Nothing quite beats the excitement of the wind hitting your face as you hold onto the handlebars and race down a single track on a mountain bike. The movement of the pedals, the flow against the berms, and that moment of catching your breath after a fast, flying good time on a mountain bike—it all adds up to the perfect combination of fun. Ranging from rides on the west side of the state at the Whiterock Conservancy to the east at Sunderbruch Park, there is plenty of single track to explore and obstacles to get your wheels off the ground in Iowa. If you want to experience it all, check out these 10 best mountain biking spots in the state.
Located adjacent to Lake Macbride State Park, the mountain biking trails at Sugar Bottom are some of the best in the state. Featuring 12 miles of single track perfection, Sugar Bottom weaves in and out of lake views and luscious forests, navigating berms, obstacles and the occasional wild deer. There is something for every level of rider at Sugar Bottom, from flowy, fast intermediate loops to technically demanding downhills full of rock gardens, log bridges and plenty of sharp turns. The mountain bike trails are operated by the Iowa Coalition of Off-Road Riders, who also provide the latest trail conditions.
Located nearly halfway between Des Moines and the border of Nebraska, the Whiterock Conservancy of Coon Rapids hosts some of the best mountain biking in western Iowa. Comprising of 16 miles of single track, plus an additional 12 miles of multi-use trail, there are plenty of way to explore the scenic surroundings of Whiterock Conservancy. Centered around the scenic Middle Raccoon River, the mountain biking trails at Whiterock Conservancy follow the hilly contour of the land and provides great riding for all skill levels. Mountain bikes can also be rented through the Whiterock Conservancy for $10 a day, including a helmet, making it one of the most affordable mountain bike rentals in Iowa.
With four miles of single track available, Memorial Park isn’t the biggest place to ride in Iowa, but with the strict attention to detail that went into the construction of the trails, it’s still some of the best riding you’ll find around. Flowy and fast, Memorial Park is perfectly suited for a quick ride after work, or for an extended afternoon hitting the loop twice. Once you’re done riding at Memorial Park, there is still plenty to do at this city-sanctioned recreation place, including throwing a round of disc golf and utilizing the accommodating picnic shelter.
Featuring berm bridges, log drops, and plenty of beginner-friendly routes to choose from, Sunderbruch Park is Davenport’s self-touted best off-road riding experience. With over two miles of beginner trails to practice the basics, once riders graduate into more technical skills, the real fun begins at Sunderbruch. With over 11 trails rated as intermediate and expert only, there is a lot of fun features to explore at Sunderbruch, including well-engineered boardwalks that can possibly send you flying into the air. Whether you are riding off-road for the first time, or you refuse to bike any other way, Sunderbruch Park is the place for you.
It’s hard to pin down exactly just one best mountain biking trails in Decorah, and instead it’s worth mentioning the whole area as a cumulative experience. That’s because spread throughout this scenic town, mountain biking opportunities are abound. Whether visitors aim their wheels down something like the Palisades Trail or perhaps the Van Peenan trails, riders are constantly exposed to the beautiful northeast Iowa scenery. Decorah is home to many different adventures including camping, kayaking and hiking, but no visit is complete without at least hitting one of the many different trails found throughout the area.
Maintained and operated by the Linn Area Mountain Bike Association, Beverly Park offers up some of the best mountain biking in Cedar Rapids. Featuring a heavy dose of beginner and intermediate trails, with a few black diamond spurs reserved for experienced riders, Beverly can provide a full afternoon exploring the 4.4 miles of trail. While the scenery surrounding Beverly Park is worthy of a few rides, if you crush the 4.4 miles there quickly, on the opposite side of town the Squaw Valley multi-use trails can add a little extra excitement to your day.
Located just south of Des Moines, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park provides some of the most challenging, fast and flowy single track within an hour of Des Moines. Featuring 5.5 miles of single track that winds through the woods and old strip-mine locations, every mile of the trail provides constantly changing views of the surrounding Banner Lakes. Riders can expect some challenging uphill moments at Banner Lake, and tight turns while navigating obstacles. The effort is well worth the reward at Banner Lakes, and a high mountain-biking bar is set with every mile of trail.
The Central Iowa Trail Association operates five different trails systems surrounding Des Moines, including Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park, and perhaps their most popular mountain biking spot can be found on the Center Trails. Consisting of two main loops, the Center Trails are located in Greenwood/Ashworth Park and across the street on the Raccoon River floodplain. Altogether, there are 13 miles of trails to explore in the Central Trail system, and even more if you ride the routes in reverse. A favorite mountain bike spot for Des Moines urbanites and beyond, check these trails out early in the morning or throughout the week and you can have it all as your own.
For a casual ride amongst great scenery, Elk Rock State Park provides 13 miles of multi-use trails to explore. The multi-use trails at Elk Rock are shared by hikers and horseback riders, so it’s not recommended to rip through the trails on a mountain bike like you might do with some one-way single track. But with the stunning lakefront views all around, including the stunning shores of Lake Red Rock, you won’t mind taking your time exploring Elk Rock State Park. After your ride, a refreshing dip into Lake Red Rock is the perfect way to cap the day.
Adjacent to the Ingawanis Boy Scout Camp, Ingawanis Woodland is a scenic section of land purchased and cared for by the Bremer County Conservation. Within these wooded hills and unspoiled scenery, volunteer groups have sprung to life a beautiful seven miles of single track worth exploring. Home to the annual Ingawanis Woodland Shredfest, besides competitors, the Ingawanis Woodland trail system draws in all levels of riders throughout the year. Check it out yourself and see why Ingawanis Woodland mountain biking trails are an Iowa hidden gem of awesome single track.