks, and log piles. This might be a trail where you opt for your gravel bike over your mountain bike – if you have one. Or at least be sure to have this full suspension mountain bike to conquer this rocky terrain. Start this ride at the Mainline trailhead, located on Summit Road, two miles off Route 30.

4. Coopers Gap Road Trail

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

With an average grade of 4% and a maximum grade of 9%, Coopers Gap Road Trail includes tons of rocks, roots when it’s not rocky, great green flow bits, spectacular views, and the right combination of climbs and descents. This is Pennsylvania mountain biking at its best!

Rated easy, the Coopers Gap Road Trail is in Belleville, PA, within Rothrock State Forest. This road trail is 8.0 miles long and is a doubletrack trail. The main arterial road links multiple trails together and also houses parking areas for the same trails. The trails linked by the Coopers Gap Road Trail are Shittaka, Deer Tick, Chicken Peter, Peep Trail, Bear Gap Trail, Dutch Alvin, and Chestnut Spring.

If you’re feeling ambitious – and as long as this is not your first try at mountain biking – warm up with a ride on Coopers Gap Road Trail to loosen up those muscles and get your blood flowing, and then head over to the Rothrock State Forest trail. This trail is one of two mountain biking trails in Pennsylvania rated epic by the International Mountain Biking Association, making it a mountain biking destination.

The Rothrock State Forest Trail is 36 miles of mostly singletrack trails with a rating of difficult. Trail highlights include a variety of ridge tops – boasting an average grade of 4% and a 20% max grade – technical riding, solid flow sections due to machine-built trails, and rocky, grueling climbs. This course provides some of the best mountain biking within Central Pennsylvania.

Note that this course is intense! Professional riders can expect to spend 3 hours on this trail, while experienced recreational riders should plan for up to 6 hours. The Rothrock State Forest Trail truly deserves the epic designation from IMBA. Make sure to pack plenty of water, take rest breaks, and plan to have a picnic lunch along the way.

Whether opting for the easy Coopers Gap Road Trail or the difficult Rothrock State Forest Trail, keep in mind that while this area is open year-round, spring and fall are hunting seasons. So as with the Quebec Run Odyssey trail, make sure to plan this ride on a Sunday, or at least be aware of the season.

5. Settlers Cabin Trail

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

With so much undeveloped land that has been restored with grading and reforestation after the area was mined for coal, there is much room and many plans for the development of more new trails.

Located in Rennerdale, Pennsylvania, within Settlers Cabin Park, tackle the intermediate Pennsylvania mountain biking trail called Settlers Cabin Trail. Settlers Cabin Park includes 1589 acres, is part of the greater Pittsburgh metropolitan area, and is west of the city.

This intermediate trail is 6.2 miles of 90% singletrack, with a mix of wide-open trails to accommodate riders of all skill levels. Settlers Cabin is also a great trail for beginners to ride and practice – getting some miles under their tires – without fear of getting into a situation where they’re in over their heads. With only one fairly easy climb and a handful of technical features to try, this is a beginning rider’s perfect trail.

The trail system within the park is well-marked, with clear signs and blazes on the trees. Each loop within this trail can be taken individually or combined into a continuous 9-mile loop of the park. The continuous loop of the park is accessible from the Algonquin, TeePee, Iroquois, Arrowhead, and Gilbert Love parking lots.

The terrain includes streams, a few small waterfalls, and a lot of rolling slopes, meadows, and new forest growth due to reforestation efforts. Do keep in mind that the area includes a rather large muddy bog unless the weather has been exceptionally dry. So be prepared to get muddy and use these quick tips for cleaning your mountain bike after riding this trail.

After finishing Settlers Cabin Trail, head about 25 minutes further west and check out the highly rated Knowleton Trails since you and your bike are already muddy.

This system is in Hillman State Park and is another great trail for beginners. The 9.6-mile loop is a short, fun loop ride consisting of three main trails: Short N Sweet Trail, Figure 8 Trail, and Old Airport Trail (recently renamed the Stallion Trail). You’re likely to get a little muddy on this trail, too! Bear in mind that Hillman State Park is a hunting zone, and it is illegal to ride these trails except on Sundays, during hunting season.

6. French Creek Loop

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

Some of the park trails are for hikers only, so keep your eyes peeled for signs as all trails within the French Creek Start Park system are well-marked.

The French Creek Loop Trail includes multiple trails in the French Creek State Park system. Located outside Reading, Pennsylvania, and not far from Philadelphia, this trail is rated difficult due to many technical, rocky sections. The 11.3-mile loop is 90% singletrack, with a 4% average grade and 17% maximum grade. Get ready to climb!

The terrain includes some wood bridges, many maintenance roads, and several steep areas. But this trail rewards rider with views of many lakes and creeks, the surrounding camping grounds, and the Hopewell Fire Tower.

Because the French Creek Loop is within French Creek State Park, there are several access points to the trails. This is helpful, as the area can be crowded. Offering camping, boating, kayaking, swimming, downhill and cross-country skiing, and hiking – in addition to the reason you want to visit: Pennsylvania mountain biking – this park is great for the entire family. Don’t be surprised when you see other riders and hikers on the trails. But the many access points do help to spread out traffic and congestion.

While you’re in the area, it would be a miss to skip the close-by Nine Mile Neversink Loop. This easy/intermediate trail is a quick 9-mile loop that starts and ends at the famed Canal Street Pub in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, along the Schuylkill River. This trail is 25% singletrack, with the majority of the loop located on a double-track gravity trail connecting Neversink Mountain to Antietam Lake. This loop does feature a lot of climbing, with an average grade of 5% and a maximum grade of 21%. But once you’ve finished this ride, you can easily find a drink and relax in downtown Reading.

It’s worth noting that Canal Street Pub is rider-friendly! You can use their parking lot, and if the restaurant isn’t busy, they will let your bike inside – as long as it isn’t muddy.

7. Jake’s Rocks True Green Loop

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

An easy/intermediate loop, Jake’s Rocks True Green Loop is located in northwestern Pennsylvania, in Warren.

This 4.2-mile trail is a 100% singletrack ride with a 2% average grade and a 9% maximum grade. Most of the obstacles and technical areas on this loop are not mandatory, as there is plenty of room to avoid or at least ride around. This feature, combined with a few climbs and steep sections and options to shorten the ride, this loop is perfect for the whole family. But if you want to take on the rocky terrain with ease, check out this sub-$2000 full suspension bike.

With terrain including easy fern meadows, rock gardens, and slick rock, and some stunning overlooks, this is a really enjoyable ride. Your ride along Jake’s Rock True Green Loop will also include a water reservoir and an old fire tower. Look for other historical markers and geographical features along the way, too.

Jake’s Rocks True Green Loop is fun in either direction but taking the counterclockwise route means you’ll be heading downhill through one of the few rocky sections on the trail. Keep this in mind when planning your route – whether because you love the feel of skidding through rocks on your descent or because you have little ones or beginners to consider. To access this counterclockwise route, start at the picnic area parking lot at Jake’s Rocks National Recreation Area and look for signs directing to your F Trail.

There are many other trails within Jake’s Rocks National Recreation Area and within the Trails at Jake’s Rocks system. Check out the 11.1-mile Big Loop Trail within this system. Another 100% singletrack trail, the Big Loop Trail, is intermediate and is a showcase of all of the trails in phase one of this trail system. Hitting all of the trails on the perimeter, the Big Loop Trail then doubles back, climbs up Coal Knob, and then features a descent back to the trailhead. This trail is also very family-friendly.

As with many of our picks for best mountain biking trails in Pennsylvania, Jake’s Rocks trails are within an area that allows for hunting, so it is wise to be aware of Pennsylvania hunting seasons.

8. Twisted Furnace Ride

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

The Twisted Furnace ride takes advantage of some of the best and most spectacular views of the over 85,000-acre Michaux State Forest. When taken with the other trails within the forest, there are over 37 miles of trails to explore.

The Twisted Furnace Ride is located within Michaux State Forest in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. The trail is a difficult 19.3-mile trail, with long climbs and a 55% singletrack trail. The average grade is 4%, with the maximum grade a whopping 27%, making for some brutal climbs!

Much of the trail is a double track for traversal by 4×4 ATVs. In fact, one mountain biker recently noted that 95% of this trail ride is 4×4 doubletrack, 5% dirt/logging roads, and 0% singletrack. This is something to be aware of and brings up the next point: this ride does include logging/dirt roads, which are used by local loggers. It is important to be aware of this and to keep your eyes open for any logging activity – loggers and logging trucks. Make sure to steer clear of both if you happen upon them while you ride this trail.

The Twisted Furnace Ride starts with a span of uphill rock gardens, which promises to get your blood pumping and is a great challenge. Riders familiar with this occurrence often make sure to warm up before starting this trail. Terrain also includes some open, flat spots that turn into a downhill with many switchbacks. One area of logging road (about two miles long) is steep with a considerable climb.

Another thing to note when planning to bike the Twisted Furnace Ride is that you will want a map with you. This trail is not very clearly marked, and you will need to refer to your map often to make sure you do not miss any turns or forks.

If you are still raring to go after the difficult Twisted Furnace Ride – or, more likely, your companions want an easier trail – be sure to check out the nearby Biker Hiker Trail. This trail is rated easy and is also within the Michaux State Forest. The 2.8-mile singletrack Biker Hiker Trail is an easy, steady climb. Boasting a 1% average grade.

9. The Great Allegheny Passage

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

Just north of the Pennsylvania border with Maryland, west of Wellersburg, Pennsylvania, the grade increases gradually to the pinnacle of the ride at 2605 feet.

The Great Allegheny Passage, tracing old footpaths and railroad corridors, spans the distance from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland. The 152.4-mile trail is easy and very highly rated. The trail is paved and crushed gravel, with a very manageable grade for all levels of mountain bikers, with a 1% average grade.

Even with the length of this trail, both beginner and experienced mountain bikers will find something to love. The trail is relatively smooth and easy to pedal, with easy ascents and descents that are almost imperceptible. The Great Allegheny Passage snakes around mountains and along the Casselman, Youghiogheny, and Monongahela Rivers.

Planning to make this 152.4-mile journey is actually very easy! There is a website Trusted Source How To Prepare - Great Allegheny Passage On the GAP, you’re never more than nine miles from a trail town, putting overnight lodging, dining, and outfitters within a easy ride or hike. On the C&O Canal Towpath, which is within a National Historic Park, you’re in the woods for stretches of nearly 30 miles at a time, with abundant opportunities for camping. While some hamlets provide services, canal towns are spaced apart, so scheduling your stops takes some advance planning. gaptrail.org dedicated to the Great Allegheny Passage Trail (GAP Trail), and the passage is known for “trail towns” along the way, which means you are never more than nine miles from a place to eat, rest, and even stay overnight. There are also many places with bathrooms, water fountains, and options for camping.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, there is even an option to continue the journey into Georgetown, Washington, D.C. via the use of the C&O Towpath, which picks up in Cumberland, Maryland, where the GAP Trail ends. The C&O Towpath stretches 184.5 miles and makes long-distance trail travel possible between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

10. Rattling Creek Trail

Mountain Biking in Pennsylvania: 10 Best Roads to Travel

The terrain includes spectacular views, rocky areas with short reprieves, and fantastic uphill climbs with exciting descents. There is also a hang-glider launch near the trail in one section, making it a great place to pull off, rest, and watch the hang-gliders.

The only trail on our list given the designation of epic by the International Mountain Bikers Association (aside from the Rothcreek State Forest Trail mentioned in section 4, due to its proximity to the Coopers Gap Road Trail), the Rattling Creek Trail is located in Lykens, Pennsylvania. This trail is highly rated and is also rated as difficult. The 22.3-mile, mostly singletrack ride is sure to get your legs burning. With an average grade of 3% and a maximum grade of 10%, the Rattling Creek Trail is scenic, with many payoffs for tackling it.

Though there is debate over whether the trail should be ridden clockwise or counterclockwise, you’ll have fun and get in a great workout either way. If you choose to ride the loop clockwise, Rattling Creek and Doc Smith trails will come last. However, if you ride the loop counterclockwise, you will get to see the general order in which the trails were constructed.

These trails were built and are maintained by a life-long local resident named Keith Whitcomb. Beginning in 1999, he began building this loop based on the lessons of sustainable trails put forth by the International Mountain Biking Association. Working with his friend Mike Mace, Keith worked hard to maintain the wooded areas that give this loop its East Coast flavor.

In addition to parking on Lykens and Powells Valley Roads, additional access points throughout the trail system make it possible to ride different variations of the Rattling Creek Trail.  While you’re in the area, make sure to ride the Rattling Creek Trail nearby. This trail is 4.2 miles of singletrack and is rated as intermediate. Many mountain bikers in Pennsylvania rate this trail as one of the best singletracks in the area. It is the longest continuous section of the trail and has a lot of variety.

Final Thoughts

Mountain biking in Pennsylvania can be as easy or as difficult as you would like it to be. It can require fearlessness and athleticism – as the most difficult trails like the Quebec Run Odyssey and Twisted Furnace Ride – or it can be a way to get outdoors to enjoy nature, camaraderie, and activity – like in riding the Great Allegheny Passage or the Mick Jaggers trails. Regardless of what you prefer, or if you opt to mix it up and bike all of our ten best Pennsylvania mountain biking trails, you can’t go wrong with any of these options.

References

1.
Search IMBA EPICS | IMBA Ride
The IMBA EPICS designation denotes a true backcountry riding experience. IMBA EPICS are what many mountain bikers live for and make travel plans around: immersive rides that are technically and physically challenging, beautiful to behold and worthy of celebration. EPICS are demanding, majority singletrack trail experiences in a natural setting and at least 20 miles in length.
2.
How To Prepare - Great Allegheny Passage
On the GAP, you’re never more than nine miles from a trail town, putting overnight lodging, dining, and outfitters within a easy ride or hike. On the C&O Canal Towpath, which is within a National Historic Park, you’re in the woods for stretches of nearly 30 miles at a time, with abundant opportunities for camping. While some hamlets provide services, canal towns are spaced apart, so scheduling your stops takes some advance planning.
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