If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that people love biking. In 2016, The New York Times and Business Insider declared cycling as “the new golf,” and USA Cycling found the number of people who took out a cycling license from 2002 to 2013 increased a staggering 76 percent. But that doesn’t fully cover mountain biking participation, where people take their two wheels off road to ride amount dirt, rocks and trees.
It sounds a lot scarier and, we’ll admit, slightly more dangerous than riding on paved road. But that’s only if you pedal unprepared. Bike rental stores, hotels and outdoor sports companies across the country offer lessons that cover all the basics. Some even have training tracks to practice on before you hit the woods and descend downhill. Road riders should take a lesson too, considering everything from your pedaling stance to how you brake to the way you navigate a trail is different than regular roads.
If you’re itching to try a new sport this summer, mountain biking offers a low-impact, high-adventure way to get active outside. And these top mountain biking camps across the United States teach you the right way to ride dirty with the best of ‘em. So book your trip and get ready for a turned-up spin experience.
7 Camps for Learning Stellar Mountain Biking Skills
1. Snowmass, Colorado
Trail location: Snowmass Bike Park
As soon as the snow melts, this mountain village near Aspen, CO transforms into a two-wheeled oasis. With maintained trails, chair lifts offering direct-to-trail access, pro instructors, and over 80 miles of track, it’s one of the best hubs for bikers of all abilities. If you’re in town June 24-25, sign up for a biking clinic at Snowmass Demo Days to learn from some of the best riders in the world and try out the season’s hottest bikes yourself.
If not, you can reserve a spot in a three-hour Park Ready Downhill Bike Clinic ($49). Not only will you get a bike to rent, but you’ll also receive a helmet, safety pads, and mountain biking-specific shoes. They’ll teach you the ABCs — Action Stance, Braking and Cornering — on Snowman’s mountain bike skills park. Then you’ll head onto the single-track trails (meaning nobody will be riding in the other direction) surrounding Snowmass Village.
2. Chicago, Illinois
Trail Location: Big Marsh Bike Park
Before you hit the dirt, you’ll want to pick up the basics from the pros at REI. In their Introduction to Mountain Biking: Level 1 class ($65 for REI members; $85 for non-members), you’ll first learn how to properly fit your bike. And if you don’t have one, REI will provide one free of charge. Then it’s time for riding techniques, when you’ll learn everything from body and pedal position, shifting, braking, climbing, descending, and navigating minor obstacles. And so you stay safe on the trails, you’ll also learn mountain biking etiquette, along with some commonly used communication skills other riders use.
3. McGaheysville, Virginia
Trail Location: Massanutten Resort
First-timers and pros alike will fall in love with the scenery at this bike park. It’s nestled right in the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains, so the views are more than Insta-perfect. Beginners, sign up for the three-hour Pathway Package ($80), where you’ll get a 75-minute lesson and rental gear (helmet, knee/shin pads, elbow pads). You’ll also get use of the beginner and intermediate trails — ideal for honing your skills without worrying about more advanced riders barreling down the mountain. As soon as you feel ready for more of a challenge, you can hop on the lift to take you up to advanced jump and single-track trails. Thrills await at the top.
4. Oahu, Hawaii
Trail location: Turtle Bay Resort
If you’re going to learn how to ride, you might as well do it surrounded by jaw-dropping views. That’s what you’ll find in Hawaii — Oahu, specifically — when you venture over to the North Shore Bike Park at Turtle Bay Resort. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the resort offers an Introduction to Mountain Biking Adventure ($60), where you’ll progressively navigate from oceanside jeep roads to single-track trails in the jungle.
Those who’ve taken a few rides before can jump into the Intermediate Trail Adventure ($100). You’ll ride through the lush jungle vegetation while your local guide shares tidbits about the geography and history of the area. Prefer to simply spiff up your skills for an hour or so? Rent a bike (which comes with a helmet and pads) and head to the Pump Track ($5). There, you’ll have an hour to explore the butterfly-patterned track, opening up dozens of directions and combinations for you to play around.
5. Denver, Colorado
Trail Location: North Table Mountain
It can be intimidating to try a new sport surrounded by strangers. That’s why REI aims to make it a little easier for women, offering 10 women’s-only Introduction to Colorado Mountain Biking courses through September ($99 for members; $119 for non-members). After you sign up, you’ll work with top-notch female instructors to learn how to fit your bike. Plus, you’ll pick up basic skills like pedaling, climbing, descending and riding over or around obstacles (think rocks and branches).
You’ll also ride all throughout North Table Mountain, where the trails aren’t intimidatingly technical. (In other words, perfect for beginners.) You’ll also spot summit views of the foothills to the west, Golden to the south, and Denver to the east. If you don’t have a bike, don’t sweat it — they provide options at the start of your five-hour class.
6. Park City, Utah
Trail Location: Waldorf Astoria Park City
Certified as an International Mountain Bike Association Gold Level Riding Center, and home to over 400 miles of trails, Park City is one of the best places for mountain bikers of all levels to work their skills. Stay at Waldorf Astoria Park City, a super bike-friendly hotel, where they’ll wash your bike and store it overnight. (That is, as long as you’re not renting and you’re booking excursions from local outfitter White Pine Touring.) Better yet, the hotel offers homemade amenities and treats — think power bars, reusable water bottles and bike socks — to get you ready to ride.
You also get direct access to both lift-served bike trails in the Canyons Bike Park, as well as various cross-country trails. (The 26-mile Mid-Mountain Trail spans across both Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort.) And because skiers shouldn’t be the only ones to get an amazing aprés experience, the Waldorf also offers bikers an exclusive Pow Day beer, served only in their restaurant, Powder.
7. Tucson, Arizona
Trail Location: Miraval Resort & Spa
Guests staying at this relaxing resort can sign up for free mountain biking classes as part of the resort’s 200 health and wellness programs. Instructors will introduce you to the sport in the stunning Sonoran Desert, where you’ll learn beginner off-road riding skills, including how to navigate sand and hills — a tricky combo. After you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll have the option to sign up for beginner or intermediate classes, where you’ll build on those skills and ride around more challenging terrain.