It's summer. That means spring thaw is over, tan lines are in, and mountain bike parks across North America are opening for the season. But when it comes to choosing a park, a lot of riders don't know where to turn. We decided to pick up the slack on this one and break down, region by region, the best bike parks in North America.
First up: the Northeast. Characterized by thickly wooded forests and root-laden single track, the region plays home to several first class parks within easy driving distance of major cities. While the mountain bike world is starting to recognize the East as a legitimate scene, Northeasterners would argue it has been there all along, you just needed to know where to look.
5. Killington Mountain Bike Park, Vermont
Killington‘s Bike Park spreads the wealth, stretching 45 miles of trails over five mountain areas and 1,700 vertical feet. Take your mountain bike on the gondola and ride downhill or challenge yourself on the areas collection of cross country trails. According to Sicklines.com, Killington's, "high amount of elevation coupled with the layout of the mountain lends itself to some very long runs," with nearly half-hour descents between trips up the K1 Gondola. For those just learning to ride, Killington offers small group lessons and protective gear, and for the more experienced, mountain tours with local riders are also available. Often overshadowed by its winter operations, Killington Mountain Bike Park is a Green Mountain staple.
Day Pass: $35
4. Mountain Creek Bike Park, New Jersey
Only an hour outside of New York City, Mountain Creek Bike Park offers the longest lift-serviced riding season in North America (May to November) and 1,040 feet of vertical drop. The park features 46 downhill and freeride trails, and though 30 percent of the mountain is beginner and intermediate terrain, Mountain Creek is built for rippers. Over 60 freestyle features are intermixed with natural drops and steep single track, and Mountain Creek also has an air bag for freestyle riders on top of 10 miles of cross country trails. Singletracks.com sums up the Mountain Creek experience nicely, "If you have the skills…this place will tame just about anyone!"
Day Pass: $39.99
3. Plattekill Mountain Bike Park, New York
Haven't heard of Platekill Mountain in upstate New York? Good, that's just the way the local riders like it. Plattekill Mountain Bike Park is located in the Catskill Mountains, and was one of the first lift-serviced bike parks in the Northeast. Now in its 19th season, the area has over 60 miles of terrain, including steep chutes, loose shale, and large drops that will keep experts entertained for days. For the less insanity-inclined, Plattekill offers a "Learn to Mountain Bike" package and several summer camp programs during the summer. Known as a "rider's mountain,” Plattekill plays host to big name races every year, including a four-race series sanctioned by USA Cycling. The mountain is split up into two sides, with one side mostly rock and the other more dirt riding amongst tree cover and brush. Look for a new two-mile beginner trail for the 2013 season.
Day Pass: $35
2. Highland Mountain Bike Park, New Hampshire
Located just 90 minutes outside of Boston, New Hampshire's Highland Mountain Bike Park is a freerider's dream, with over 20 miles of progressive terrain. Home to a series of technical North Shore-esque trails, table-top jump lines, and downhill trails with some serious flow, Highland Mountain attracts an electric crowd of freeriders ranging from beginner to professional. Every July Highland Mountain hosts the Claymore Challenge, a slopestyle and best trick competition that is considered one of the most fun stops on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour. The mountain also features a kids zone, slalom course, and even a dirt halfpipe. For those looking to take their tricks to the next level, an air bag is also available at the base area.
Fun on the trail isn't limited to the U.S., just ask Quebec resort Mont-Sainte-Anne. Mont-Sainte-Anne's Mountain Bike Park is the largest trail network in Eastern Canada with over 120km (75 miles) of cross country trails, 25km (15 miles) of downhill, and 9km (5 miles) of enduro trails. In addition, the area features a pump track with banked turns and rollers at the base of the mountain. Described as the "Mecca of mountain biking" by WorldBikeParks.com, Mont-Sainte-Anne has hosted several World Cup events and has enough diverse terrain to keep beginners and experts equally satisfied. New this season, the Canadian bike park adds four cross country trails and 5km to its extensive trail system. Unfortunately, due to heavy rains, downhill trails won't be open until mid-July. Still, just 30 minutes from Quebec City, Mont-Sainte-Anne's access is hard to beat.
Day Pass (lift access/no lift access): $40/$9 CDN
Honorable Mention: Sunday River, Maine. Vast improvements over the past few years have put the Maine resort and its 30 trails back on the map.