10 of the Best Mountain Bike Trails in Leeds

· Andrew Porter-Emery · Culture

From glorious countryside to tricky urban tracks, this is mountain biking heaven.

Mountain biking, cycling, bikes

Love mountain biking? Leeds is chock-full of great places to go for a two-wheeled adventure.

Itching to get out and enjoy a ride? These ten trails are the best mountain bike routes in Leeds, ranging from tracks that take you deep into the woods to high above the city and around gorgeous country estates. With differing levels of difficulty, there’s a route for everyone, no matter if you’ve been riding for years or new to mountain biking. Time to get pedalling…

Leeds Urban Bike Park

Leeds Urban Bike Park is a brilliant non-profit that has helped to transform city biking in South Leeds. They have several mountain biking trails to choose from, ranging from the easy green trail through to a difficult red trail with trickier climbs and descents, rock jumps and more. For an even greater challenge, there are some expert-level black trail sections, suitable only for high quality off-road mountain bikes. If you don’t have a bike but want to give it a try, you can hire one from them, and they also offer classes. They’ve even got a cafe for post-ride refreshments.

Check out the Leeds Urban Bike Park Trails.

Wetherby Red Kite Route

There are several MTB trails in Wetherby, linking the town with Harrogate and Leeds. You can head to the Little Toe pump track, Devil’s Toenail Bike Park and, perhaps best of all, the Red Kite Route. It runs for approximately 27 miles, with signposts to help you find your way. Split into three parts – the easy Starling Route, the hillier and slightly more challenging Owl Route and the 20-miles of the main Red Kite Route – you can take on all three together or break it up into smaller parts. You’ll pass through woods and past lovely pubs on this family-friendly route.

Check out the Wetherby Red Kite Route Trails.

Yeadon Tarn

Yeadon Tarn is home to a brilliant BMX track that doubles up as one of the most beginner-friendly mountain biking trails in Leeds. If you’re with your kids or just taking your first tentative ‘steps’ on your mountain bike, you can just use the flat track and get a decent workout. If you’re more experienced, you can take on the many tarmac berms and countless jumps that make it a whole heap of fun for veterans or those who want to push their bike that little bit further. Whether you’ve got a mountain bike, a BMX or hybrid, this is a fab day out for budding cyclists.

Check out the Yeadon Tarn Trails.

Stainburn Forest

Fancy yourself an expert mountain biker? Some of the trails at Stainburn Forest near Otley are renowned as some of the most technical in the whole country. These hand-built routes vary from the very difficult Warren Boulder Trail, full of challenging climbs, precipitous drops and thrilling jumps, through to the somewhat easier but still relatively tough Descent Line. You’re advised to walk the trails first before taking them on with your bike, so you can familiarise yourself with the drops, rock hops, twists and turns. It’s a charming place, packed with gorgeous flora and fauna.

Check out the Stainburn Forest Trails.

Harewood Estate

With a mixture of short and long trails, the Harewood Estate is a wonderful destination for mountain bikers. You’ll have to pay to get into the grounds, but you’ll pass deer and incredible scenery as you ride out in this beautiful part of the world. If you follow the trail on the western side of the estate you’ll pass Emmerdale filming locations, while other things to look out for include Eccup Reservoir, Owlet Hall and the Muddy Boots Cafe, ideal for a pitstop or refuelling. It’s all relatively friendly terrain, with clear tracks and no great climbs or drops to alarm you.

Check out the Harewood Estate Trails.

Meanwood Valley Trail

This lovely trail feels like a rural respite, despite the fact you’re close to urban life all the way. Start off on Woodhouse Moor at the statue of Henry Marsden, making for Woodhouse Ridge. As you go, you’ll cycle past converted mills, across small bridges and through Meanwood Park, tracing the route of the beck. It gets tougher as you go – there are climbs, drops, rocks and some trickier terrain which more experienced mountain-bikers will relish. Such is the natural beauty that you won’t feel like you’re mountain biking in Leeds, but out in the wilderness of Yorkshire.

Check out the Meanwood Valley Trail.

Esholt Woods

Esholt Woods is a fabulous place to take your mountain bike, with a mixture of rugged terrain, smooth tracks and lovely landscape, with sun-dappled streams and even mini-waterfalls. There are a mixture of trails, with some kept up by volunteers and others a bit more overgrown, which makes them more challenging. There are some good drops and rock rolls as you weave through the trees and ferns, while the downhill runs can really get your adrenaline flowing. Starting close to Yeadon or Calverley, you can head out to Baildon or Shipley along the numerous bridleways.

Check out the Esholt Woods Trails.

Temple Newsam Trails

Built in collaboration with Leeds City Council back in 2005, the Temple Newsam Trails have been a favourite of the Leeds mountain biking scene ever since. You can look forward to riding on a fast downhill track, with hard-packed routes studded with berms large and small, tabletops, a log-drop section and plenty of tight turns that will put your handling skills to the test. It’s one of the shortest MTB trails in Leeds – you should be through it in under a minute – but that makes it all the better for multiple goes at beating your personal best and taking on friends.

Check out the Temple Newsam Trails.

Ilkley Moor

Ilkley MTB have gone great work in promoting cycling on Ilkley Moor, working in partnership with Bradford Council to maintain various trails. There’s a mixture of family-friendly and tougher red route rides to be found here with Silver Well Access Road among the former, and the single track ‘Gully’ trail among the latter. This 937-metre route descends 125 metres as you go – it’s quite a bit tougher on the way up. Watch out for the weather here – rain on Ilkley Moor can make some of the trails quite treacherous and the steeper parts harder to navigate.

Check out the Ilkley Moor Trails.

Otley Chevin

The beautiful bridleways of Otley Chevin make it one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in Leeds. You’ll start your ascent on tarmac before heading into the wilds of the Chevin, with fun fast drops waiting once you hit the forest trail. Wind in and out of the trees, occasionally opening up to vistas of Otley and the wonderful landscape of the Wharfe Valley. On your way you might head down an old Roman road, zip past the Chevin boulders and, on quiet days, see nary a soul. It’s busier at the weekends, with dog walkers to watch out for.

Check out the Otley Chevin Trails.