The days of having to build dirt ramps in your backyard are over. Thanks to an ever-growing number of collaborations between the State of New York and regional nonprofits, the Hudson Valley has seen a huge investment in the creation and redesign of mountain biking trails over the past few years. That means there’s probably a killer trail system near you right now, although keeping track of them all can get overwhelming. “We don’t have one mega mountain biking area here with a thousand miles of trails,” said Mike Newman of New Paltz’s Bicycle Depot. “We have 100 areas with 10 miles of trails.”
To help you out, we asked a handful of bike shop owners and trail builders where they like to go mountain biking in the Hudson Valley when they’re not working. (And if you still want to build sick ramps in your backyard, don’t worry, we won’t tell your mom.)
Stewart State Forest | Newburgh | New Windsor
Nicknamed the “Buffer Zone” because it separates Stewart International Airport from the village of Maybrook, Stewart State Forest sports more than 40 miles of mountain biking trails within its 6,700 acres of wetlands, fields, and forests, as well as trails for hiking, horseback riding and—heads up—access to deer hunting in mid-September. The park’s massive size is its biggest draw. “You could go on and on forever there,” says Dave Roberts from Bikeway’s Wappingers location. But he adds that the forest is also an ideal location for those who are new to mountain biking. “It’s great for people that want to get into the sport and want to try some super easy flow trails and then maybe an intermediate trail,” he said.
Fahnestock State Park | Cold Spring
Newbies should also check out the new 9.5-mile Hubbard-Perkins Loop Trail in the northwest corner of Fahnestock State Park. The trail overlays several existing trails but was recently upgraded and rerouted in ways to make it more accessible to horseback riders, cross-country skiers, and less-than-experienced mountain bikers. “I can't ride single-track necessarily,” says Peter Karis, the vice president of parks and stewardship at nonprofit Open Space Institute, which worked with the state to redevelop the trail. “But this is gentle, wide, and safe, and it still gives you a backcountry mountain biking experience. It's got beautiful places to visit that the trail did not go by before.”
Elm Ridge Trail System | Windham
A good mix of trails for riders at every skill level can be found at the 25+ miles of Elm Ridge, which has been the go-to spot for Mike Newman and his staff at Bicycle Depot even though it’s an hour away from the New Paltz shop. “It’s got a cool combination of things for experienced people and it’s still amazingly fun for people who are less experienced,” Newman says. There are plenty of jumps, but you can ride around them, and the descents are steep enough to hit a good rate of speed without feeling like you’re going a thousand miles an hour. “That ability to appeal to multiple rider types or abilities is a great feature of the place” Newman says.
Blue Mountain Reservation | Peekskill
One minute you’re on your bike in downtown Peekskill and a few minutes later you’re zipping over rollers on nine miles of trails through Blue Mountain Reservation. The total elevation gain may not look like much on a map, as the “mountain” in the title is just shy of 600 feet. But the rocky climbs and descents can make for punchy, challenging rides for those looking to push their limits. Roberts from Bikeway describes the Reservation as having a “North Shore” kind of a feel, referring to the narrow, elevated, backwoods style of mountain biking popularized in Vancouver (as opposed to the “North Shore” in surfing, which means something very different.) If the boulders aren’t dangerous enough for you, try the “Sitting Duck” trail, which borders an active shooting range.
Jockey Hill | Kingston
Jockey Hill has been a favorite for many riders for decades; Christian Favata from Rosendale’s TRT Bikes—and former pro rider—has been coming here since he was a kid. But a 2019 collaboration between the state and OSI gave the whole system a turbo boost with new jumps and berms and a connection to the trail system at Onteora Lake. Now, Favata says, you can ride for hours without having to double back on trails and hardly ever seeing another person, despite the trail’s popularity. And while the state and OSI may have reflowed some sections to make it smoother, Favata appreciates the fact that there were some parts they purposely left alone. “There's still parts that have that old school feel: twisty, turny, technical, rocky single track, which I like,” he says.
Taconic Hereford Multiple Use Area | Pleasant Valley
Trail runners and mountain bikers alike flock to the Taconic Hereford Multiple Use Area even though, with a mouthful of a name like that, none of them call it that. Instead it’s called “the 909” in reference to the number of acres in the MUA. (It’s actually now 917 acres, but the nickname has stuck.) The 22+ miles of trails have a good mix of styles, says Roberts from Bikeway: Some flowy trails, some technical trails, and the fan-favorite Bikehead trail which offers a short, brutal climb followed by a six to seven-minute descent. Just make sure to grab a map as the 909 packs a lot of trails, including spurs and offshoots, in a relatively small space, which means lots of twists, turns, and room for error. “My buddy and I were lost for almost three hours and it was starting to get dark and rain,” comments one rider on a local mountain biking message board. “Which made it even more fun.”