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10 of the Best Mountain Bike Trails in Leeds

· Joseph Sheerin · Culture

From challenging woodlands to country estates, it's time to go mountain biking.

Mountain biking, cycling, bikes

Want to get out on your mountain bike? These are the Leeds trails you need to check out.

If you’ve got your mountain bike set and ready to go, there are loads of brilliant trails in Leeds for you to make the most of. We’ve picked out five of the best, from specially designed trails around iconic Leeds estates to woodland routes that will push you to the limit – which one will you try next?

Stainburn Forest

Just outside Otley, Stainburn Forest has been a longtime favourite for mountain bikers. It’s home to one of the oldest pump tracks in the UK, and it’s recently been repaired, making it better than ever. They also have four other trails, all of which are quite short, but designed to be ridden again and again. The highlight is the 4-kilometre Warren Boulder Trail, one of the toughest in the UK, with huge drops and massive climbs. If you’re looking for something a little less trying, The Descent Line, The Red Loop and The Norwood Edge Trails are worth a punt.

Harewood Estate

The Harewood Estate is one of the best places to go in Leeds for mountain bikers. You have to pay to enter the grounds, but it’s completely worth it. The trails here aren’t too technical, with surfaced paths and tracks through fields and woodland, but they do have a good mix of slow, medium and fast runs. The best trail here is a big ‘un – start in Shadwell, then head up towards the House, down to Eccup Reservoir and on to the Meanwood Valley Trail. Too much? There are a number of shorter routes around the estate too.

Meanwood Valley Trail

Speaking of the Meanwood Valley Trail, the 7-mile stretch is a popular route for mountain bikers. It’s best accessed on bike by Meanwood Cricket Club, and you can then ride up as far as Golden Acre Park (or carry on if you’re feeling hardy). Make the most of Meanwood Grove while you’re there – the rocks and drops are great for trying out your skills, and you can even make your way across to the Adel Trails.

Esholt Woods

Esholt Woods has always been one of the best mountain bike trails in Leeds, but now they’ve made it even better, with routes cutting into Leeds just by Calverley and going out as far east as Baildon and Shipley. They’ve built in some amazing downhill trails, with fast runs, big jumps, tight corners and naturally steep areas to really put your skills to the test. If you use it a lot, they encourage you to lend them a hand keeping it pristine for other users.

Temple Newsam Trails

The Temple Newsam Trails were built by Leeds Council in 2005 and they’re ideal, whether you’re a beginner or a pro. The trails themselves aren’t particularly long, but they’re definitely addictive – you can try out all manner of tricks here, going back and repeating it until you get it right. There’s a bit of everything, from downhill runs to dual and 4x. Look out for large tabletops, a log-drop section and twisty corners on a track that runs fast and flowing.

Leeds Urban Bike Park

Leeds Urban Bike Park is a cool hub for BMX and mountain biking. If you want to push your mountain bike to the limit, you have to try their 6-kilometre cross country trail. It’ll put your skills to the test with a combination of sharp turns, fast runs and steep hills – it’s so good, they even host national competitions. It’s not just the off-track routes though, you can have a ball on the pump track or challenge your pals on the duel track. Don’t have a bike? They’re available for hire at the bike centre, where you can also have a brew and browse their bike shop.

Ilkley Moor

Want to set a new high-speed score? Ilkley Moor is a popular off-road route with mountain bikers who fancy taking on a time trial. The mile-long stretch from Millennium Way all the way down to Moor Lane in Burley Woodhead is a sensational run on a gravel path – you’ll weave your way along this twisting route on a fast-paced hillside ride in the heart of God’s Own Country. Be careful though, if it’s raining, it can get very muddy, so you’ll need serious skills to make your way to the village at the bottom.

Otley Chevin

The Otley Chevin has long been a popular place to go mountain biking in Leeds. They allow bikes on the eastern Danefield side of the ridge, where they have a brilliant collection of bridleways that are looked after with cyclists in mind. If you’re a beginner, make a beeline for the relatively straightforward Miller Lane track which has incredible views across Yorkshire, but if you’re an experienced rider, head deep into the trees and go to town on the Chevin’s fast drops, big climbs and challenging corners.

Yeadon Tarn BMX Track

It may say a BMX Track, but don’t let that put you off if you’re riding a mountain bike or hybrid – Yeadon Tarn is an absolute treat. It’s both challenging enough for veterans and perfect for beginners – expect a fast track with big tarmac berms and loads of jumps that will push even the most experienced rider’s handling and landing skills to the max. If you’re a newbie looking for a place to get to grips with your bike, you can keep it simple and build on the basics by staying away from the berms and just working your way around the flat track.

Wetherby Red Kite Route

If you want to go exploring on your bike, the Wetherby Red Kite route is a good shout. It’s a sign-posted 27-mile route that brings together some of Leeds’ best bridleways and roads for mountain biking. You can split it into three. The Starling route is a leisurely ride along easy paths around Thorp Arch and Boston Spa, while The Owl route takes a fairly hilly circular track around the Harewood House Estate. Alternatively, you could try the main Red Kite route – it’s an extensive 20-mile route that takes you on well-trodden bridleways as you ride through the likes of Wood Hall, Ox Close Woods and Hetchell Woods.

Cover image copyright Carl Winterbourne.