Walking through the forest for the sake of “leaf peeping” is a beloved autumn tradition across the country. But taking in the fall foliage while tearing down trails on two wheels? Now, that's more our speed.
Lucky for Seattle-area adventurers, some of Washington’s most fiery scenery also happens to hold great routes for mountain biking. Here, six of the best places for fall mountain biking in Washington.
The quirky Bavarian-themed tourist town of Leavenworth is one of the best places to see bright yellow and red trees in the state—so much so that Leavenworth’s longest running event is the annual Autumn Leaf Festival and Parade, held in late September. The surrounding hills and canyons are also home to fun mountain biking trails throughout the year. Head to Freund Canyon for eight miles of singletrack that switchback through orchards, or to the Waterfront Park for a low-key, three-mile ride alongside the river in the valley beneath the surrounding hills and trees, aglow in their fall finery.
2. North Cascades
The North Cascades and Methow Valley are full of well-maintained, epic mountain biking trails. In the fall, the surrounding views are made all the more epic because they're speckled with golden larch trees—an unusual type of conifer whose leaves turn yellow in the fall, before they are blown off by winter’s storms. Bikers looking for a challenge might want to take on the 12-mile ride up and down Cutthroat Pass .
3. Tiger Mountain
For those who want to stay closer to home, Tiger Mountain is just an hour’s drive from Seattle and offers 16 miles of great mountain biking trails, making it one of the most popular biking destinations in the area. And it’s a good place to get a dose of fall colors, too (keep an eye out for the maples). The trail up to East Tiger Summit takes some effort on the way up, but the views from the top—of Mount Rainier on a clear day, and of the autumnally spiced landscape below—will soon make you forget about your screaming quads.
4. Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens , the infamous volcano in southwest Washington, has come a long way since it blew off its top in 1980. Nowadays, the once scorched landscape again bursts with color each fall—and the networks of trails that surround the peak make for a great biking destination. The Ape Canyon Trail to the Plains of Abraham offers stark geological contrasts, as it starts in pleasant forests and then ascends to plains of pumice, high ridges, and views of the entire blast zone.
5. John Wayne Pioneer Trail
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail, also known as the Iron Horse Trail, is a rail trail that runs all the way from North Bend to the Columbia River. It makes for a great long ride, but can be hot in the summer—especially as you move east. Do it in the fall instead, and the season’s brisk temperatures will keep you cool as you chug along, soaking up the fantastic views.
6. Chuckanut Mountain
Chuckanut Mountain near Bellingham is famous for its expansive views and single-track trails, making it a great place for mountain biking in the fall. There are plenty of good rides to choose from, like the Hemlock Trail, Raptor Ridge, or the technical Chuckanut Ridge Trail. Switchbacking up to the top, you’ll be treated to awesome views of the Salish Sea and it’s islands, peppered with fall color below.
The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. The NFF’s programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, improves recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. Learn more at www.nationalforests.org.