Seattle is known for many things: fish markets, sports teams, and rainy weather to name a few. But what many folks don’t know is that we have some of the best mountain biking in the world. The backbone of mountain biking in the Seattle area is Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA), which has helped create an amazing progression of trails. We have great trails for riders of all abilities.
Some other riding destinations have miles of expert trails, but nothing tamer for beginner riders to get started. Our trail systems are designed to help you grow as a rider, by letting you push your limits without leaving your comfort zone. If you live in the Seattle area and are just getting started on a mountain bike, here’s our guide to making the most of it.
If you own your own bike and helmet, you’re set. But, if you’re trying out mountain biking for the first time, we recommend you start out by renting. Most bike shops have some sort of rental program, but the pandemic has changed rental availability at many shops. Call ahead and make sure they have a bike in your size. You’ll also need a bike helmet, and most shops can include one with your bike rental.
While there are some trails in the city, like Evergreen’s first trail project, the I-5 Colonnade Park, you’ll most likely have to drive to get to our trails. While you can stash your bike in your car, we recommend getting a bike rack. It’s way more convenient, and won’t make your car a giant mess.
Once you’ve got your gear, it’s time to ride! Here are our favorite zones for beginner riders.
Duthie Hill is unquestionably the best place for riders just starting out. Duthie is small in overall area, but mighty in its variety and progression. There’s a large spiderweb of trails in a concentrated area, and there are lots of options without getting too far from your car.
Mountain bike trails are rated like ski runs: Green trails are the easiest, blues are intermediate, and black and double black diamond trails are for experts. Duthie has a wide range of green, and easy blue trails from which to choose.
We recommend Bootcamp as a great warmup trail. It’s mellow and fun, making it a great place to get comfortable on the bike and build confidence. Once you’re feeling good there, branch off onto any of the other green or blue trails.
Be aware, while the beginner and intermediate trails at Duthie are perfect for first-time riders, the black and double black diamond trails have much bigger features, and are much more challenging. So if you’re feeling like a challenge and want to try a more advanced trail, just be aware that you may run into jumps and drops with mandatory gaps – look before you leap!
Raging River is a newer riding area. EMBA, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and volunteers have put tons of effort into building miles of trails to create a unique and awesome trail center. If you’re comfortable riding the green trails and some blues at Duthie Hill, it might be time to head to Raging River. Raging River doesn’t have quite as much truly easy terrain as Duthie, but it’s got a bunch of mellow intermediate riding, and the option for some longer loops that allow you to really cover some miles. Rides here are also much longer than the short laps at Duthie. We’d recommend starting out on the lower mountain loop of Lower Poppin Tops and Flow State, and working your way up as you gain confidence.
Raging River’s upper mountain trails are more technical, but aren’t as intimidating as Duthie’s double blacks, and offer some great views and elevation change. So if you’re looking for longer rides without scaring yourself, head to Raging River.
Some mountain bikers want big uphill grinds, followed by long, relentless descents. Others just want miles of flowing, swoopy trail. They want to climb for a few minutes, descend a few turns, and climb again. If that’s the sort of riding you’re looking for, Paradise Valley is perfect for you. Paradise Valley is more of a “Cross Country” riding area. While the other areas on this list are designed to give you a fun descent following a longer climb, Paradise valley has more rolling hills. That means you get to experience a little bit of everything throughout the ride.
Paradise Valley has 11 miles of bike trail, and almost all of it is green or blue rated. And the black diamond trails they do have aren’t steep and scary, they’re just a little more technical (think roots, rocks, and other trail features). If you’re looking to go spin some miles away, and you want an organic, flowy ride without big climbs or descents, Paradise Valley is a great riding area.
Once you’re feeling confident on the bike, Tiger Mountain is one of the best riding areas in Seattle. But it’s not for the faint of heart. Instead, it’s a good idea to work up to riding at Tiger, building skills and confidence at other areas before you head there.
Tiger Mountain has many miles of trails with a broad range of trail difficulties. However, there are still plenty of easy green and blue trails to get warmed up on. If you ride to the top of Tiger you’re treated to a great view of Mt Rainier, and then a long, fun descent down. Like Duthie, there are plenty of blue trails to challenge yourself on, and the black, and double black downhill trails are the real deal. Always make sure you’re prepared and confident for whatever trail you’re riding. A great beginner to intermediate loop climbs up Master Link, then descends Inside Passage, and returns on Northwest Timber, with the optional loop on Easy Tiger if you want more mileage.
Seattle is a great place to learn how to ride a mountain bike. Put on your shoes, throw your bike on the rack, head to one of these riding areas, and start building your skills and fitness.
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